September 17, 2004

Thank You, Jeebus.

Filed under: digital — mhoye @ 11:58 pm

I’m finally, finally back to having broadband where I live. Hallelujah. If you’re in their service area you need to run, not walk, to Dealing with them is absolutely painless. They do not fill your inbox with garbage or put absurd, dadaist web interfaces in front of simple things. They take your money and provide you with an IP address and commensurate packets. You’d think all ISPs would be like that; further, I used to laugh long and hard when I walked through the Management section at Chapters, ridiculing their walls of books about customer service, but no, dealing with Rogers and Bell has changed my opinion right around. Now I realize that there’s a great need for customer service and management literature in this world, no matter how trivially, stupidly simple it is, because most companies are so offensively goddamned bad at it that it’s amazing that we have an economy at all.

This, I swear to you, is true: I picked up the phone and called Rogers, and the guy at the other line said “Hello, my name is Dave, how can I provide you with excellent customer service today?” Jesus. Dave, I’m sorry they make you say that. No, now that you’ve said that, I can’t buy anything from your company. I can’t support a company that makes people say things like that to other people. I cannot, I will not give my money to a company whose chimpanzee middle-management thinks that might be a good idea. I’m sorry if you work on commission, I really am, but at this point the only way you can provide me with excellent customer service is by saving the last bullet for yourself. Make sure to put a few in the chimpanzees before you check out.

And then there was Bell, and Bell being Bell, it was worse. Even on my sunniest days I hate “automated attendents” of every stripe so much I could scream, and even among its peers, Bell’s is awful.

“Hi, this is Emily, your automated service representative. Bell’s customer service office is made entirely of monkeys in front of typewriters. To speak to a monkey, say ‘monkey’. To speak to a typewriter, say ‘typewriter’.”

… “monkey”.

“Our customer service office is now closed.”

My call to iStop was answered by a human, an actual live human, information was exchanged, a date was scheduled for the service to start and they were two days early. The transaction was straightforward, the staffer was cordial and the entire thing took less than 90 seconds.

And now I’m finally back inside the bounds of civilization. Phew.


  1. Way Back In The Day, I worked for PSINet, and they had this deal going where you paid PSINet a certain amount per year and they produced your own private ISP for you – your domain and email addresses, your web page, PSI’s POPs and servers running transparently.

    Anyway, the point is that you got to set your own call scripts for the poor support monkeys, too, and some of them were… odd. Lynnic Gospel Ministries, for example, was supposed to be answered “Thank you for calling Lynnic Gospel Ministries Online Services Technical Support. Have you been saved?”

    Of course, despite repeated asking, nobody ever answered the obvious question of “What do you do if the caller says ‘no’?”

    Comment by John — September 18, 2004 @ 3:32 am

  2. If you find Mike’s experience funny, this is what happens practically EVERY TIME I order food here, in either English or Japanese (or a mixture). For the record, they are very nice about it; no such thing as grudgingly going through the motions in the Japanese service industry:

    Server: What would you like?
    Nick: I’d like a cheeseburger.
    S: Would you like a cheeseburger?
    Nick: Yes.
    S: What would you like?
    N: A cheeseburger.
    S: Would you like cheese on that?
    N: Yes.
    S: Would you like fries with that?
    N: Yes.
    S: What size fries would you like?
    N: Large please.
    S: Would you like a large fries?
    N: Yes.
    S: What would you like to drink?
    N: I’d like a glass of battery acid with a twist of arsenic.
    S: The arsenic will take a couple minutes. Please take this numbered thing, and our district manager will fly in from Tokyo to deliver it to you personally.

    Comment by Nick Hamilton — September 18, 2004 @ 7:23 am

  3. Hm. It’s available in my area. And way (way!) cheaper than Bell. Hm.

    Comment by the beltz — September 18, 2004 @ 3:45 pm

  4. istop is, by all accounts, the bomb. I will definitely be switching to them once my discounted service period from bell is up.

