Monday, 27 September 2010

Another example of the disenfranchisement of information

I recently changed ISP as I moved house from London up into the sticks. The ISP I wanted could not provide me with an internet connection from the moment I moved in as they were reliant on the major company to do work which they could not start until I was actually in the house. This would have meant two weeks with no internet. This would be unthinkable for me as I now work predominantly from home.
So I was faced with a dilemma which was solved by the fact that the only people who could provide broadband to me in time for my move so it was up and running when I walked through the door was this major provider who now have my contract for the next few years it would seem. I will reframe from naming them but will refer to them from now on as CU as they have two letters in their name.

All went swimmingly, I have had internet for at least most of the time I have been here, with the router only needing to be restarted on a dozen or so occasions, which is a dozen or so more than with my previous provider. All was fine and dandy until this weekend when I came back from the shops on Saturday to find I had no internet.

So I phone up the help line and get a very helpful message saying there are reported problems that will cause outages at time in your area. I worry no further thinking this is a small blip and cannot be helped. Next day, still no internet and concern starts to creep in. I rephone the number and am told the same thing from the recorded message but this time I take advantage of the other free phone number to check on these problem areas and find from another recorded voice that my phone number is not included in the areas under investigation, so the first message was incorrect.

I phone the ISP and get through to a person from another continent, by which time I have already investigated things from the router perspective and ascertained that the router is failing with a couple of critical errors picked up in the logs. I attempt to explain to the woman on the other end of the phone that the router is dead or dying with read out the log entries from the router which I had on the computer in front of me. The woman failed to understand or even pay the slightest heed to this and started to go through a series of tests that they have to do such as, is your computer switched on etc. This took at least one hour throughout I persisted to tell the woman that the tests were useless as I have five separate devices trying to connect, none of which could make a successful connection to the broadband although all the lights we illuminated on the router. To the woman the fact all the lights were alight meant I had broadband. No matter how long I explained thing to the woman I still had to go through the ritual humiliation of doing silly things to my computer to make them happy and still have no internet. Finally she concluded that the router was broken. She suggested I change it.
This I did and installed an old Netgear router I had from the previous ISP. After an hour I had it up and running apart from no internet. So I assumed I had possibly missed a critical configuration setting and thought I should double check with my ISP. So I phone CU again and this time speak to a very nice man from anther continent and explain the issue. He listens and is very apologetic, and starts by running the same tests that I have had to endure previously plus a couple of new ones. Each time, there is no broadband available on any device, be they Microsoft, Symbian or Apple based. After a further hour, and I have not mentioned the fact that it took over two hours to connect to this person as the line at CU had a redirection call on it that went to a number unrecognised for a few hours, the man said he had exhausted his tests and it must be a line problem so would put me through to them. The man from the line place was very nice and local and he tested the line and said it was fine but if I want a call out it was £125 so he advised against it.

So I went to bed trying to fathom things out, but first decided to reinstall the old router. When I did there was no connection but low and behold in the morning the thing it firing on all cylinders. So now I have broadband again from the malfunctioning router.

What this shows me is a number of important lessons:

1) As a consumer we need to prove a fault repeatedly even though the provider will not recognise your expertise in this area.
2) As a consumer your time is not an issue and companies can feel that as long as they are pretending to help you then you will believe them.
3) Companies that have fragmented services which rely on many different places to determine a correct fault are paying for poor service, and we as consumers are supporting this.
4) I cannot fathom the logic of having a series of prescribed tests when they bear little or no relevance to the problem and further are infinitely repeatable every time you call.
5) It cannot pay to have people who do not listen or cannot understand what a customer says. When a customer says that all his computers cannot connect, suggesting it is a settings issue with one counter makes no sense. Similarly a firewall would affect one computer not all unless the firewall was triggered in the router itself, which it was not as I had checked this, but no one ever asked.
6) Train people on what they need to know not what you think they need to know. If I want configuration details on a router give them do not subject people to a battery of tests which waste time and money.
7) Remember the adage that is long forgotten: the customer is always right.

Fragmenting services wastes money, provides poor service, annoys customers, wastes everybody's time.

The same ideas can be generalised to all help desks and customer services.

It is a false economy to assume that saving money is achieved through spreading services and employing cheaper labour.

Forgetting the customer will result in losses in the future.