When it comes to broadband, we live in a 3rd world country

As some of you may have picked up on, I recently moved house.  The Mrs did a great job project managing the whole thing.  It ran like clockwork.  Nothing went wrong.

Except for trying to get broadband on.

Having been a loyal Telecom customer for close to 30 years, with all our connections, mobile, business and private through them didn’t count for much when you are up against organisational inertia.

In simple terms, Telecom refuse to even start your broadband order until you are physically present on-site.

In the mean time, depending on who you talk to, you are told all sorts of placating stories that “yes, it’s on order”, and “yes, it’s booked to be turned on”, and so on.  We’re not stupid, we know about organisational inertia, and we phoned, and phoned, and checked and every time we were told it was all in hand.

When arriving at the new place, after some investigation, it shows that we had a really amusing situation.  The previous occupants were on Orcon fiber.  Before they had that, they had Vodafone broadband.

How do I know this?  

Well, the fiber terminal is all lit up.  Ready to go.  Apart from enabling an account on it, all the hardware is in place.  It is just a matter of giving us an account, and we would be all go.

I also know Vodafone was on.  How?  I plugged a broadband router in, got an ADSL connection to the exchange, and I got a browser page up saying I was connected to Vodafone broadband, all I had to do was phone 0800 xxx and they would get me going.

No broadband in my life is a bit like having no water coming from the tap.  It isn’t the end of life, but it is a serious disturbance to how we go about things.  We are on a 500G plan, we have PCs, tablets, iPads, phones and all our information and entertainment comes via the Internet.  We have no Sky, Freeview or sat TV.

Our kids’ presents for Xmas were iPads.

Keeping in mind we have been told for weeks by various people at Telecom that all we had to do was turn up, tell them we had arrived, and they would turn Broadband on within 24 hours.

This was re-confirmed 3 times.

The reality was different.

No, they couldn’t turn it on while “someone else” was still holding the phone line.   They couldn’t tell us who that “someone else” was.  Of course, I knew it was Vodafone.

We tried yelling at them.  We tried emotional blackmail (the kids, you’re ruining their Christmas!), we tried sucking up.  None of it made a difference.

While “someone else” was still holding the phone line, we were dead in the water.  The best they could offer was to turn broadband on today.  And that’s if nothing else went wrong.

The Mrs was livid.  Basically, we have no problem with natural barriers and delays.  Life is life.  But we had been systematically spun a story for weeks.  Every time we checked, we were assured it was all in hand.  24 hours after arrival, we would be enjoying Telecom broadband.

We were in a situation where we would be without broadband for at least 5 days.  As Whaleoil staff, that would severely impact my ability to work.  As a father, I was making plans on breaking into my sister in law’s house during Xmas to allow the kids to load some apps on their new iPads.

I know it is quite silly to have a loyalty to a corporate – it doesn’t care for you at all.  But to be honest, I’ve had a good run with Telecom over the decades.  We’ve had our moments, but in general, the people try to do their best even though the organisation may struggle against itself at times.

But this was a situation that called for loyalties to be tested.  With a working Orcon fiber connection sitting in the garage, and holding my nose while I phoned them, I asked if they could please turn it on for me.

I was told that would take 3-5 weeks.

No kidding.

I explained all the hardware was in place.  The previous occupants were with Orcon, had a fiber connection, and all they had to do was give me an account.

3-5 weeks.  No shortcuts.

I laughed.  I’m sure the person on the phone at Orcon thought I had gone insane.  But that was just ridiculous.  They weren’t listening to me.  The answer to anyone is:  “3-5 weeks”, no matter the situation.  That much was clear.

Oh well, their loss.

Next, I phoned Vodafone.

Same deal:  I obviously had a working broadband connection to the exchange, and I could surf as far as Vodafone that sent back a web page telling me I needed to become a customer.

I wanted to become a customer.

“2-3 weeks”, I was told.

Using my most friendly voice and debating skills, I tried to convince the nice man at the other end of the line that it wasn’t that hard.  It was already provisioned for that address, it was an active connection, all they had to do is give me a username and a password.

Here, I got the first bit of personal sympathy.  Even though it was going to take 2-3 weeks, this man knew I was talking the truth.   Indeed, all I needed was a username and a password, but for some insane reason, Vodafone was also unable to provide this.

The Vodafone man went above and beyond talking through all the options.  I knew he was genuine and wanted to help, but he was stuck between what he wanted to do and what was organisationally possible.

