Thursday 27 February 2014

Dating sisters and the art of customer service

This post was written yesterday and has been uploaded this morning via the free wifi connection at Kirkwall Airport. God bless Highlands and Islands Airports!

This was to be my inaugural blogpost from our new home, after weeks of traipsing around various wifi-enabled establishments like some sort of itinerant bard. Perhaps you detect from the doom-laden tone that everything has not gone swimmingly in the internet connection department?

At the beginning of February, as soon as we had confirmation of access to our new home, I contacted our telephone and internet provider (they’re very well-known, but let’s call it Maureen*) to transfer our account from the rented cottage to Tense Towers 2. Maureen was only too happy to oblige, but was a little downhearted to have to inform me that we would be required to change our phone number. I had expected this, for although the distance from one property to the other is less than six miles, and with few houses in between, it is across three stretches of water.

Undaunted, I pressed on with the arrangements, but the next hurdle floored me. As we were moving to a new property and required a phone line and broadband connection, the lead time for the installation would be sixteen working days. I distinctly recall the reason, “The engineers cannot book it any sooner, just in case there any problems to sort out. They need this delay to ensure that the installation goes ahead on time.”

Now I had it on good authority from the builder that he had not only laid the cable from the house to a post adjacent to the nearest telephone junction box, but he had also contacted the local engineer to let him know. So sixteen days seemed a little excessive. I asked if there was any mechanism for shortening the process if cancelled appointments became available, but Maureen dashed my hopes by informing me that the engineers worked for her sister company, let’s call her Ophelia, so it was not possible to liaise directly.

To my mind, if two companies share the same root or ‘surname’ and are a leading communications organisation, that is just pure obfuscation and a poor excuse to be wafted in the direction of a customer.

So there we had it, a sixteen working day wait. That’s over three weeks in old money.

A few days later, the local engineer phoned me, out of the blue. I had a brief frisson of excitement as I thought perhaps he was going to tell me that never mind what Maureen said, Ophelia would see me right, but sadly not. The call was just to confirm the location of the property, as he recalled the conversation with our builder. So far, so positive, but Ophelia stuck to the party line as regards reducing the lead time for connection.

Four days ago, I received a text message reminding me (it’d been so very long, you see) that an engineer was going to call today. And again yesterday, another text message reminder, to make sure that I was available between 8am and 1pm today for the engineer to call.

Now, I must admit that I have never been on a date with two sisters at the same time. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Our Lass or either of her sisters. However, there was a sense of keen anticipation this morning, Wednesday 26th February 2014, Internet Connection Day. I was up and dressed earlier than normal, breakfasted, dishes washed up and the garage cleared to allow access to the cable where it entered the building. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting Maureen and Ophelia bang on the stroke of eight o’clock, neither of them sound like that type of gal, so I busied myself with hanging a few paintings and prints in the lounge. But when one o’clock came and went, I realised that I had been well and truly stood up. The realisation was a hammer blow, which at least meant one more picture hook nailed to the wall.

So, stood up. They never call, do they? Nope, no explanatory phone call, no text message. There might possibly have been an email, I suppose, but I had no means of discovering if that was the case. At one thirty, the Royal Mail postman delivered the mail. Conveniently, it included a leaflet from Maureen, or possibly Ophelia, which explained how to set up my new broadband.

That hurt.

With a heavy heart, I picked up my mobile phone and dialled the customer service number that would connect me to a plethora of recorded messages and menu options, all guaranteed to raise my blood pressure further, which is surely not the point of a helpline? One message even informed me that to save time and expense, I could log onto a website to solve any number of problems. Not this one, sunshine.

Eventually, I reached an actual voice who, although she was called neither Maureen nor Ophelia, did her damnedest to help me out. Apparently, Maureen’s computer system showed everything was good to go, so my Good Samaritan would have to check with Ophelia’s system to see if that was where the problem was located. OK, I said, but could you call me back as I’m probably being charged a fortune for this call? Sadly not, that was against policy, so I was left hanging on the line, whilst investigations continued.

When my telephonic angel returned, she was the bearer of bad tidings. Yes, there was a problem. No, I wouldn’t be receiving a visit from the engineer today. It turned out that sometimes sixteen working days lead time isn’t enough which, frustrating though it is, I do understand. Stuff happens, unforeseen problems crop up, I know this as, until very recently, dealing with this kind of thing was my line of work.

But what I fail to understand, and so have absolutely no sympathy with the companies involved, is the chronic lack of correct information being relayed to the customer. It transpired that it had been known that the connection would not go ahead on the agreed date, but it seems that Maureen and Ophelia had taken a vow of silence and not passed on the bad news. Not only was I fed incorrect information by blasé text messages, the one snippet that should have been given to me was singularly absent. This is a perfect example of how to mismanage customer expectation.

Bless her, my little helper did try to smooth the waters, with a promise of £10 credited to my account to make up for the missed appointment. But that is quite an insult in itself. Not enough to act as any kind of deterrent to Maureen or Ophelia to mend their ways and, at best, a miserly £2 per hour for my time. Shoddy, very shoddy.

Sadly, we have to wait for another week and another appointment to be connected to the outside world. Meanwhile, I return to my technological tramping like some nomad of the electronic ergs, a peripatetic blogger, lost in cyberspace.

To all the lovely ladies called Maureen or Ophelia, please accept my apologies, I do not mean to cause offence or to denigrate your beautiful names. It just seemed to help the flow of the blogpost to give the telephone and internet provider a more personal face. And if you’ve got wifi, would it be ok if I popped around, please?

*Maureen? Come on, older readers, you must remember the actress? And her eponymous character in an advertisement for this particular company?


Tales of a Bank Vole said...

That's quite enough of your lip, man.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Chortle, chortle. Due to the lack of comms activity, it has allowed me more time to stare out of the window. Added Hare to the list on Saturday.