A tale of how technology does not trump poor business procedures
Last night, I lost internet connection on my Optus cable internet broadband. In short, the modem went on the blink. Waited for a while and this evening made a call to Optus, you know that 1300 number. The recorded voice message kindly told me their finance team had gone home, “Press 1 for faults and key in my cable delivered phone number so that things could be processed faster”. So I did and fairly quickly, a fellow answered. Told him I had been off air for a day, I was on Optus cable. He did a quick check and told me it was better that he pass me onto his colleagues who were more localised, whatever that meant.
A cheerful girl with an Indian accent answered after some minutes on hold. I brightened up but soon was disappointed. She said I did not exist, my two Optus phones did not exist. In my most friendly and admonishing manner, I said “Aiyoh! I have been an Optus customer since 2000” and she tried her computer some more. Then she had an epiphany – “Are you on Optus cable?” and I then asked her “Are you ADSL support?”. We had a virtual smile and she said she would transfer me to the right department, asked me whether I wanted a direct number. I said “No, I don’t want to have more failures to need that number”.
Next, the longest wait and a fellow called Vikram answered. This time, he told me that I definitely did not exist. I did the “Ayoh” bit again and taken aback, he finally found my details, apologising for their computers and told me probably it was because one of my services had been cancelled.
Taken aback, (identity theft crossed my mind), we figured out that he was looking at my full Optus history and was reading an Optus prepaid mobile card service. I was now “not happy” and told him this was no way to treat a customer of 11 years.
Then he started remote diagnostics and told me, it could be due to either the stuff on the pole outside, the white nexus box outside or my modem. I then asked him, with all his diagnostics, he must be able to pin down which was the culprit. After a while he told me from his logs, my modem was rebooting 42 times an hour and it was my modem. That looked like progress. Except business procedure got in the way.
I have not paid for the first modem in 2000 and the upgraded model in say 2005 but he now told me that the replacement modem would cost AUD 100 or so. I thought that was a bit stiff – firstly these are cable modems, and they are the way cable data is transferred. It is not like ADSL where the modem is not unique to the Internet Provider and you could pick up any modem from any of the electronics shops and the modem would be priced competitively because it was not a special item. This modem would be part and parcel of this unique and exclusive service – it would be worthless if you parted company.
Vikram woke up to what I meant and praised me for my allegiance so would write off the price of the unit but could not absorb the AUD 19.90 that Australia Post would charge for the EXPRESS delivery that would take 2-3 days. While he started keying in the request, I asked him whether he was in India and pondered how he could have such measurements and remote testing all the way in India. He must have raised his virtual eyebrow and said “we have this thing called TECHNOLOGY”. I replied “Wow! – you have so much technology to do that but you don’t have the technology to spurt out a modem out into my hand? Where does the modem come from, India?”.
I then asked him “Can’t I just walk into the nearest Optus shop and grab a modem free, or pay for it and you could credit my next bill?” He laughed and said that would be a conflict procedure or whatever that was. Uh, no, then.
He then took pains to explain how there were different modem types, he had the newest gen, yadda, yadda. One option was to send a technician to me, charge me AUD 99 for the visit and still give me an inferior modem because the technicians would not have the new gen modems.
I threw in the virtual towel and surrendered, gently reminding him that I was out of an essential service for how many days, out of pocket for 19.90 – could he log this as a complaint not of him but of Optus business practice? He said he did not have such a button on the screen but he felt my pain.
I asked him, since I have an Optus mobile dataplan, could I use that and get a discount for those intervening days. Nah, I knew I had walked into an organisational silo wall before the words left my mouth.
Along the way, he gave me instructions on how to activate the modem by going to an Optus zoo website. At which time I made him aware that Optus Zoo was one of the suckiest websites through my 11 years of being a customer. The discount movie tickets webpage would refuse to work for me whatever I did, yadda, yadda. Again, no reflection of him, but of Optus. Still now complaint button? He volunteered to share this call with his colleagues and his boss since the call was being recorded.
They must be laughing somewhere in Indian until their tummies hurt and their eyes water.