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Jun 16 2010   9:26PM GMT

Ah! The Vagaries of Service Provider Services

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

My good friend, and occasional employer and/or collaborator, David Strom, produced a very nice Web Informant blog today entitled “Strom’s cable Internet odyssey.” Therein, he recounts some amazing and bothersome issues in getting Internet service up and running in his office space. It’s an interesting litany of customer service woes and inefficiencies that helps underscore his point that the US is falling off its perch at the top of the Internet hierarchy because service providers…well…suck at providing customer service, even when they excel at delivering or using technology.

I’m in the middle of a similar imbroglio with Time Warner Cable right now about voice mail service for my primary phone line. Although I’m paying for voice mail, it’s not working right now, and Time Warner can’t even tell me when it will become operational once again. I’m actually thinking about going out and buying a cheap answering machine just so I won’t miss messages in the future. Because my Dell All-in-One 968 has a fax machine built-in, that means people who currently call me and *want* to leave a message end up listening to (and presumably, hanging up on) that annoying fax machine handshake tone once the phone does answer.

It’s irritating to discover from an aggrieved third party that a service you depend on isn’t working (I’d rather hear it from the provider directly, along with at least a cursory apology, and an estimate of uptime) . It’s even more annoying to discover that a service you need is “out of service” for an indefinite period. It’s infuriating to find yourself in a situation where the provider can’t even tell you what’s causing the problem, or when normal service will be restored. It’s also astonishing that a provider will happily charge you for a service that’s not working, unless you report the outage and request a credit against your usual account charges. Surely, they must know it’s not working, and they must also know it’s not fair (or ethical) to charge for a service that’s not presently available, either. But that’s not the way things work in these United States right now.

As Mr. Strom no doubt wanted the reader of his blog to ask, I too find myself asking “What’s this country coming to?” Sheesh!

[Follow-up half an hour after this post went live: I finally got to a knowledgeable and capable support tech at Time Warner. He actually called my voicemail to verify it wasn't working, then discovered that my account had been disabled for some indiscernable reason. He subsequently re-enabled my account and was then able to restore my voicemail service. Thank goodness!]

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