Equal Opportunity Bad Technical Support

Let it never be said that only Island Tel can offer bad technical support. Tonight after Larry King and before bed, I decided to check my email. Although my bandwidth to the office here comes from Island Tel, my mail is on a server across town, connected to the Internet by ISN.

So I opened Outlook, and waited for the mail to flow forth. But it didn’t. A quick ping and traceroute suggested that the problem was at ISN’s end of things — traffic was making it as far as AT&T, one or two hops upstream from ISN. My usual backup for problems like this is to dial directly in to the Charlottetown POP. But that wasn’t working either; the authentication server was picking up and accepting my username and password. And then croaking.

So, like a good customer, I dialed 892-4476, ISN’s “one number for all things,” and heard Kevin O’Brien’s recorded voice telling me to immediately press 1 for technical support. So far so good. Pressed 1. A couple of rings, and another voice announcing that I’ve called ISN’s support centre. Listen to another round of prompts. The voice tells me to press 1 for dial-up support and 2 for web hosting support. Figuring that my problem is more networking than dial-up, I press 2. And the voice comes back and tells me to hang up and dial a toll-free number, 877-476-6381, option 3. So I hang up and dial that number. And what do you know… it’s Kevin O’Brien’s voice again, same recording, just like 892-4476. Same instructions to press 1 for technical support; but I know where that leads, so I stay on the line. Eventually I’m told that if I have “urgent questions of a non technical nature” I should press 3. Well. What should I do?

So I hang up and dial 892-4476 again, press 1 again, listen to the rings again, and press 1 once I get the opportunity. Next I’m treated to 3 minutes of what sounds awfully like Yanni (does anyone in the technical support business have any taste in music at all?). And then a helpful sounding chap comes on the line and asks me for my username. Fortunately, unlike Island Tel, where one’s username is actually a kryptonic code of numbers and letters, my username at ISN is simply peter, so I give it over.

Friendly phone guy tells me that they are aware of the problem, and that there was a problem earlier in the evening which they thought was fixed around 10:00 p.m., but it seems to have come back. They’re working on it. That’s about it. No offer to phone me back once the problem is solved. No explanation about what the nature of the problem might be. The nice phone guy seems pretty much as in the dark as I am.

How should this have worked? I notice a problem. I call 892-4476. I hear a message: “Hello, this is ISN. It’s now Friday evening at 11:32 p.m. We are aware of the technical problems with our Internet service, and have traced the problem to blah blah blah. Our technician Bobby is en route from his house in blah blah blah and should be on site by 11:49 p.m. We expect to have service restored by 12:10 a.m., 43 minutes from now. To receive an automated telephone call at the number you called from when service is restored, press 1. To find out more about this technical problem, and immediate steps you can take to get access to the Internet right now, press 2. We apologize for your frustration, and assure you that we’re doing everything we can to solve this problem. Complete details of the reasons for this service outage will be posted to our website within 2 hours of restoration of service. Have a nice day.”

Assuming I press 2 at this point, I will be transferred to a real live person (being on hold for a bit is fine, as long as the hold music is, say, Los Lobos). When I get to talk to the real live person, they will have a Sympatico or Auracom account ready for me to use until service is restored (just like Air Canada used to let Canadian Airlines passengers fly on their planes when something broke).

Moral? Attitude is everything. Technical problems happen — it’s how you handle them, and kung fu them to your advantage that’s the key. Tonight I’m going to bed email-less and frustrated.

Disclaimer: I’m good friends with Kevin O’Brien, the voice on the telephone telling me to press 1. He bought me lunch at the Noodle House last week. I designed ISN’s ad in The Buzz this month. I think ISN is a good company. But some times even the good can have a bad day.

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