Sunday, February 7, 2010

And Sometimes Ugly

Funny thing, Customer Service. We all need it from time to time. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. And, yes, sometimes it's ugly.

Last week, our home Internet connection simply disappeared. Our Internet Service Provider (ISP) had an outgoing message on their support number that announced a statewide outage of all DSL service. (To me, an IT guy, this screamed "single point of failure" which is never a good thing.) Luckily, my iPhone gets enough signal at our house to keep my email, news and Twitter going. About 2 days later, our service was announced "restored."

None of my connected devices were able to obtain a useful connection. No email in or out, no Web. I followed the directions they gave on their announcement, but to no avail. Nothing worked. I called support.

After being polite and confirming some information, they got me back online when connected directly to the DSL modem, but that was it. (I understand this entirely. Support has limits, and they were making theirs clear. They would have to pass me over to their "advanced support group" to get any help for my network setup. Let's just say that that side of the call quickly got to "I can't help you."

What the heck—I was due for a router upgrade anyway, so I bought one and ran the setup. I still cold not establish a connection to the Internet. Modem worked. Router worked. Configuration went correctly. No net. 

So, I called the router company's support. I got some of the best support ever. The agent walked through every setting on the modem, suggested what some causes of the issue might be, and worked through the entire setup with me until I was satisfied that everything was working correctly.

The ISP's support was OK. Limited, narrowly focused, and just OK. They threw in the towel as soon as their job was technically done. The router company provided me with all the information and help I needed to get to the desired end: Everything worked.

Often, companies are ready to pull the plug on support because they forget that the object of that support is to get the customer happy with whatever product they are using.

The object of business is not opposed to the object of Customer Service. They are the same: Create and keep Customers.

Give it some thought.


  1. I always try to help people even when it is not my problem to solve but I also understand some businesses simply wont allow support agents to spend time working on something that is not their issue.

    Had they helped you though, it would have caused you to rave about how great they were to others - and there is no better press than having your customers rave about how great you are. is a great example of that.

  2. Eric- Thanks for your comment. You are correct in saying that great support can be the difference between a customer who puts up with you and a customer who becomes a supporter, an evangelist for your business. If we think about it, it's rarely just a product that makes us loyal customers--it's a combination of good products and an organizational commitment to customers. Nowhere is that commitment--or its lack--shown more clearly than in support.

    Thank you.

  3. Hey Roy,

    Great article. Having worked with a lot of Internet Service Providers, I can understand that they were hesitant to assist you with that router and your home network.

    I know this is an area that a lot of ISP helpdesks struggle with - how far do they go in assisting the customer? From the ISP's perspective, your home network isn't their responsibility. So they are challenged to see beyond that limited view and consider helping you with your router as their "responsibility".

    Of course, their responsibility is to help you and keep you satisfied - in this case, they brushed off your issue with the router and were only interested in getting you connected and ruling out any problem with "their" network.

    It's a difficult balancing act - and ISP that goes "above and beyond" to help their customers will have to be staffed differently and more heavily, so it also adds in a cost element which most ISPs are concerned with too.

    Our experience with our ISP clients is a nice middle ground - no, we don't recommend you help your customers build their entire network, but don't just have them bypass their internal network equipment, confirm connectivity, and then leave them hanging in the wind.

    There are plenty of ways to leave customers with internal network issues satisfied with the service received, even if it means not solving every issue they have.

    Thanks for the Twitter add and I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

  4. Thanks, Kyle. It would have been above and beyond for them to work with me through the router issues, granted. A couple of notes, though:

    1) The network was pretty much trouble free for about 2 years previously
    2) The company had just left the entire state with no DSL for over 2 days
    3) When their service came back, their instructions did not restore my service to its previous level.

    Here's a little addition to the story, too: Last year in March, the same company left the whole state of New Hampshire without DSL for several days. Interesting.

    Thanks again, and thanks for the assistance you provide for people.

  5. Hi Roy,

    I think you and I share a lot of values. Customer service is one of them. I wrote a post a while back called "Act Now - Think Later" I share your premise that the whole point of business is to create and keep customers. Too many businesses see customer service as a necessary evil rather than a potential competitive advantage.

    Hope all is well and that the snow is light.


  6. Doug - Thanks for coming by and leaving your thoughts. Thanks for sharing the link to your blog. I agree -I think we do look at a lot of things from a similar perspective. It just makes sense for businesses to cultivate customers, and I'm amazed that businesses miss this opportunity for great world-of-mouth. Thanks again1