If you have an Internet connection and you’re as addicted to it as I am, you’ve probably experienced a time when it was behaving badly or stopped working. Usually at the worst time possible, such as when you need to send in a report or when the only thing on television is Master Chef. Usually if you try again a little later it will mysteriously work. Or you may need to reboot your computer and modem and that magically fixes things as well. But when all those arcane steps have failed you’ll need to contact our Customer Service team.
Every day, for more than seventeen years, iiNet has been here to help customers facing connection problems. Today we employ more than 2,000 people and more than 80 percent of those staff are in Customer Service. That’s the core of the business.
I see technical support as a joint effort between the customer and the staff member to diagnose and fix a problem. It can’t be adversarial. Both parties want the same outcome – to fix the issue, so the blame game is pointless. The problem is that the fix is rarely obvious. When a customer calls up and says “my Internet is not working” there is no button we can push to fix it instantly. We have to diagnose it step by step and try to work out where it’s broken. Just to give a few examples, the issue could be:
That’s not even a complete list! So you and the CSR need to go through and try to rule out each issue. It can be particularly hard when the issue might be intermittent or caused by two or more issues coinciding, or caused by an external factor like weather or interference.
If your Internet has stopped working it’s often easy to start by thinking “but I haven’t changed anything”, so the steps you’re being asked to go through may seem pointless. But the CSR really does need to go through and test as many pieces of the puzzle as possible to try and build a picture of what might be causing the problem. For instance, our staff members might ask you to move your computer next to the modem and connect with an Ethernet cable. Now you’re thinking “that’s a waste of time” because you don’t want the computer there at all! But doing this can allow us to rule out any issues with your wireless network or WiFi configuration.
If there is a particularly niggling issue it can mean many hours of work by both the customer and our CSR to find the answer. It can also mean going back and trying earlier tests again as later issues are ruled out or corrected.
Sometimes staff will try something that may “fix” the problem but really turns out to just be a placebo. For example, if other issues have been ruled out staff may conclude the modem is faulty and suggest a replacement. If the modem was supplied by iiNet we send out a new one and ask the customer to return the old faulty unit. The customer and staff member are now happy because they have a solution: let’s replace that pesky piece of hardware. Faulty units then go back to our test lab where we try to analyse what the fault was so we can reduce the incidence of faults in future releases.
Here’s the disappointing bit: of all modems returned to iiNet as “faulty” during 2010, only 3 percent turned out to be actually faulty. A staggering 97 percent were perfectly OK. The replacement of the modem may seem to have fixed the problem, but that’s pure coincidence.
On rare occasions the issue won’t be found and the connection will continue to be dodgy due to factors that may evade diagnosis no matter how much time and stress is invested by you and our staff. There may need to be a point where both parties say “you know what, I reckon we’ve done all we can here”. At that point, we need to be mature enough to accept that the connection is not perfect but it’s usable. Or even just shake hands and go our separate ways. If we have tried all the usual tests, send out line technicians, replaced and still been unable to get a reliable connection, then a penalty free separation should be offered.
It’s not you honey. It’s actually not me either. At least I don’t think so. It’s just that this isn’t working out for us…