Not So Innocent...

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I am writing this blog post having done no research whatsoever. Rather than laziness, the reason for this is that I cannot research the topic I was going to write about. This is because my Internet connection has not been available to me this evening, something which I had, maybe foolishly, relied upon having. But then it struck me; after finishing a very frustrating phone call with my ISP, I have decided to share my opinions of technology companies and their treatment of customers.

When I pay for a service, I expect to get what I pay for. In this instance, I expect to get a working Internet connection. I understand that, technology as it is, things will go wrong occasionally and this will not be the case. In this (hopefully rare) instance, I expect it to be resolved as quickly as possible. If it isn't, I expect to be able to report the fault in a quick and simple manner so that the providers can then jump in to action to solve the problem for their valuable customer. These days, I rarely get what I expect.

Now I'm sure everybody finds it annoying when they don't get what they pay for, so I'm not going to labour that point. What I do want to discuss however is the prevalence of increasingly complex methods of communication with these companies, even to report something as simple as a fault.

Let me describe my experiences this evening. I arrived home to find that the Internet connection was not working. Possessing at least some common sense, I checked to make sure the problem was mine – it was not. I then found my account details and contacted the company on their only available contact number, an 0845 number which from a mobile phone is pretty expensive (issue one). From there, I spent around 4-5 minutes going through their menu system (issue two) and unnecessary informational messages (issue three). I was then told that, "to speed up the process" they wanted me to enter characters from my password. After doing this the call was immediately disconnected, so I had to call again from the beginning (issue four). This procedure was repeated 3 times until I decided to go through to the cancellation department. Doing this meant I was speaking to somebody within 5 minutes who was able to put me through to faults (another 5 minutes). Eventually, after approximately 30-35 minutes on the phone, I had managed to get an engineer booked for next Monday (4 days from now).

So to these companies I say: -

  1. why do you give out these 0845 numbers that cost more to call when you usually just have a regional number that is cheaper? I understand that this is so that you don't have to change everything if your regional number changes, but please give the regional number too with a note telling people to call the 0845 number if it does not work!
  2. we are all accustomed to menu systems by now, please get to the point, give us just the information we need at this particular time and give the menu options in a sensible order.
  3. please do not give lengthy informational messages unless we specifically ask for them. If I want to pay to listen to them, I will ask for them. Also don't give information that is irrelevant to that particular level in the menu – why not give a quick message right at the beginning giving the cheaper regional number for people to call instead?
  4. if you're going to make the menu system quicker and easier, great! If you're going to ask for a password and then immediately disconnect the call if something goes wrong, this does not help at all, especially as we then have to go through the entire lengthy process again.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. I have noticed a trend of service providers who make life very difficult for existing customers. The only time you're treated with respect it seems is when you are just a potential customer. At all other times, I get the feeling that my monthly payment to them is just not good enough; to speak to technical support or to listen to pre-recorded messages I must pay more. Billing is also an issue. I have had to contact another service provider for five months in a row now because my bill is slightly wrong. If I wasn't paying so much attention to it, I could quite easily not notice these discrepancies and I often wonder how many people don't... Bills also seems to be unreasonably complicated too, making these errors even harder to find.

So why do it? The obvious answer is blatant profiteering and I would be very surprised to learn that I was wrong with that assumption. But running a business at a profit and tearing profits from the hands of your already "valued" customers is something else. I really think something needs to be done about this, I'd complain to the company itself if the call wasn't so expensive...

Additional: I thought about keeping this company's name private, but since this post I have had so much more trouble with them that I think it's my duty to name names... Virgin Media... shame on you...