    Comment by Coop — September 18, 2004 @ 9:43 pm

  5. I pay about $40/mo for everything, including modem rental and static IP. I might impose myself (again) on Shaver shortly for some nameserverish blessing, but all in due time, but to Beltzner and Coop, I say this: Bonus: PPPoE service activation fee waived if switching from another ADSL service.

    Comment by Mike Hoye — September 19, 2004 @ 12:05 am

  6. I almost worked for them. Their ad was something like “Work for us. Check out the TXT DNS record for” (Try it. Then ask yourself how much dignity their employees are allowed to have)

    I was offered an interview at 8pm one day, scheduled for 10:30 the next morning, but wasn’t able to go because I was working on a contract in a secure facility and didn’t read the email until the next afternoon.

    I was releived. That company scares me. I’ve never had real trouble with Magma, but the horror stories I’ve heard about istop are the stuff of legend.

    Comment by Quotation — September 19, 2004 @ 9:08 pm

  7. Yeah, I saw that. It’s kind of cute – it leads to an windows-executable IQ test; I was a little concerned about that. The real IQ test is probably “did this person run some randomly-downloaded executable on their PC?”

    Comment by Mike Hoye — September 19, 2004 @ 9:25 pm

  8. “PPPoE service activation fee” is certainly semantically close to “deep anal cavity examination fee”.

    Comment by Mike Kozlowski — September 19, 2004 @ 9:50 pm

  9. I’ve used them since March, and have had very few problems. You will run into the odd outage, which are usually caused by Bell’s PPPoE auth servers being out, and those outages can last a few hours. Don’t bother calling in, as there are only a couple folks in the office and the only thing they’ll tell you is that the auth server is fooked.

    Walk away for a few hours, and if it’s still not working later in the day, you may want to call. I’ve had a couple routing issues with their upstream providers, and they’ve 1) known what I was talking about and 2) actually fixed the problem within a day. Not bad.

    My only complaint has been their billing system. They kinda forgot to bill me for the first few months (and really, how many of us would actually call in and ask why we hadn’t received a bill), and then did a lump-sum as they caught up. It’s not automagically generated, and they don’t keep your cc on file. This can be good or bad, but in my case it was mostly annoying. That said, when I spoke with Cathy, she explained everything and there were no snarky “you are my bitch customer” comments at all.

    I like ’em. They’re no frills, no scripts, take-it-or-leave-it, but for the most part I’ve been very happy. They even replaced a dead DSL modem after the warranty period, no questions asked. I pay 32-odd bucks a month for static IP and 3.5/800 service – you really can’t beat that, and they port filter _nothing_ inbound or outbound.

    Comment by kev — September 20, 2004 @ 2:41 pm

  10. Oh yeah, I fired your comments off to some folks where I work. Maybe they’ll actually respond, because I couldn’t agree with you more that dealing with Emily is a royal pain in the ass. I think the “how may I deliver excellent customer service” is the new way of deluding yourselves. Lots of companies do it now, including ExpressVu, TD Bank, and others.

    I mean, if you say it, it must be true… right?

    Comment by kev — September 20, 2004 @ 3:03 pm

  11. > The real IQ test is probably “did this person run
    > some randomly-downloaded executable on their PC?”

    I bet you one of the interview questions is “what did you do when you saw that requirement?”

    Comment by John — September 20, 2004 @ 4:36 pm

  12. I think the right answer to “how can I provide you with excellent customer service today?” is “if you don’t know how, you probably can’t.”

    Comment by Nikita — September 20, 2004 @ 6:23 pm

  13. I ran the executable in a VMWare environment. Duh.

    Comment by Quotation — September 20, 2004 @ 8:21 pm

  14. Kev, thanks for passing that on – I’m glad I toned it down now, the original version of that post had me with a beatific smile on my face as I strangled an infant automated attendant in the crib.

