I’ve been without broadband for five days now, and the customer service I’ve received from my ISP – Pipex – is now beginning to verge on the execrable. Given that, I felt I was going to have to start keeping a log of what has been happening, if only so I can keep the facts straight. There seemed to be no better place to do this in public – given that I would like this resolved soon – and so what follows is an (ongoing) catalogue of my woeful period with their customer services team.
Sunday, 10th August
At 11.30am, I leave the house to go shopping. I have left a download running which is nearly complete. As I walk down the road to the bus stop, I notice some BT engineers fiddling with some cabling in the street. This fact may, or may not, later become significant. I return from shoping at about 12.40pm, and discover that I no longer have an internet connection.
My router (a Netgear DG834G) is working fine: I can log into it. My phoneline is also behaving correctly. The only problem is the ADSL: the ADSL link light on the router flashes orange for a while, and then goes blank. A few minutes later, it starts to flash orange again. This repeats.
Pipex customer support isn’t available on Sundays, so I have to call them on Monday. This is annoying because I was meant to be working on a GDC pitch on this day, and would have to do so “blind” – and then submit it first thing on Monday at work.
Monday, 11th August
I call Pipex customer support shortly after eight, when they open. I am on hold for ten minutes, at 10p a minute. When I speak to a customer support operative, they are helpful: we quickly run over a few simple diagnostics, and they ask me to use the “test” socket inside my BT socket (which requires unscrewing the socket) to confirm things aren’t working. I hang up, and do so. I spend another seven minutes on hold, and speak to a different customer support operative. I explain the situation. He tells me that he now has enough to pass my information on to a second line engineer, who will call me in the next 48 hours.
I head into work, late, having spent about twenty-five minutes on the phone to Pipex support.
Tuesday, 12th August
An engineer calls me at about 10am, when I am at work. We run over the same diagnostics that I have already performed. I am then asked to unplug the router so they can perform one final test on an unloaded line; they won’t be able to call BT until I do so. I explain that I’m at work, and can’t do that. When, I ask, is the earliest they can call? They tell me they’ll call me at 8am the following day, which I agree to, as it’s the most convenient time to call me.
Wednesday, 13th August
By 8.55am, nobody has called from Pipex. I phone customer support, and speak to a first line support representative. I explain the situation. He apologises, and looks at my file. He tells me that he’s seen that his colleague has already logged on, and actually I *don’t* need to be at home: they have all the information they need and they have already started proceedings with BT. I confirm that this is correct, and he tells me that all is fine, and that I should go to work, and they’d keep me posted. I’m annoyed I’ve waited for so long, but pleased that progress is being made.
At 2pm, a second-line Pipex engineer phones me.
I answer the same diagnostic questions for the fourth time. They ask me to unplug the router. I explain that I can’t, because I’m at work. I tell them I will be home from work by about 7pm, or they can call first thing in the morning. I also explain that I was told by their colleague, five hours earlier, that I would not have to be home to perform the unloaded line test, and that proceedings were afoot with BT.
She tells me that they cannot talk to BT until they have performed this test.
At which point, I posit that either she is lying to me, or that her colleague this morning has lied to me. Either way, I’m pretty angry. I wouldn’t have minded this morning if I’d been told to leave things unplugged at home, so they could perform the test in my absence; instead, I was fobbed off with positive remarks, and we are back to square one.
She asks when a good time to call is. I suggest the first possible opportunity – 8am tomorrow? She tells me they don’t start til half nine, and so perhaps 10am would be good? I grudgingly accept.
Oh, wait, she says. I’m not in tomorrow. Can I call you on Friday? She explains that she would like to solve this issue personally.
I am now very angry. I explain, as reasonably as I can, that I haven’t had any connectivity for four days – for which I am paying them – and that asking me if I can wait another day really isn’t very acceptable. I would like to speak to somebody – anybody – at 10am on Thursday, if only to try to resolve this sooner. I also point out that they have made me late for work every day this week – on the week when I have a fairly significant deadline and a lot of work – and that waiting for them on Thursday morning will make me late once again.
I am, of course, unable to work from home because I have no internet connection.
She tells me that she will inform a colleague of hers that they are to phone me at 10am on Thursday morning. I accept that that is as good as I’m going to get, and hang up. I tell my work colleagues I will be late on Thursday morning, and there’s nothing I can do.
Thursday, 14th August
It is half past ten and nobody has called. I give them half an hour.
11am: I call frontline support. Explained the whole situation and they confirmed that the secondline support team have not passed my concern to BT yet. This agrees with both secondline engineers; it also means that the frontline support person I spoke to on Wedensday at 8am was lying.
They put me on hold and try to speak to “Helpdesk” and then a Second Line engineer.
Second line support will call me back in “an hour”, they tell me. I explain that I will unplug the router, to remove any load on the line for the final test, and then I will go to work, for which I am about three hours late.
As I write this, I am at work, it is nearly an hour and a half since I called, and they have not called me back. Par for the course.
My next plan of action involves calling BT themselves, to see if they can do anything. Oh, and emailing this to Steve Horley, who appears to MD of Consumer Products and Marketing for the UK, and Mary Turner, who is the CEO. If I can’t get any service going in at the bottom, I can surely try going in at the top.
I will keep you posted as to my progress. I am convinced it’s fault with the line between my house and the exchange – as, to be honest, are most of the Pipex engineers – so it’s not an ISP-specific problem. The quality of support I have received is, however, very much an ISP-specific problem.
I think “execrable” is a reasonable approximation of it so far.
MacDara | 14 Aug 2008
Oh my, that’s some customer service hell they’re putting you through. I once had a similar problem with my home broadband a couple of years ago; the modem said it was connected to the internet, the DSL sync light was on, but no packets were getting through.
The customer service person I spoke to was helpful, but he couldn’t do anything because the ISP’s internal policy was to not pass on issues to engineers unless a certain quota was fulfilled. So I was basically screwed, until the customer service person checked the speed of his own office T1 line and found it as slow as a 56k modem!
The problem was subsequently solved within a day or so (what I assume happened is that the engineers fecked up a network upgrade, but didn’t want to admit to messing it up until the problem became too big to ignore). But I got lucky.
Damien Lebrun | 14 Aug 2008
3 years ago I spend 1 month without broadband. I think it was with Wanadoo. It was worth than in your case because it seems they were not logging my call; each time I was calling I had to explain the problem the problem again and do the same the same test (the same test than in the user guide of their router).
If I were you, I would get a 3G modem and some pay as you go service with o2/3/T-Mobile. The Huawei E220 that I bought 4 month ago with T-mobile has linux driver or can be directly used on an Asus EEE pc.
Nina | 14 Aug 2008
Just reading this makes my brain produce incoherent rage noise.
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