An Open Letter to Island Tel

Sometime in the next two weeks, the folks at Eastlink expect to be able to provide cable, telephone and high-speed Internet service, over one wire, to our world headquarters here on Prince Street in Charlottetown. So now we have to decide whether to jump into bed with the new guys, or stay with Island Tel, our occasionally inept provider of Internet and telephone.

The choice is not as simple as it might appear, for there is considerable “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know” involved in the decision. With that in mind, I decided it might be a good idea to look at exactly what it is that frustrates me about Island Tel’s services, and write these frustrations down so they can have an opportunity to comment on them and sell me on staying with them as a service provider. So you can consider the next several paragraphs a sort of “open letter to Island Tel,” wherein I vent about all that frustrates me.

Billing

Currently I receive 4 bills every month from Island Tel: cell phone (from Island Tel Mobility), high-speed Internet (from Island Tel Advanced Solutions), residential phone, and business phone. I want to receive one bill.

Additionally, I cannot, for some obscure technical reason, pay my high-speed Internet bill using online banking (although, ironically, Island Tel will not send me a paper copy of my high-speed Internet bill — they insist on emailing it, and insist on not including their postal mailing address in the email).

What I really want is one account number and one bill that I can pay online and choose to receive by postal mail or email at my option.

Customer Service

Currently there are [confusingly and frustratingly] several toll-free numbers to call for technical support and customer service for my various Island Tel services: the (800) 565-4287 customer service number for telephone service; the (800) 773-2121 number for [bad] technical support for high-speed Internet that actually rings into Watts call centre, not Island Tel; and (800) 763-2688, a new number I only learned of yesterday that rings directly into ITAS technical support. And there’s also 611 which rings directly into Island Tel Mobility for cell phone issues.

While it’s obvious that there’s been some cross-training of staff in recent years, there’s still far too much “that’s not my department” call transferring going on. Try ordering a computer from Dell; take notes; then try and act like them.

I want there to be one contact number, answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, that connects me to a person who will take responsibility for whatever Island Tel product or service I’m calling about and will follow through the issue until it’s resolved.

Pricing

You’ll have to match Eastlink’s pricing. You can’t hide behind the “we’re a full service telecommunications company and we can’t compete on price” drapes any longer — it just doesn’t wash (and stop using the “our tariff won’t let us charge any less” ruse too; tariffs can be changed). I’d also like rates information to be presented without any stupid gimmicks with catchy named (PrimePak, IMove, etc.); tell me what it costs, and leave the confusing games out of it.

I want competitive gimmick-free pricing, that is explained clearly.

Competence

Service has to work. In my experience, telephone service from Island Tel is rock solid. Even then there are service glitches (like when I switched to a Centrex line and my caller-ID got removed), they are addressed quickly.

On the Internet side, however, my perception is that of a network that nobody really understands, and that weird things happen to for unknown reasons. I can’t count the number of times I’ve phoned technical support over the last several years when a problem’s cropped up only to be told some variation of “the boys were making some changes to the routing tables and something went wrong.” DNS service for Island Tel domains was out for 24 hours this weekend, for example — this is inexcusable, and is something that needs to be monitored and fixed before people like me notice that something is wrong.

Additionally, I’m often made to feel as if I’m either stupid, or lying, or both when I bring up technical issues with technical support staff; the prevailing attitude is “prove to us that it’s our problem”. That’s simply not acceptable. And it’s rude.

I want to feel like I’m connected to a rock-solid network, run by top-flight professionals who respond instantly and courteously to any outages or other technical problems.

Web Integration

Island Tel has been in the Internet business, under one guise or another, for almost a decade. And yet I still can’t do simple things like get an online network status report, look up transactions on my account online, or even order products or services through the Island Tel website (why is there a link on this page that says “Order Now Online” which leads a page that says “Sorry! On-line Ordering is momentarily out of service.” — reflecting a moment that has lasted now for several months?)

You have to decide if the web is going to be a glorified marketing brochure, or an integrated part of the way you do business. Any while you’re at it, try and bring some sanity to the various ITAS (or ITAS), Sympatico, Island Tel, Aliant and other web front ends you offer services through: if you want to convince me that you’re a responsive, local company you have to appear like one, and give me a single web-window through which I can conduct all my dealings with you.

In other words, if you want to appear as if you’re a “with-it” high-tech company, then you need to act like a with-it high tech company.

Attitude

I know it’s hard not to act like a telephone company. For 100 years you had the market to yourself, and didn’t have any competitive pressures. Changing gears must be something like trying to convince dandelions that they should cooperate with the lawn for a change. And you’ve made great strides, especially on the telephony side, where your operators and lines-people are, in general, terrific, friendly, helpful people.

But you’re not done yet. There are still far too many episodes where your “inner telco” shines through: you’re beligerent, reactive and inflexible on pricing, insular and non-communicative on Internet technical issues. And, more than anything else, you don’t make being your customer an interesting, creative, fun experience. Dealing with Island Tel is more like going to the dentist than going out for ice cream; more like shopping at IBM than Apple.

I want you to treat me like a trusted neighbour and live up to all that rhetoric about being a small, local company by acting like a small, local company.

And so…

If you work for Island Tel and any of what I’ve said here makes any sense, and you think you can work towards the kind of things I’ve talked about, then please email me sometime soon.

Comments

Chris Keevill's picture
Chris Keevill on February 9, 2013 - 04:07

I 2001, I was working for Bell Aliant, IslandTel’s parent, when I saw Peter’s post. This post affected corporate strategy in a positive. You got it right Peter and to a large extend, so did Bell Aliant.

Chris Keevill

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