Faithful readers, this week’s post will be a customer service rant because I’m in the middle of a Kafkaesque experience with my internet company and I am without internet except for the occasional connectivity I can get by tethering my phone.

Actually the phone tethering worked pretty well until I streamed several episodes of “Grace and Frankie” the other day, at which point I think my cell company decided to tighten the noose around the neck of my cellular data flow.

The trouble all started last week during a heavy windstorm. I woke up at my customary time to find a blinking red and green “Internet” light on my modem. This was disappointing because I had JUST had new fiber-optic internet service installed 9 days prior.

As a side note, I had wanted faster internet for a while, but had held off because a) what I had was working, albeit slowly and I dreaded having to deal any support issues with this company and b) they wanted too much money for the faster service.  I had finally talked them down to an acceptable 2-year rate and was thrilled to be able to stream Netflix and look up stuff on IMDB at the same time without having the streaming stutter to a halt.

It should be noted, I was never a cable TV cord-cutter because I never had a cord. I have had a deep and abiding hatred for cable TV ever since I moved into my house and they installed a cable and then tried to force me to pay for it. Actually, I guess I AM a cord cutter, because when that happened, I went outside and cut the cord they had put up and that was the end of that. So, until streaming was a thing, I mostly got my TV from Netflix red envelopes, and I was happy with it.

Back to the present, little did I know that my joy at faster internet would be so brief. When the outage first happened I believed (reasonably, IMO) that a company that provides internet service would have some way to monitor outages and that it might be fixed with no input from me. When, by Saturday, nothing had happened, I first used the online troubleshooting tool, then, when it indicated that the problem was with equipment outside my house, called and was told that my call was the first they had heard of it of the outage.

They promised to send someone out to the field on Monday. That person called on Monday and said that the problem was somewhere on the line, and that 20 other houses were affected and that someone would come back on Tuesday to fix it. When I asked if I would need to do anything with my equipment to see the fix, they said no, it would just come back online.

I also think it’s interesting that the people at the support center kept insisting that the number of houses affected by the outage ranged from 1 to 3, but the guy on the ground, who was actually trying to fix it, told me that the number was 20.

Nothing improved on Tuesday, so I called again (it should be noted that a company that provides internet service doesn’t have a way to provide email or online support for this particular product, so every time I want to move this thing forward I have to call and sit on hold for 20-30 minutes). The person I talked to was in equal parts nice and clueless. He claimed to have no notes about any of the other troubleshooting or conversations that had happened, but said that nothing had been scheduled for Tuesday, but something had been scheduled for Friday. He also said that I was the only one being affected by the outage. He then promised to reschedule the appointment for the next day.

So, as you probably guessed, the next day nothing happened again, so I called, again. One other fun feature of their service is that if you try to use support chat, they quickly bounce you to phone support, because they don’t have chat support for fiber service, but then when you call the dedicated line for fiber service support, the hold message tells you repeatedly how if you don’t want to wait on hold, you can use the chat feature for support.

This time I asked to talk to a supervisor and got someone who, apparently, learned customer support from United Airlines. She was helpful in that she gave me the information that the problem couldn’t be solved that day because the problem was at the central office and engineering scheduled it for Friday for a reason. She didn’t know the reason. She said they might have been waiting for a part, but really, she didn’t know, but she DID know that I would be getting any internet until Friday at the earliest. And she was genuinely sorry, but I was only one of three people with this outage.

I asked if there was someone I could talk to about the obvious process breakdowns that had happened but she persisted in not being able to understand their horrible support as a systemic problem and said that if I wanted to talk about the support experience I was welcome to call yet another 800 number. I haven’t done that yet, because honestly, I have been dealing with this company for decades, because they’re also a phone company, and their customer service has always been disjointed and horrible. It’s almost as if … as if … they have a monopoly in their area and know that their customers have to stay with them because they have so few choices.

The person on Wednesday’s call said she would have someone from engineering call me on Thursday. I begged her to have the person email me instead, but she said that’s not their process. I again pointed out that having a process that makes it impossible for them to assist the customer in the way that’s most helpful to them is also a problem, but she just kept insisting that their system has them use the customer’s “can be reached” number and nothing else.

She did promise to put it in the notes that the person from engineering who was going to call should immediately offer me an email address so I would be able to continue the process over email. So, today (Thursday) engineering called, repeatedly, and never left any email address or indeed any indication that I had asked to communicate over email. The person who called did helpfully leave a defunct number for a colleague, which was super-helpful.

In light of recent events, I guess I should be grateful that they didn’t send jackbooted goons to my house to bash me in the head and then forcibly remove the equipment I have already paid for. So, at least, they have cleared that customer service bar.

Posted by lesherjennifer

6 Comments

  1. Having sold CRM call centre software and hardware for years, I can tell you that COOs and CEOs and most upper management all parrot the same line that ‘customers are our 1st priority’. Then they all fail to have adequate budget to support the support facility. It’s an expense, and doesn’t generate revenue, so it doesn’t count as valuable to them. I speak in generalities, but yes there’s the odd firm that does great support, but we as a society seemed to have moved to a system of what I will call the 800 wall. You can spend a lifetime on hold, explain yourself repeatedly to seemingly uncaring folks and the occasional well meaning one that can’t help, and so on. As an ex telco person, the only thing that will work is to escalate up the line until you reach a person that can and will help.

    Good luck Jenn!

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    1. I saw the same thing at my previous employer. They called it Jenga – see how many pieces of support you can remove before the satisfaction surveys fall below an acceptable level, then bump the service up incrementally until surveys improve, rinse and repeat. It always bothered me that effectively they were saying “we’re happy to have your money – now that we do, sucks to be you if anything goes wrong.”

      Amusingly, I have had the most useful conversations about my current issue by talking to the guys in trucks who keep showing up on the street to work on the issue. Apparently the fiber cable is broken in a few places. The main office tried to tell me they were missing a part, but it sounds like the part is cable, which they had in a giant reel hooked up behind the truck yesterday so …

      Thanks for checking in 🙂

      On Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 7:32 PM, Jennifer Lesher wrote:

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  2. Have you tried sharing this blog post publicly on twitter with the ISP named?
    With bad customer service being a hot topic in the media in the last few weeks, it might get some traction.

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    1. That’s a great idea. They finally fixed it and seem to be reasonable about compensation, but we’ll see … if they don’t follow through I will take to social media.

      On Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 9:04 AM, Jennifer Lesher wrote:

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      1. Glad to hear the issue is resolved, you would think at the minimum they should pro-rate the cost of the time it wasn’t working.

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      2. Thanks. Yes, it’s nice to have it fixed. They did say they’ll prorate but they need to do more … I spent a lot of time on this because of their incompetence. My neighbor had it worse … He took time off work twice and they didn’t show up and didn’t call to cancel.

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