BitDepth 615 - February 19

In the rush to push broadband sales, service seems to have taken a real hit.
Service, Service, Service

Red light, green light, serious broadband Internet users get used to glancing at their modems to see whether the connection is still active. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

In a highly competitive broadband market, it would seem self-evident that one of the key distinguishing elements in any sales strategy would be quality of service.
For broadband customers both new and in the middle of transitioning to a new provider, the last few months have brought reduced prices, higher speeds and for some, a chaotic customer service experience.
This column started with an impassioned letter from a business customer, B, who was dissatisfied with his DSL service and tried other options on the market.
“Flow is not much different. They advertise sales. Try and call them. No there is nothing wrong with your phone...eventually they give you an appointment to inspect the premises – ‘December 04 in the afternoon’. But do they come? No. Try calling them again? Get the drift yet? It’s the same story,” wrote B.

Another business customer, V, told this story.
“We were going to go with a business package that was faster but cheaper than our existing one. We spoke to our corporate rep, but she said that our area wasn't yet Blink enabled so we would have to wait a couple weeks. A week or so after we spoke to the rep our connection went dead for 4 days straight after a period of unusually spotty service,” wrote V. 
“I kept calling and was finally told that they were in the process of switching networks and that we wouldn't have service for 4 days (including Sat and Sun). Could you believe that? No warning, nothing.”

The provider story
I put these and other customer notes to Rhea Yawching of Flow and Trevor Deane of TSTT for their side of the story.
Ms Yawching acknowledged issues with Flow’s phone systems, “...we still continue to face this problem especially over the last 2 months when thousands were trying to subscribe to the new movies and sports packages. Right now, we are waiting on our telephony service to get up and running and then we will be launching a new number with our own new lines.”
Trevor Deane’s response also acknowledged shortfalls with TSTT service, “We did not have the luxury of shutting down our entire network for a few weeks to put everything together so we had to do the next best thing. Incrementally roll out, test, refine, expand, test, refine, and then start the process again. Regrettably, the service issues experienced by the customers that wrote to you were examples of our early learning experiences.”

It’s difficult to summarise the breadth of issues that the commercialisation of broadband has exacerbated, but in an environment that facilitates information flow, they are now more public than ever.
Both Georgia Popplewell and a new tech-focused blogger, TechyTrini, have long, detailed explanations of their issues with market leader TSTT, the target of much of the online outrage.
Since cancelling my DSL account with TSTT in mid-December, I’ve had the following experiences; a visit to my home by a TSTT technician to solve problems reported almost a month before, no less than four follow up calls on long reported issues and finally, a bill for service that I terminated more than six weeks before.

Service lag
All of which are annoying, steadily irritating examples of an intent to serve that suffers from a lag of weeks between reporting and response.
The critical issue with my own experiences with TSTT remains their absolute stoniness on the issue of recompense for lost service and that’s become a particularly irritating stone in Popplewell’s connectivity shoe.
In a letter to TSTT reproduced on her blog, she wrote: “As having reliable Internet access is central to my job, the drop in the level of TSTT Wireless Broadband’s service has seriously affected my ability to work effectively. Yet in spite this dramatic decrease in the level of service, TSTT continues to bill me at the rate of $431.25 per month.”

This remains one of the crucial sticking points of TSTT’s approach to managing its transition to its new broadband service. The company must be aware of the times and duration of diminished service, but it steadfastly refuses to offer any kind of discount, rebate or any other tangible acknowledgment to its customers of the value of lost service time.
And while the business must advertise, it must be spectacularly irritating for its customers to watch Blaxx singing with a well rewarded smile about downloading when he waaannnnttt when you’re stuck with a dumb modem, unable to connect when you need to.

I’ve posted the full responses to my request for information about local customer’s broadband experiences (identifying specifics have been removed at respondent’s request) and the TSTT and flow responses to them to my blog at here and here and you can view more online details about customer experiences at these links...
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