So, taking stock of the situation, even though both Orcon and Vodafone were already connected to my house, but were giving me deadlines up to 5 weeks into the future, it appeared my favourite Telco, Telecom, had the best deal in town.  5 days, or thereabouts, beats 2-5 weeks.

It appears Telecom could have done it for me quicker, if it wasn’t for the fact they had to ask Chorus to do something for us, which had a performance guarantee of 48 hours.  With Christmas in the way, the next step, connecting it all back up, could only be done today at the earliest.

Resigned to running the family on a mobile phone hotspot (talk about first world problems… heh) for about a week, we settled in to the idea that after all our hard work to try and make this a perfect transition, the only people who had let us down were Telecom.

Damn it.

About 20 minutes later, I got a text to my phone.   It was from Vodafone.  It was a notice what my new connection details were.  Now, they weren’t for me.

Or were they?

I entered them into the router… and… we had Internet.

Thank you Vodafone Internet Christmas Santa.  Thank you for showing a human dimension to our dilemma.  Thank you for knowing when it is appropriate to break organisational rules to help a customer.

Now, we still had the Telecom order in place, which was meant to cut Vodafone off at 5 pm on the 24th so they could reconnect it on the 27th.  We would still not have broadband for the kids for Christmas.  But at least someone tried.

And sure enough, about 5:30 pm on the 24th, our Vodafone broadband disappeared.   But for some reason we still had an ADSL connection to the exchange.

We decided to be cheeky and phone Telecom and tell them we “can’t log in”, in the hope that we could fool someone in simply enabling the account on what was obviously already a working connection.

Once again, we poured on the sugar and the honey, we put pressure on their Christmas spirit and tried every which way we could to get them to “just turn it on”.

But the answer remained:  We can’t – Chorus will need to come out on the 27th, it’s the earliest we can do.

Thankful for Vodafone’s gift of broadband, even though they knew we were already booked in with Telecom, we resigned ourselves that we tried to move heaven and earth, but we had to admit defeat.

And then, about an hour later, a little Christmas miracle:  Telecom broadband started to work.

This was close to 7pm on the 24th – Christmas Eve.

Thank you so much, whoever you were.  Somehow our pleas managed to make it through, and someone managed to bust through the organisational inertia to deliver something we were promised days earlier, and had been planning for a month.

But it took a human being to push it through, against all the “rules” that organisations put in place.

I can understand why it may take 3-5 weeks to get fiber installed when they start from scratch.  But if all the hardware is in place, it shouldn’t take more than 24 hours.

Similarly, I can understand why it may take 1-2 weeks to get broadband installed from scratch.  But if the ADSL light is already on, and your company servers a web page to tell you all you need is an account, it shouldn’t take more than 24 hours.

And finally, if your company is told a month in advance what is needed, and is phoned 3 times to confirm the order, and to try and manage the process through as smoothly as possible, it shouldn’t come to the point where we stand there talking to you THE NEXT DAY after you committed it would work, being told it will take 5 days from that point, if we were lucky – you know what time of year this is?

I fully understand organisational inertia.  I fully understand that getting a different person on the phone within the same organisation can have different results (even though it shouldn’t!), and because of this we didn’t sneak any of this up on Telecom.  We tried to help them, help us, as much as we could.  We don’t take this personally, but the whole area is indicative of a problem that needs fixing.

If in the end of 2013, getting broadband is being quoted as taking 1-5 weeks, depending on who you talk to, even when all the connections are already live and ready to go, well, stop paying fat germans and start concentrating on your customers.

And stop putting so many rules in front of your customer service people so they aren’t allowed to break rules when they so obviously can see that in this case it would be sensible.

At an absolute minimum, this is an illustration that shows that competition isn’t fierce enough yet.  If anyone in this country is happy enough to provide a 3-5 week deadline for a broadband connection, when someone else can do it in 2-3 weeks, and someone else in 5 days, then you have more than one problem.

Orcon missed out on a key customer.  They could have had a champion on this blog.  Vodafone missed out on a key customer.  As a 30+ year Telecom customer, I would never have chosen them on purpose, but they had a chance to shine (and did, through the disobedience of one person – thank you!).

And in the end, even though things need fixing, Telecom have displayed once more why I believe they are the only game in town when you want a reliable performance over an extended period.  I have had many problems with Telecom the organisation, but I almost always come away pleased with any encounter I have with Telecom the person.


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