Why are all ISP’s total rubbish at customer service?

One of New Zealand’s biggest internet service providers had an outage the other day. Big-time. Their answer? They posted a message on their website.

Artwork by Plognark http://www.plognark.com/ Creative Commons license
Artwork by Plognark http://www.plognark.com/ Creative Commons license

You know – the internet’s broken, so to tell people they put a notice on the internet.

My own dealings with that company were so bad – so execrably awful – that I won’t ever deal with them again, not ever – not even after the universe has expired of heat death. When the ISP I was using was taken over by that company, I found another ISP. Fast.

The company concerned was the second most complained about company in New Zealand this year.

But I wonder. Customers judge companies by the front-end experience. Throwing robots and overseas call-centres into a mix of endless wait times, to me, says these companies consider their life-blood – the customer – as an expendable and worthless nuisance. But it’s pretty much par for the course these days.

That’s certainly true of the company whose phone services I ditched a few months back. They were the most complained about company in New Zealand in 2015. Their answer to customer service is to hire robots, starting with a recording and word-recognition system which you can’t get through if you use the wrong word (certain Anglo Saxon ones especially). If you want to talk to a human (all of whom speak curiously idiosyncratic English and are manifestly not in New Zealand) you have to wait hours.

Oh, they’ll put you in a queue to talk to a human and ring you back if you push the right buttons. But that, alas, isn’t the answer. I tried that once. Some hours after their advertised time, my phone went. Was it the promised human, ringing me back? Noooooo. It was another robot.

I let it go to the answer machine and let the two robots duke it out, unimpeded.

Then I found out I was going to have to pay an extra month’s rental as penalty to get them to relinquish the service. I did, just to get rid of them, but it’s something the Commerce Commission has since considered dubious. Obviously my custom meant nothing to them.

There was a report the other day that one of their customers spent three days trying to get through their robots, call centres, call-backs and the rest, after his internet broke. In the end he took out a newspaper advertisement inviting them to contact him. The fault was fixed in 15 minutes.

Still, it could be worse. The ISP I went to were great. You could get through to humans first off, they were helpful, and they did everything.

There was just one tiny problem. Their system was inept. Chokingly so.  They lost track of the package deal I was on and began auto-billing me at the default single-purchase rates.

To their credit, when I tackled them about it they were up front. They happily credited me the over-charge and said it was an issue with their IT systems. Alas, they hadn’t been able to track down the problem and couldn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again.

Full marks for honesty, and I have no complaints on that score. Their connection is faster than the one I ditched. It’s all good. But what sort of company can run for long when its IT system is out of control and nobody knows why?


Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015

8 thoughts on “Why are all ISP’s total rubbish at customer service?

  1. My UK-based ISP, TalkTalk has been hacked not once, not twice but three times in the last ten months! A friend who uses them has taken his business elsewhere. I am still with them at the moment as I fear jumping out of the frying pan into the unknown fire. It is, I think you will agree quite an achievement to be hacked so many times in such a short period!
    Its interesting that when signing up with companies (not just ISPS) one can often get through, very quickly to a dedicated number allowing one to sell one’s soul. However this number is (strangely enough) only available for the purpose of signing up.



    1. Yes, that seems to be the case in New Zealand, too. Some of them compete on the fact that they run New Zealand based call centres rather than hiring in expertise from overseas – and the fact that it’s a selling point makes it pretty clear how much Kiwis hate having somebody other than a Kiwi answer the phone for a Kiwi company… I bet that’s true in the UK too!


  2. There was a time when the customer was the upfront source of income, and customer service reflected that. Modern business models for large corporations put the customer somewhere in the business hierarchy between maintaining the building and waste disposal. The big income comes from investors and even then shareholders are treated with absolute contempt.

    Tiscali were once my ISP until I discovered they hadn’t taken a direct debit payment for about eight months. Trying to tell them and offering to pay was impossible, and when they finally did find out they sent a debt collection agency after me. But I didn’t mind because it meant I could pay up and get shut of them. (The debt collection agency were astonished when I told them what had happened.)

    There’s a circle in hell waiting for these people and I hope it hurts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds very similar to the situation in New Zealand… 🙂 It’s incredible, isn’t it. Behaviour of the kind you’re describing – pursuing someone with debt collector without first establishing the debt with them or giving opportunity to pay – wouldn’t stand up if it got to court.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. May present ISP does a fair job, but I did have one encounter with the one most hated in the country. When I moved to Montana I accidentally called the wrong ISP to initiate service (the names are similar). When I told the woman (you get a human when you initiate service…imagine that) where I lived she became rude and snapped at me using everything short of swear words (whoops, no coverage here). The same company suffered a massive public relations black eye last year when I reporter called to disconnect. He taped the call. The part released was over 20 minutes of the representative arguing and stalling to keep him from disconnecting. Yet, it’s all for naught because the government keeps letting the same company gobble up smaller ISPs. They already control over half the market (thankfully not me).


    1. Kevin, above, had the same experience – a human’s there, but only for the sign-up. Seems to be a world problem! 🙂 My current ISP is humans every time, which is great, and sort of makes up for the fact that there are amoeba on Saturn that have a better business accounting system… The monopoly issue’s interesting. Here in NZ, by the early 1980s, our phone system was a national government run effort – integrated and a total monopoly. This was then handed over, still as a total monopoly, to foreign investors on the theory “privatisation GOOD”, “government BAAAD”. Of course a properly competitive commercial environment with multiple players would have been great, but this system wasn’t – it was a total monopoly, and the problem since has been trying to get some sort of fair commercial competition going when the entire base infrastructure is a foreign-owned monopoly. It took nearly 25 years to really sort out the mess. The original company, now known for some reason as Spark, is still the biggest player and was recipient of the most consumer complaints in the country last year. I could rant on but I’m sure you get the picture! 🙂


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