    If you could also pass on the fact that good customer service is not produced by a script, whether it’s read by a machine or a person. All scripts do is make managing bad customer service easier on the managers; it makes life drastically worse for everyone else. “I know, I’ll strip my employees of their dignity and initiative and I’ll force my customers to listen to scripted condescention so that I can have nice, simple metrics to apply blindly to my staff!”

    Fucking idiots. Good customer service is simple. It is easy, the basics of decent service can be taught to a turtle, as long as the turtle’s allowed to show some initiative. But not to management, apparently.

    Koz: Yes, yes it is. I just got my rectal examination fee from Bell for my new phone line this afternoon. Phone bill, including long distance: $38. “Changes To Line” Fees: $80. For what could not have been more than five minutes of data entry, bunch of money-leeching cockbites.

    Comment by Mike Hoye — September 20, 2004 @ 10:18 pm

  15. to speak to a monkey, say “monkey”

    Mike’s post on signing up for DSL service made me chuckle. He’s right, if someone has to ask how they can give you excellent customer service today, they probably won’t be able to. My personal favorites are companies that use their Customer Service …

    Comment by kev — September 21, 2004 @ 10:30 am

  16. I’m sorry, but your puny customer service difficulties with an internet provider pale in comparison to what I went through today to try (and fail) to get a new driver’s license. F**ing government offices. Medium length version:

    Michael and I decided that we should file our taxes jointly this year, and in part to make that a little easier, it was decided I should go to the effort to establish my residence in Massachusetts (where he lives, and I now spend 4-6 nights per week), rather than in Providence, where my other apartment is, and all my bills go. Step 1 (I thought) was to get a new driver’s license. I arrive at the DMV with my old Rhode Island license, my Social Security card, my Canadian birth certificate, my American passport, and an official, signed copy of my marriage certificate. What more could they want?, I thought.

    Problem #1: My social security card lists my maiden name, not my new, married name. “I’m sorry” she says sweetly, “You’ll have to go across town to the Social Security office and apply for a new card first.” F%&k, I say, what in in God’s name does the DMV need my social security card for anyway? I’m not making any money off of it. “It’s OK”, she adds, “You don’t need to wait in line a second time when you get back.” F*&^ing right, thinks I. Across town I go, wait in another interminable line, and get my form filled out. I head back. Back at the DMV 2-3 hours later, the woman at the counter (a different one) says “Oh, I don’t know why she made you do that! Your old one would have been fine!”

    Problem #2: “Oh,” she says, “unfortunately, we can’t process your request, because you haven’t shown proof of residence.” What? What about the marriage certificate? “Yes,” she says, “But that shows your old address in Rhode Island. We need proof that you live in Massachusetts.” Yes, of course it shows my address in Rhode Island. That’s my pre-married address. I am here to establish my post-married address, which is (you guessed it) the same address as the one my fiance/husband has listed on the marriage certificate. No go. What will they accept?, I ask. “home lease?” We don’t have a formal lease, and my name wouldn’t be on it, anyway. “home loan?” We don’t own a home. How about my car loan? “Nope, has to be a home loan. How about life insurance, do you have any of that?” Nope. “Utility bill?” Nope, it’s my husband’s apartment for Heaven’s sake – we haven’t bothered to go smearing my name over everything yet. “Checking account?” OK, I will go change the address on my checking account (this is a matter of a quick phone call – what does the bank care what my address is?), get them to print out a bank statement with the new address, and then change it right back again afterward (since I want the bank statements to go to my Providence apartment). Will that suffice? “Yes.” But my MARRIAGE certificate listing my husband’s formal address won’t, despite the fact that it’s listed in the list of primary documents? “right”. OK, thanks for wasting the past five hours of my life.

    Comment by Melanie — September 21, 2004 @ 2:50 pm

  17. Oh yeah, the other document they rejected as proof of residence was my newly acquired, hard-won, formally signed and date-stamped, receipt for my new social security card with my new name and Massachusetts address listed. It wasn’t “on the list” of acceptable documents.

    Comment by Melanie — September 21, 2004 @ 3:16 pm

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