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call centerLast year, I decided that I was finally cancelling my home internet service with my big-name ISP.

I’ve been with this ISP for home internet for awhile, really for no specific reason. I initially got set up with them years ago and haven’t bothered to switch.

However, five months ago my connection started failing every 20 minutes. This being unacceptable, I called them. Two months later, I’d been on the phone with them at least 5 times (usually for 20 minutes or more), stayed at my house for a whole day waiting for a repairman who never showed, and finally got dropped off my call when threatening to cancel my service. That was the last straw, and I switched to Sonic.net happily.

How could the ISP have done better? It wasn’t just about being nice. It’s about how they failed to scale their customer support, and now they’re stuck in a mire of bad support that they can’t hire their way out of.

  • They should have recorded my contact info when I first called in. Being asked for my secondary contact number every time is a waste of their time and mine.
  • They should have used customer service guidelines to educate everyone the same way. Why did the 4th person suggest moving the modem from my carpet to a table, but not the first person?
  • They should have used their CRM. The second person I spoke to should not have been performing tests that had already been completed and logged in the CRM by the first person.
  • They should have had specialized customer service representatives. As soon as the agent I spoke to realized that my problem was complicated and that I was tech-savvy, they should have transferred me to someone who could dive in deep with me and solved things quicker.
  • They should have had better scheduling structure. “Between 9a and 5p” is not a timeframe, it’s a day, and it’s hard for the average person to be around for that period of time on a weekday.
  • They should have empowered their representatives to make things right. I told the agent that I would cancel if nobody came out today and instead she tried to schedule a time for the next day, because she had no power to do anything. She had to transfer me. If she had the power to delight the customer she would have gotten someone to come out that day, or given me a free month of service, and appeased me.
  • Frankly, they just should have made an effort. I got dropped from the call with them and they never called me back…even though they had a callback number and it was clear that I was very very distressed. That’s just not caring.

I have sympathy for this ISP. It’s very hard to scale quality customer service as your company grows, and they have a hell of a lot of customers. They also probably think that they're so big that some bad service here or there can't hurt them (they're wrong). Here’s hoping they read this article and put some better structures in place…or, at the very least, you learn from their mistakes.

Photo courtesy of vlima.com.

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