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October 07, 2003

Tech Support II

You all know how a former smoker makes the most violent anti-smoker? Well in this case, having shaken my former ISP like a bad habit, I am going to have a good rant (or winge) about them. My former ISP was part of a large telecommunications company (former monopoly) and the service plan rhymed (and smelt) like PigPong (Cable). This story was inspired by a comment in this post at Utterly Boring:

Generally, I won't call tech support people. I'll go online, and try everything I can find and try to figure it myself. I'll only call tech support as a last ditch effort.

I can empathise with that position. I would rather do some reading, on-line searching, or human networking before logging a call. Having been on the end of a support line, I figure they would appreciate the elimination of the obvious so that we don't waste any time.

Here is the picture, I have a cable modem connected to PigPong. It has three lights on it. The leftmost light (N) is out - this means (I have read the book) that the link between me and PigPong is down. The cable modem connects to an airport basestation which has port redirection turned on for important things like web browsing but turned off for everything else (like all those windblows administration ports and things). On the inside I have my main server connected by 100Mb ethernet to the basestation and a number of laptops connecting over a wireless link. All of this is sanctioned by PigPong because I am a "business customer". I need to get on-line for some client work so I want to know how long the outage will last (should I arrange another connection elsewhere or wait).

I ring Tech Support. I push buttons to navigate menus (actually I have written the sequence down to save time and just press all the buttons at the start. I get put on hold. I get lots of messages played at me. One is about some outage in Victoria (different state, so whoopee). None of them mention problems in Sydney. I am aware that there is currently one of these regular Microslosh specials attempting to bring the net to it's knees. SoBig, VeryBig, BigBlast, whatever. Probably causing havoc at the ISP but I just want to know how long the outage will be.

More music. Message suggestion that I check their web site for problem resolution steps. Good idea. Must remember to ask how to check the website to find out how to check their website....

More waiting.

Time passes.

My beard grows longer.

I clip my fingernails and start on the toenails.

I go and have lunch and come back to find that I am still on the queue (not really but I could have done).

I finally reach someone. It is immediately obvious that we are not in Kansas. In fact we are not in any land of the native English, Australia or American speakers. That's cool but unexpected. I explain that I am having problems and mention the little light being off...
Alleged Technician: You need to reboot your PC.
Me: No worries. It is not actually a PC, it is a router.
AT: No, no, you must reboot your PC.
Me: Well really there is a Mac and a router and the cable modem.
AT: Oh no, you must connect your PC direct to the cable modem.
Me: I won't do that. I just want to know how long the outage will be.
AT: There is no outage.
Me: (Well maybe he knows best - perhaps the LED is blown). Well I can't connect.
AT: Go to your start menu and ....
Me: I don't have a start menu. This is a Mac.
AT: Macs can't use the internet. Get your PC and stop wasting my time.
Me: Look, I can reboot my Mac. I can reboot my router, I can reboot the modem. None of that fixes the problem. What else do you want to try?
AT: You must connect directly to the modem.
Me: Why.
AT: We do not support the use of routing equipment. It is very illegal to connect one.
Me: I want to speak to your supervisor.
AT: I must report you for using a router.

At this point, to my entire discredit, I lost my temper. I had been waiting for so long and this idiot was just stuffing me around. I believe I called him a cretin and pointed out that I was on a business plan (and had been on it for five looooong years) and I wanted his manager on the phone NOW! So AT put me on hold again.
AT: Sorry sir (I have been promoted!) to keep you waiting. The manager is not available.
Me: Well who can help with my problem.
AT: If you just connect your machine to the modem.
Me: Don't try that again. Can you reach my modem from your end.
AT: No I cannot. Just a moment. What is that.

Muffled noises at the other end - someone is obviously coaching him. After a few minutes I suddenly get back on hold again.
AT: I think the problem will go away if you reboot everything now.

As he says this, the light turns on. Obviously something he was able to fix at his end. Well my problem is solved but I have a real sour feeling. I thank AT and start looking for a new ISP (which I have since found).

I have read about how this outsourcing of call centres is supposed to work. You put the call centre somewhere cheap, train the staff well and no-one is the wiser. In this case, the poor guy answering the phone had no idea what was going on. Was it his poor English? Maybe he missed the training? Maybe he was brought up in the school of "reboot to fix it".

Posted by Peskie at October 7, 2003 12:00 PM