Pipex: a resolution

27 August 2008

Time to conclude the tale of woes I went through trying to repair my internet connection (previously documented here and here). I got a working connection on Friday, 22nd August – 12 days after my connectivity first disappeared – when a Pipex/Tiscali engineer came around to my house.

The solution?

A new router. Specifically, a Thomson Speedtouch, supplied free by my ISP. Both the Netgears I tried weren’t up to the job, apparently, despite having worked for four years prior.

(I think what happened is that, after a failed attempt to migrate away – another broadband provider being incompetent – that when my MAC code expired, my line became a “new” Tiscali line, which all of a sudden only works with their own modems).

Anyhow. Back online. The disappointing thing is that if I’d been able to get through to a second-line engineer on the Tuesday after my problems had occurred, I might have been able to get through to UK-based support sooned, and had an engineer around over a week prior to the 22nd.

As it was, I became stuck in call-centre hell. All the first-line support staff at the call-centre were courteous, and concerned about my problem – especially when they saw from their own (well-kept) records how long it was taking to solve.

When I escalated the issue, the team in the UK at high-level and network support were all sharp, courteous, and quick to call me back or track progress. It was they who ultimately asked from an engineer to come.

The engineer himself was courteous and sharp, and had the decency to contact me several times when he turned out to be running late.

The gap was in “second-line support” – essentially, call-centre staff who perform more technical tasks, such as testing the line. They consistently failed to call me back when they said they would, and given I needed to be in to respond to their tests, this made it impossible to progress beyond them. Added to that, it was impossible to be transferred to them; they had to call me back direct. As a result, I frequently called to report that they had failed to call me back, only to end up back at first-line support again.

Still, we’re back online, and that’s what matters; it’s a shame it had to play out like this, though. For now, I’m just sticking with this ISP for the time being. Having a connection is better than no connection, at the moment.

(As a footnote: when I signed up to Pipex, about four years ago, they were not the cheapest, but they had dedicated, knowledgeable support staff in the UK, on the phone from 8am to 8:30pm. They’ve now been bought by Tiscali – something they never informed me of – and the quality of service just isn’t the same.)

I wrote last week about my lack of broadband service from Pipex, and thought I should write a follow-up to that post. The news is, frankly, not good. When we left matters, BT were looking into a fault on my line, and I’d emailed the whole sorry story to some very senior Pipex staff.

Friday, 15th August

BT contacted me at lunchtime to tell me the fault on my line had been fixed.

2pm: Tiscali High-level Support (or words to that effect) call me. I explain that BT say they’ve fixed an issue, but if they haven’t, I will call my contact there back first thing on Monday

7pm: Get home. Plug router in. Phone is fine; ADSL is down. I phone BT and speak to Lee. Lee runs a test on my line again; the line is in very good health, he tells me. Suggests I talk to my ISP; the modem at the exchange might need re-syncing after the fault on the line was repaired.

Monday, 18th August

I call my contact in High-level Complaints, to explain that BT found a fault on the line, fixed it, but this made no difference to my lack of ADSL. She tells me that an engineer will phone me back around 3pm, and that she will give me a courtesy call around half four.

No engineer phones by half four; I try to call high-level support but it seems like there’s no-one on Tiscali front-desk to put me through. I call the standard support line. (Update: my high-level support contact confirms she did try to call me, but called my home number. I’d like to clarify that the problem has never been the support staff, either at Head Office or in the callcentre, but specifically the engineering staff).

I speak to Ricardo in front-line support. He tells me he will do everything to solve my problem, and that an engineer will call me back.

At 1815, an engineer calls. He proceeds to do the same diagnostics everybody else has so far. I point out that all I’m waiting on is the test where the line is unloaded, and that the router is unplugged, so he can just do that and we can proceed.

He points out he thought the router was connected, and could I plug it in? I explain that no, I’m not at home. He tells me I need to be at home for these diagnostics: they need to do a test with the router connected and with the router disconnected at the same time.

I point out that every single time I have been home for a call from engineering, they have failed to call me.

He asks me when I am next in. After some discussion – in which I point out that I will gladly be at home if they can guarantee they’ll phone on time – he tells me an engineer will call some time after seven on Tuesday night. I will be in to receive that call. If I am, we can perform the tests, and hopefully get this fixed.

It is now nine days without service; this is the second time I’ve spoken to a second-line engineer, and the fourth time that second-line engineering has failed to call back when they say they would.

I make my point quite clear: I will wait for second-line engineering to call on Tuesday night. If they do not call on Tuesday night, as they have promised, on Wednesday morning I will ring the cancellations department and look to close my Pipex account as soon as possible.

Eight days. Ten phone calls. No progress.

Tuesday, 19th August

I get home at about half five.

Tiscali High-level Complaints call at half six, to see how I got on with engineering. I explain that they were three and a half hours late calling me back, and that they couldn’t do anything because I was at work. I also explain that they’ve promised to call me back at some time after 7pm tonight. High-level support/complaints explain that they’ll call again on Wednesday to see how I got on.

No-one has called by 10pm. I go to bed, because I’m coming down with something like a throat infection.

Wednesday, 20th August

It is now nine days since my broadband connection disappeared. This morning, I am calling Pipex Cancellations to acquire a MAC code (a process they’ve already manage to mess up for me once before), and I’m moving to Zen as soon as possible. I may well transfer the fault, but I’d like to transfer the fault to someone who’s got some experience in customer support.

Again, I will be emailing this some senior staff at Pipex, and attempting to be reimbursed for the lack of service I’ve had since last Sunday.