24 January 2007

Like a bat out of NT-Hell

I am struggling at the moment to maintain my sanity in the face of a bureaucratic nightmare from Hell, or more specifically, from NT-Hell. NT-Hell are Dublin's only cable service provider. They provide digital TV and broadband, and are not related in any shape or form to NTL UK. I was a happy NT-Hell customer for about two years until we moved house over the summer, then the fun began. Apparently our new apartment with the grass on the roof and rainwater in the toilet doesn't exist. They can't find it anywhere, and if they can't find it, they can't set me up. It doesn't matter that it's in the city center, it doesn't matter that I've sent them maps, it doesn't even matter that they've actually sent an engineer out here who has stood in the building with the site's owner, apparently it doesn't exist.

In fact, it appears that the apartment is built in the Bermuda Triangle of Dublin, for not only does it not exist on NT-Hell's maps or systems, any record of any conversation that I have with them also mysteriously disappears mere moments after I hang up the phone. I have been calling them every week or two for six months and they have no record of this. They also have no record of the engineer coming out on a site visit. I have called customer service and been told its a sales problem, I have called sales and been told it is a customer service problem. I have had people promise to ring me back and when they have and I missed the call, the voicemail message said "This is customer service calling, you can phone me back at 1800 XXX XXX) without leaving a name or direct line. For six months I have tried to transfer service, and for six months they have failed to do anything, and have continued to charge me for a service that I don't have!

Why does this annoy me so? It hurts my professional pride just as much as it annoys me as a customer, for before returning to Ireland I managed a regional office for Comcast, America's biggest cable company. They had a terrible reputation for poor customer service (justifiably so in some cases), but they made a huge effort to turn things around, and even linked employees' bonuses to improvements in customer satisfaction as measured by external auditors. Customers were leaving in droves to go to satellite and at the end of the day it wasn't the cost of the service or the range of channels that were offered that caused people to switch, it was the level of customer service they received. NT-Hell don't seem to get this, everybody that I have spoken to refuses to take ownership of the issue, or even acknowledge that an issue exists. I know that computer systems go down, I know that reps can forget to log calls, I know what it's like when there's 50 calls in a queue and the moment you answer a call someone starts yelling because they've been on hold for 30 minutes. I understand all of this and how stressful the job is, but I have really never experienced something as frustrating as the sheer lack of interest that anybody that I have spoken to has shown in resolving the situation.

What has prompted me to finally crack? I phoned last week to try once again, and when I got through before I could even say anything an NT-Hell rep said, "all our systems are down, can you call back tomorrow?" and hung up on me. I called back today and all their freephone numbers are down. I emailed them out of sheer frustration and got the following automated reply:

"We would like to inform you that from Friday 22nd December until early January 2007 we will be upgrading our e-mail service. Please note that this may delay our response time to you to resolve your query during this period. If your email query is urgent, please contact our call centre on 1800 XXX XXX where our customer service team will be available to address your query. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to you."

As a great scholar once wrote, "Customer Service is dead and gone, it's with O'Leary in the grave"

It is worth noting that at this stage I'm actually not that interested in getting the TV hooked up. We've lived for quite a while now without it and we're actually much happier. What I'm really trying to get is broadband. It will take 3 months to get set up with the phone company, though if we'd gone with them when we moved in we would have been well sorted by now. We're using a wireless service now, we have a receiver that sits on the windowsill and just about picks up a service, however the glazing on our windows is so strong that we actually have to have the window open to be able to receive any signal at all. This was fine in summer, but not so good in the sub-zero cold snap we are currently experiencing.

Maybe all the sheep's wool insulation and triple glazing on the windows are also causing the Bermuda Triangle effect, rendering our house invisible to NT-Hell's computer systems and causing all records of our conversations to mysteriously vanish, leaving no trace behind. Somewhere, right now, Charles Taylor and the airmen of Flight 19 are sitting reading my NT-Hell records and saying, "Man, this guy is getting hosed"

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