Well last week’s little rant about broadband customer service seems to have struck home with a quite a few of you. As well as the reactions and comments we’ve run elsewhere on the site, there were also a few, shall we say more robust uses of Anglo Saxon vernacular to describe some of your experiences that I didn’t think entirely appropriate for a family web site, but my sympathies go out to all of you.
The basic message coming back for the broadband services providers - with the notable exception of Telewest about whom no-one appears to have a bad word - is that across the board, service levels suck and the consequent damage that’s being done to Broadband Britain is enormous (although it was encouraging/discouraging to hear from some of our US readers to realise that things are bad on occasion over the pond as well.)
My own technical problems this week brought forth another aspect of the broadband service problem, that of reponsibility - or rather the desperate avoidance of responsiblity. Having installed some new software on my Apple iBook, I had problems reconnecting to my Alcatel broadband modem to get access to my BT broadband connection. The problem appeared to be that the Apple systems software wasn’t deleting the old copies of the modem drivers from trash and as such the necessary new ones were not loading.
So I phoned Apple. My first contact was a man who spoke with such an incomprehensibly thick French accent that I couldn’t understand a word he said and vice versa. So I had another go and came across perhaps the least helpful individual I’ve ever found on the end of a customer service phone. As soon as he heard I had a broadband modem, he informed me happily that this meant that Apple did not offer support because I’d chosen to introduce a third party piece of hardware.
I pointed out that this was nonsense as the problem was that Apple’s own system software wasn’t deleting something and it was nothing to do with whether I had the modem, a printer or a George Forman Lo Fat Grilling Machine plugged into the side of my computer. Surely there must be some way of forcing a delete, I asked? “Well, you go and find it then,” came the reply.
I must admit he was good. This sheer rudeness totally took my breath away for a good ten second before I regained balance and demanded a supervisor. I was told there were no supervisors (nice try, but better to base your excuses on some kind of reality matey!) until I insisted so many times that he finally snapped (after complaining that I was “bullying” him) and put a supervisor on the line. She appeared, I explained the problem and she reached for the first line of defence: I’d introduced a third party piece of equipment and as such Apple’s support was invalidated. “What do you expect Apple to do about it?” she demanded.
At this point, I lost the will to live. If this is the attitiude of the supervisors at Apple, what hope do you have dealing with the front line Orcs? So there you have it: if you buy an Apple iBook, don’t put any extra software on it or plug any hardware in to the USB ports that they provide on the side or you can hardly expect anyone at Apple to do anything with that customer support you’ve paid several hundred pounds for.
This is a ludicrous scenario. BT blames Alacatel for the modem drivers, Alcatel passes the buck to BT, Apple says it’s the fault of Alcatel or BT or Saddam Hussein or the cast of Crossroads or anyone but them. And stuck in the middle is poor old Joe Self-Install who wants to join Broadband Britain but can’t make it work. I’ve got some degree of technical knowledge and am more than willing to stand my ground and be a totally awkward consumer, but pity the poor sods who just let themselves be fobbed off.
Oh and for those who asked, the hero of last week’s sorry tale of Freeserve’s incompotence may be interested to know that we advised him to write to the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) and to make sure that Freeserve was copied on the complaint. Miracle of miracles, two days later his Freeserve conncection was restored...funny how they jump when you poke ‘em with a big enought stick, but shameful that you should have to in the first place!