Last week, I had a typical call out. Most of my customers have moved over to Plus Net because they have seen how the other half live when it comes to ISP paradise, and not the high street crap that is Tiscali, BT or AOL.
Yes. AOL. Oh, how I look forward to these callouts. I got a call from a new customer, and the conversation was something along these lines...
"Ah yes, I was told you can help me with my broadband."
"Of course," I replied, "What seems to be the trouble?"
"I just need a hand installing it. They've sent me the router etc., and all is ready to go as far as I know."
"Who have you gone with?"
(here it comes)
"Oh? Is that a bad thing? They seem so popular."
"Where? On the tills in Tesco? On the CDs on the front of magazines?"
"I got mine in PC World." (do you get the impression she's a little naive?)
Sure enough, I get there. The AOL disk has already started crashing windows, before she's even plugged in the router, so the best option is to back up, reformat, reinstall. Eventually I get to a point where I am ready to set up the router, and I program it to her username and password. I then move it to the master socket, where it should be a case of plugging it into the wall, the sync light goes on, and then the internet light goes green. The sync light goes on, but the internet light stays red. And so, the customer verifies her username and password. We phone AOL, who tell us that the password is a simple ABC123, and we try again. Instead of staying on the phone to try it, I say we'll call back if it doesn't work.
I call back. I get some numpty who takes me through all the same checks. The username and password. 3 times. Check the thing is on PPPoA, VC-Mux, VPI of 0, VCI of 38, all the usual stuff I have done a thousand times before. It still doesn't work. Then he reveals that the password is AOL123. It still doesn't work though.
It is about this point that I can hear a loud Indian woman shouting numbers in the background, in the style of a Bingo caller. "Five and three, fifty-three" she says. I ask what's going on, is it a Bingo game.
"Yes, we always have a game of Bingo on a Friday Evening. But don't worry, I'm not playing. Can you hold on a second?"
So there I am, listening to irritating Bingo woman not having a 'four and two,' clue, and I'm getting in a right 'two and eight' state as the cordless phone battery drains and the laptop battery starts to complain. I can here my support agent shouting "yes, got it" and each time I ask him, he says "hang on a second," then obviously continues his game.
Eventually Bingo woman has given up. He returns his attention back to me, now having kept me on the line for 75 minutes (I kid you not). We try a few other username/password permutations, but none work. He then puts me through to technical support level two. I get Bhupinder, obviously a very harassed tech support engineer. He says he needs to test the line, and to hold. Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries plays extremely loudly in my ear for 30 seconds, before a couple of clicks, and I have a dialling tone.
I phone them back, only to get asked "have you checked your username and password?" At this point, the battery on the cordless dies.
I give up.
We arrange to call them again today, giving them the chance to sort it over the weekend. They don't, probably not even trying to fix it. The customer phones them back today, to basically tell them where to get off. The team member paid to keep the customer with them asks why "she's giving him grief?" and then after a slight disagreement ("you didn't give us a chance to fix your fault") he agrees to supply the mac, but only to her AOL email account. Which he then disables. She has to phone back next week, so she can move to someone decent. I'm just glad she'll move to Plus Net, because, let's face it, they are going to have to do very little to come out looking better then AOL.
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