Great customer service

by Michael Alderete on 7/23/2004

Just this last week I had two great customer service experiences. With all the horrible customer service most companies provide, via outsourced call centers or worse, the great companies deserve to be noticed and praised, and patronized.

First, my DSL connection went out. Rochelle got me out of bed early Sunday with a “Honey, is the internet working?” After a couple of quick tests, it was clear the problem wasn’t on my end. I called our DSL provider, Speakeasy, and opened a trouble ticket.

What was remarkable was that (a) I didn’t wait on hold for more than 2 minutes before I spoke with the first human being. And (b), she was the only person I spoke to, because instead of being an idiot reading from a script and telling me to power cycle my computer / router / coffee maker, she knew her shit, and we quickly ran through real troubleshooting steps that allowed her to isolate the issue to being outside my network. She wrote down my particulars, and told me what she was going to do, and how Speakeasy was going to get the problem solved.

Four hours later, Rochelle and I were taking an afternoon nap (it was Sunday), and we got a phone call. Speakeasy, letting us know that they had found a bad circuit card in the network center, and replaced it. Would we try our connection and see if things were working again? Sure enough, everything was good.

Not 10 minutes later, I received an e-mail message asking me to rate my recent ticket support. Speakeasy follows up every trouble ticket to ask you how they did. They are not afraid of getting feedback, because they work very hard to make sure it will always be positive. And I gave them the top rating across the board, because they’d earned it, by being quick, treating me like an intelligent person, and being proactive and following up, instead of just silently closing the ticket when they found and replaced the bad card. (It’s amazing how many companies close tickets when they find a problem, without checking back to see if it was the problem.)

My other great experience was simpler. I was working on some HTML pages for a web site for Rochelle, using the finest text editor available, BBEdit. And, when trying to select a menu choice I’ve used many times before, the item was grayed out, inactive. I tried a bunch of things, and couldn’t figure it out. So, on a Saturday, I sent off an e-mail inquiry to Bare Bones Software‘s technical support. Less than a day later, still on the weekend, I got back an e-mail from the director of technical support, which not only had the answer, but also guessed (correctly) at how it had happened. It turns out that a third-party plug-in I had recently installed does something bad, and that bad thing has the effect of disabling the command I wanted.

So (a) they knew exactly what the problem was immediately, and (b) the problem wasn’t created by Bare Bones, but they addressed it anyway. That’s great customer service.

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Semi-back online

by Michael Alderete on 2/10/2004

About five minutes after I posted that UPS was going to deliver my new DSL equipment, the doorbell rang. Three minutes later I had the box open on the floor in the office. 15 minutes later I the DSL filters installed on all three phone lines in the house, and the DSL cable plugged in. Five minutes after that, I had Rochelle and I online on the new DSL connection.

And locked out of our e-mail, and this weblog.

This is because I didn’t move our server right away, and it regarded our attempts to access our mail and the weblog database as external attacks by crackers, which was almost true, given that we were now connecting from “outside” the server’s network, instead of being network “roommates.” I got e-mail working again quickly by converting the e-mail clients to a better authentication scheme, but there was no way for me to safely post to this blog while my systems were on two different networks.

Last night I finally finished reconfiguring the server and the firewall DMZ for the new network, and moved the server (which actually only involved connecting the server’s Ethernet cable to a different jack 3” away from the old one). So, now I can post.

Of course, the DNS changes are still percolating through the internet, and for the moment you are effectively blocked from sending me e-mail, or viewing this blog. Hopefully that’ll be fixed in another day or so.

Oh, yeah, the new DSLspeed is heaven compared to the old connection. Almost as big a difference as when I upgraded from a modem to DSL in the first place. Woohoo!

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New ADSL coming later today

by Michael Alderete on 2/2/2004

Last week I signed up for a new ADSL account with Speakeasy, a top-rated ISP providing service in the Bay Area. Over the last five days, just about everything that needed to happen has happened, except for receiving the new DSL hardware, which is “out for delivery” according to UPS’s package tracker.

The reason for the change is simple: we signed up for DSL after I moved in with Rochelle, at the end of 1998, when it became clear that our needs for internet access could not be met by a single phone line. “When are you going to be done with the internet?”

Back then, only one provider covered our neighborhood, and even then, only with their more expensive business-class SDSL service. With no other options, we signed up for it. We’ve had the 192/192Kbps service for about five years now, and neither the price nor the speed has changed.

Even once other DSL options came to our neighborhood, they initially weren’t much better, or cheaper, than what we had, and were a whole lot less reliable. I can count the number of times our DSL service went out on one hand — in five years! And of those, two occurred when the service was sold and transferred from one ISP to another, two outages that could have been planned for and minimized if the new ISP had been communicating better.

Today Moore’s Law and other developments have improved reliability tremendously, and left our 192Kbps service in the dust. We can get way more speed for half the price, and with reliability and quality of service that’s certainly good enough.

It took a little searching to find a DSL provider who explicitly allows running servers, who doesn’t block ports, and generally meets our slightly different needs (since we run our own network at home, including servers and custom domains, etc.). And then I needed to set up a more powerful firewall, that would make the migration smoother, etc.

That’s all mostly done, so I’m sure as soon as the new hardware gets here I will be tearing into the box, setting it up, and switching over — even though I should be doing other things. The concept of surfing 800% faster is intoxicating!

Our servers will migrate a little more slowly, since I’ll need to do things like update the DNS records, and other tricky technical stuff. There will be some disruption when I start those, probably this coming weekend, but using the new connection for our desktop systems should be a piece of cake.

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