Sometimes, complaining loudly works. And complaining loudly on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace works even better.
We've been having problems with our ISP, Bright House Networks (BHN), for about a year. We got frequent intermittent dropouts and disconnections. We called them every few weeks, they'd send an engineer, he'd find nothing, change the router, and the problems would persist. We told them repeatedly that it wasn't the router, it must be something external, but they wouldn't listen. After a while, BHN started getting snarky with us, and told us that if the engineer couldn't find a problem, we'd get charged for the visit. In other words, we'd have to pay extra because of their crap service.
If we were in the UK, we'd have switched ISPs, but round here, BHN have a monopoly. It was them or no net at all. We tried. It looked like we were stuck with an inadequate service and an ISP that simply didn't give a shit because they had us by the goolies.
The Kellands unleash the Internet
A couple of weeks ago, when we kept getting disconnected every hour or so and we'd had two engineers in a week, I had had enough. Talking to their customer support achieved nothing, even when we told them the neighbours were reporting similar problems. So every time the net went down, I tweeted it, and so did Anna. That then appeared on our Facebook and MySpace sites. That gets in front of about six thousand people, all of whom were then seeing several messages a day saying things like "Bright House, you suck." In response, we had hundreds of replies agreeing with us, sharing stories about BHN, and suggesting probable causes.
On the third day, I was contacted on Twitter by @BHNInsider, who's their Internet Communications Manager, and he said he'd see what he could do. Within an hour, we had calls from a manager there who said she'd send a senior engineer. Later that day, the guy arrived, checked the line, and found a potentially dodgy cable. A couple of hours later, another crew had come out and replaced it. Since then, we've had no problems. What's more, we've had several calls from their customer care guys - all the way up to VP level - to make sure it's all still working.
So that's a result. A year of phone calls got us nowhere. Three days of irate tweets got us a functional Internet service. Good work, Bright House. Everyone's been really helpful ever since our little outburst.
So am I a happy customer now?
No. You see, that's not at all the end of the story.
There's a cautionary tale in here for BHN and others. In the short time between @BHNInsider contacting us and BHN customer care calling us, we were contacted by CenturyLink, who told us they could offer us a business line with a higher quality service and more bandwidth for pretty much the same price. Since we're starting up our own company, and we were pissed off with BHN, we took their offer, there and then. So it's all very well BHN fixing our line, but it's actually too late. They're going to lose us as customers anyway.
So, if your supplier sucks, make a lot of noise. They may fix the problem, or you may get a better offer from someone else. Either way, things get sorted.
And if you are that supplier - remember that any of your customers may have the power to spread a lot of bad press about you extremely fast, and there's always someone else ready to take that business from you.
That's just one more example of how social media is changing business.
And if CenturyLink don't match up to expectations, we now have the direct number of a very nice VP of Customer Care at Bright House who's made us a great offer to come back to them...