Er, customer ser-what?

Posted by Amit Shah on August 12, 2006

1. Tata Indicom Broadband: My home broadband connection wasn't working for 2 months. I had good things to say about Tata Indicom / VSNL broadband in Bangalore. How they prove me wrong! One spell of rains and the cables snap. They take 2-3 weeks to get the cable to work properly. It still doesn't work. They say they'll have to come home and check. They work from 10 AM to 7 PM. Very sad that I won't be home during those times. Someone finally comes home at 8 one day, replaces the ADSL router, but still can't configure the thing. I go and probe in the router config. It's web-based. The router's a Xavi router. No idea what company that is. The web interface is (C) Conexant. Needless to say, it's an extremely sad interface. It's slightly better than most, though. So I can't configure things from there. Nothing works. I do manage to get an IP and ping some remote site once. But after 5s, that's gone as well.

The customer support people don't want me to talk to their supervisors. They say they've done everything that's possible and the supervisor won't be able to help. Each time, they implore me to give them 'just one more day'. And it'll be solved. They also wrongly close my complaint saying the connection was working. After 5 minutes of speaking, finally someone is OK with transferring the line to the supervisor. However, I have to wait a further 20 minutes to speak to one. He says it'll be done within 24 hours. Of course, I'm now used to hearing this. I tell him I know it's not going to happen. No matter who tells me. He says he's personally going to escalate the issue. Hmm, this is new. I'm still not convinced, though. The call Tata once-a-day routine continues.

Finally, when I'm home on a weekend, I call the Tata service guy (I have his number now, I don't have to go through the pain of waiting for 20 mins after dialling the Tata customer care), and he promptly comes home. 'telnet's into the router, deletes some config and restarts the router. Done. Connection's working.

How stupid! What a design! Hmmrph, I don't want to comment on that at all!

Conclusion: Tata's very poor at customer service.

2. net4domains: I have my amitshah.net domain registered with net4domains.com. No comments right now about their website design. It was due for a renewal. I renew the domain > 1 month in advance. I pay by credit card. I get an email saying some payment was made. So I don't bother about it. One fine day, I get a notice saying the domain's not valid anymore because of non-payment. I start wondering what went wrong. I realize that the net4domains site payment doesn't work well with Firefox. I had to pay through IE last time. I call their customer support people. They're clueless. They can't help me. I'll have to go to their office and pay them by cheque or cash. I was told I may not get my domain renewed at all. There were no guarantees now.

I go on a Saturday. I just tell them I've got a payment to make; don't crib about anything. I managed to keep my cool. I get told they don't work Saturdays. But they'll accept my payment this time around. They return, telling me that my domain's invalidated and there's just 20% guarantee I'll get it. Being Saturday, the office is closed. They can't do anything till Monday. And they have to speak with Australian people, who actually control the domains. I say I had made a CC payment and they never told me it failed. The lady raises her voice to tell me that a mail was sent. She asks me to prove it -- she allows me access to email so that she could prove that I indeed got some mail NAKing it.

I have the mails on gmail, so I can show her all the relevant mails. I show her the mail that mentioned they received something via CC. (BTW, my card wasn't charged for any such transaction.) She takes back her words, mellows down, but says I should've checked with my CC company to see if the payment went through. Yeah, the blame's never ours to keep.

All done, she tells me there's no guarantee and that if all this fails, I can go back and collect the cash.

On Tuesday, I get a mail saying the domain expired and wasn't renewed. On Wednesday, I get a mail saying the domain was renewed. I confirmed that I really had the domain back. But then what explains the message I got on Tuesday? They say their system automatically sends such messages. They don't even know about it.

3. Reliance bill pay: I pay my reliance mobile phone bill through Citibank's bill-pay service. Citibank confirms they paid the service provider. I get a message on the bill due date asking me to pay the bill. I call up the customer support people and tell them I've already paid. They confirm receipt of payment. They ask me to ignore the SMS. A week later, Reliance informs me that my outgoing services are barred because of non-payment. I speak to the customer support again. They don't know what's happening. Max. they can do is take a complaint and restore the outgoing calls in 24 hours. I speak to the supervisor. They say they can't help; they can only check with the billing department to make sure this doesn't happen again in the future.

4. Tata Indicom broadband again: The Indian government requested service providers to ban webpages/websites recently that contained content that could incite violence. Some blogs were part of that list. Some were hosted by blogspot. Turns out, all the service providers block entire blog domains. So no blogs are accessible. This was brought to the notice of the government, and they promptly instruct the ISPs to do the right thing. So everyone can access these blogs. Except guess who. VSNL customers. I call the support guys. They say it's blocked by the backend team, so they can't do anything about it. They don't even take a complaint for this.

I write to their customerservice@vsnl.co.in email ID. I don't know if this helped, or something else, but today I can access this blog from home. Finally, things are back to normal.

Update [2006/08/16]: No, they haven't yet unblocked (at least) blogspot.com. I'm not sure if they "accidentally" unblocked it when I wrote the post or if I was accessing the 'net through my company tunnel. Whatever the case, it's not unblocked. Yet.

Update2 [2006/08/19]: blogspot's accessible for at least 2 days now. So it does seem they've unblocked it.