Providing customer service is more than just reading a list of steps from a troubleshooting guide. It should also be about listening to the customer’s problem and helping to resolve it. That doesn’t happen often enough, and we all have a customer service nightmare story to prove it.


About a year and half or so ago, the SO’s mom got DSL service from her telephone provider. We got her a wireless router and taught her how to access her e-mail and the files she wanted. No mystery that she refers to the SO and I as her “personal Geek Squad.”

It was a few months after the service was set up that she noticed that she intermittently lost her Internet connection. The troubleshooting began. We tried a hundred different things in an effort to stablize her connection and taught her how to reboot her modem and router. In the midst of this, her router went bad and was replaced.

They say that when you have a hammer in your hand, all your problems begin to look like nails. So much so, that we blamed that poor router for the unstable service for many months. I’ll grant you that if she used the Internet more, we might have done something about the instability sooner. But the day came when we finally recognized that the problem was the service. So Mom made a call to her provider.

After talking to six or seven different customer support representatives, she finally got one that asked her what model modem she had. When Mom answered the person, she was told that her modem is a model that they don’t use any more and that she would need a new one ($65.00). Mom agreed, and the new modem was shipped out.

I installed the modem and verified that it was working without problems. The next day Mom called and told me that her service was out again. Since they had sent new line conditioners with the modem, I suggested that she swap out the older line conditioners for the new ones. This was no easy task as most of the outlets in her home are difficult to reach. About an hour later she called back to tell me that swapping the conditioners had no effect. This time I suggested that she call her provider back and ask them to send a tech.

When she called back, she sounded extremely unhappy. Seems that she had to talk to yet another group of people who had her unplugging and replugging every line in her house. This is not the easiest task to begin with, and she had already been through the drill several times. It was as if she had never contacted them with the issue every time she called back. In her last call, she started the conversation with, “I need to talk to a Supervisor, because you can’t help me.” When the Supervisor came on the line, she let him know that if they didn’t send a tech, they could cancel all her services and Comcast would be her next call. So they gave her an appointment for Monday between 1:00 p.m and 5:00 p.m. The SO and I decided that we needed to be there when the tech got there.

At 4:30 p.m the tech arrived and asked for a description of the problem. Then he told me that he had checked the line before he arrived and that it tested okay, but that he would check the outlet. When he did, he discovered that the line was faulty. Surprise, surprise. Then he determined that the underground cable was bad and that he would have to open a work order to get it fixed. Then he told us that if they had run a diagnostic on the line the first time Mom called, they would have known all this.

Obviously, the key fact here is that the issue will finally be resolved and Mom won’t have a temperamental DSL connection any longer. But the pain required to reach this point was really out of line. Truly, it makes me wonder if service providers care at all about providing service.

After years of seeing end users do some interesting things, I understand the rationale for going through the troubleshooting process. But how many times is that really necessary? And once the customer has gone through that process and is still unsuccessful in fixing the problem, why not schedule someone to go to the customer then and there instead of forcing the customer to make repeated calls and reach a level of frustration so deep that they are angry? That makes no sense to me at all.

I know that we all have a customer service nightmare to share. Take a minute and tell me about yours. After writing this post, I know I feel a bit better!