Late last week we discovered our internet speed was dwindling, but that only lasted a day since the very next day it was totally non-existent. We’ve had outages before, its the nature of the world and part of running a business that relies so heavily on technology and the internet is the knowledge that you are going to be without service of some kind occasionally. That being said, it is a business and we expect to be treated with respect & honesty and when we call into our ISP we expect to actually talk to people who are aware of what products they sell as well as what problems those products are experiencing. Sadly, Bell Canada is absolutely horrible at doing that.
I’m not saying I should be treated any different than anyone else that calls in for answers or tech support, but it is probably pretty evident to most english speaking people within a few moments of conversing with me that I know more about tech than the average customer. I mention english-speaking because I find it especially frustrating to talk to a customer service rep (CSR) that I cannot understand. My conversational french is poor and limited mostly to simple phrases and swear words (much like my german or dutch) and i think i may have used them all recently in dealing with the supposed customer service personnel at Bell. I’m not sure which is worse, explaining myself over and over to everyone under the sun when I call in for tech support as you get passed on up the line of “supervisors”, or constantly asking the CSR to repeat themselves because you can’t understand them which only adds to the frustration of being forced to call in repeatedly for support on the same ongoing issue.
Calling in the first time I was told there is no problem with the tower or service, it must be at my end since no one else is complaining “and we would have lots of people calling in if there was a problem“. This logic annoyed me and frustrated me. If more than one person doesn’t complain there isn’t a problem? How about the fact I was calling in about the same service from two locations, one residential and one business? Well, apparently, that doesn’t matter either – it’s different departments. I tried to be civil about the issue at first, but when you get the same questions over and over from their near useless level one tech support, it gets frustrating. “Yes, i’ve restarted the modem. Yes, i’ve tried moving it to another location. Yes, i’ve disconnected the router and connected directly to the modem. Yes, the modem is turned on.”, etc, etc.
I even had one tech mention that they don’t trust any speed testing site other than their own on Bell.ca. I typically use www.speedtest.net and find it gives the same results as the bell site but does it faster. But to keep them happy i’ve been taking screen-captures of their speedcheck results and keeping them just in case I need backup of my speed/connection problems.
I also like to use http://www.pingtest.net since it gives you a bit more info and does so in a very clear and easy to understand fashion. As you can see when i did this ping-test, my ISP failed miserably. A nice big “F”.
If the CSRs would look back at how long you’ve had the service before asking such stupid questions they would realize, i’ve been dealing with their wonderful “unplugged” service for over 3 years, and as it turns out, I know more about their system than they do and have done all the troubleshooting many times before.
Without boring you with all the details, i spent hours explaining the problem to various techs and CSRs that couldn’t answer the simplest of questions about the way the system works. Being forwarded from CSR to their supervisor over and over, i got to thinking there are way too many levels in this company, and it seems like none of them want to actually help the customer, or is it just that they don’t know enough about what they are supposedly supporting to be able to.
This is what i’ve pieced together over the years: The unplugged or portable internet service is a plug and play type modem that once a connection is made with the cel-phone like tower gets an I.P. address and connects you to the internet without any configuration necessary. It is shared technology between Bell and Rogers, who actually use the same towers and equipment which was originally created by a company called Inukshuk – this was shortly before i started using it in late 2006. The problem is the tower needs to be more or less line of sight, and weather as well as terrain and temporary obstructions can affect it. The question I had was how does the signal get to the tower? Is the tower re-transmitting from tower to tower or is it hard-wired to the tower from the land-line grid of cables and then broadcast out to customers? The reason for the question was that i know there is lots of construction going on near the base of the tower and to the cables feeding the expanding neighbourhood nearby. No one knew. Not even their supposed senior techs could answer the question.
I did eventually find a top level CSR who could answer the question. Yes the tower is fed from a buried cable. So it was entirely possible something could have happened to the feed serving the tower. I tried in vain to tell the various CSRs that the issues was not at my end, how could it be when both of my modems started having problems at the same time. It didn’t matter though, they had their answer sheet in front of them and were going through their flowcharts of solutions. When i got to the part of the conversation where they suggested trying a different modem, i lost it. If they really thought it was the modem, then by all means send out a tech with a new modem and plug it in. They would see it was not making any difference. Bell’s response to my suggestion? – “We don’t send techs out for these kind of modems since there is no setup, but we can send one via Canada Post“. Are you freaking kidding me? Make me wait a couple of days while the modem was mailed to me just to find out it wasn’t the problem after all? After a few choice words, i was again sent up the ladder of seniority to the next level supervisor.
Keep in mind this is a “Coles Notes” version of the events, this was all taking place over a couple of days and numerous phone calls. At first we were told the issue was an outage and was affecting numerous towers and customers, then it was fixed and those tickets were closed. Next our speed problem became an issue and got a new ticket assigned. To which i was told, a business ticket will be resolved with 24 to 48 hours. What a crock, they already had the issue on file for 3 days at this point, but called it different tickets because at first it was an outage rather than a supposedly isolated case. As for my home internet, its the same problem, but apparently they get up to 72 hours to fix residential issues.
As i said, i worked my way up the chain of command so to speak and ended up talking to a top level supervisor who took more notes (the sound of typed-note-taking is always present over the phone lines as you speak with Bell) and look into the issue further after promising resolution shortly. I didn’t put much faith in it. Surprisingly i got a phone call the next morning from another supervisor who actually read the notes in the ticket and noticed all the times i had called in, as well as the suggestions and comments made by the previous CSRs. He even remarked on the fact that some of the suggestions were ridiculous. “Why would you move the modem around if you are already getting 4 or 5 lights on the modem?” We discussed the issues a bit more, in detail, discussing my suspicions & observations, and again was forced to leave it in their hands and wait. Fortunately by this time we had internet service again albeit very slow. A few hours later i called him back (i have his direct line now) to report that we had lost our internet entirely again to be greeted by the proclamation “You were right, there was a problem with the tower.” Apparently the problem was being fixed, he had sent out the engineers to physically inspect the equipment on the tower and found problems which they were working on, a bad circuit board was one of the issues. Gee, where had i heard that before? Oh right, that was me – i said something was wrong with the signal right from the start but no one would get off their butts and actually check. We eventually got our service back again, but very slow still. I’ve been keeping track of the speed tests, which seem to be in the range of 200 to 400 KB/s download speed on a service that used to reach 3 MB/s. At the best of times, which seems to be before 7am in the morning I may get the occasional burst that reaches 1400 kb/s which is still a far cry from the 3 MB/s i one had and am paying for.
This is not fixed by any stretch of the imagination. I’m used to seeing the progress bar measured in Kb or Mb, but not B (as in byte), at least not since the first days of the internet. As you can see from the screen capture, the progress was actually slow enough to measure the incoming message speed as 405 Bytes of 311 KiloBytes. Imagine waiting to receive a 2 or 3 meg drawing file at this pace. I’m still in contact with the top level CSR and have been assured the ticket would remain open until everyone was satisfied with the service speed and connectivity again.
Finally talking to someone who seemed to genuinely care and was willing to help was such a relief, and it almost took the edge off my animosity and umbrage because it seemed i was finally getting answers and being listened to. But, the fact i had already spent more than 8 hours on the phone with various people working my way up the “escalation” ladder kept the bitterness alive. Why should anyone have to deal with all the crap i went through. We are customers, serve us, respect us and remember without us you cannot exist as a service.
Being right is nice, but being connected is even better.