Monday, August 08, 2005

How to lose customers - FAST!

I have a spare dial-up internet account with a major Australian phone company. This is purely a fallback in case my broadband goes down - although my regular ISP provides a dialup service, it's bound to be clogged within minutes of any outage.

This spare account costs me $5.95 per month, and I get 1 hour of 'free' usage in that time. I never use the thing, I just check mail via my usual ISP once every few weeks to get the spam and the occasional credit card billing notice.

Today I got an automated reminder telling me that my card had expired (I got a new one a couple of weeks back.) They wanted me to log in and update the expiry date so they could process the $5.95 bill. Duly chastened, I went to their web page and entered my login details from memory. Wrong. Tried again. Wrong again. Tried one more time, and got a message to the effect that my account was now locked for three hours for my own safety.

I figured I'd email them to let them know that I would try again tomorrow. In their 'update your card' email I found the following: If you have any questions regarding these charges, please contact the Customer Support Centre by e-mail on (name changed to protect the twits) So, I wrote to them and a few minutes later I got the following reply: ** This is an auto-generated message to let you know you have sent an email to an unattended mailbox. Please do not respond to this email. ** This email now told me to visit a special customer page to contact them. I did so. It asked me for an email address, so I gave them my regular one, and I skipped all the crap about which software I'm using, how much money I have in the bank, the names of my children and which OS I have on my PC (I once made the mistake of picking Linux for this kind of thing, only to get a curt email telling me they didn't support Linux - despite the fact I was emailing to upgrade my internet account...) Now I just make it all up, confident that whatever I put they will ignore it and get me to explain it all over again.

I hit SUBMIT and was immediately struck by two things. One, they wanted me to complete a full page of information on my address, phone number, etc, etc because they didn't recognise my email, and two, they wanted $14.95 to proceed with my 'support query'. Do what!? I'm writing to let them know that I can't enter my card details because I'm locked out, and they want me to pay for the privilege?

Yes, I stuffed up my password a couple of times, but any company which employs Monty Python to design their customer support department doesn't want me as a customer. Therefore, I'm cancelling the account.

If I need a backup ISP I'll pick a small, local company with real people on the other end.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

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