On September 16th I received a letter from Pipex telling me that they were going to be moving some account management servers, this move would commence at the end of October (a suitably vague date) and would be completed by November 30th. This letter detailed the changes (they were all administrative so I didn’t care) and threw in some free offers (for stuff I didn’t want so ignored). The letter did not mention any down time whatsoever, so I gave it little attention.
At the end of October my internet connection broke. I ran some diagnostics on my router and could see that the DSL circuit was working and that the router was attempting to contact the Pipex account server and that authentication was failing. It seemed pretty obvious that either there was a fault with the account server or that my credentials had been reset.
I telephoned Pipex support and navigated the telephone menu system until I was put in contact with a non native speaking person based (I’m guessing) in Bangalore. I explained what my problem was and asked if he could check if the account server was indeed down or if my credentials had been reset. Like all such first line support people, this person had had all free will removed from him and was unable to do anything other than walk me through the diagnostic steps outlined in his script. Therefore I spent the next 15 minutes pretending to follow his instructions regarding ensuring that the router was powered up, rebooting it, and checking settings etc. Eventually we got to the point where he told me that either my credentials had been reset or that the account server was down (the fact that I told him that within the first ten seconds of the call seemed to be lost on him) and that he would have an engineer call me the next day.
The next day came and went with no call, a pattern that I was to get used to over the next three weeks. I phoned the support line back and asked for an update on the call. I found it very difficult to make myself understood or to understand what was being said to me as the agent was, once again, a non native English speaker. Now I don’t blame the support person for this, as his English was much better than my Urdu or Punjabi. I do however blame Pipex for this. If you are going to take the upside of moving your support to an area of the world where you benefit from ultra low rates of pay, then you also have to take the hit on the other side of the coin, which is that your UK based customers, calling a UK based company will have to struggle like holiday makers visiting Mongolia to make themselves understood. In short, your customer service will suck!
I finally got the answer that there was a problem that they were aware of, although the support person was unable to tell me what it was, and that it would be fixed by the end of the weekend. The weekend came and went with no fix, I phoned back to be told that it would be fixed within 48 hours; 48 hours came and went with no fix, I phoned back… you get the idea yeah? This went on until I had to leave for TechED EMEA, I’d be gone for a week and surely my connection would be fixed by the time I got back, right?
Wrong! I came back to yet more non connectivity. By now I’ve had enough so I phone the support department yet again and asked for an update. The person explained that he was unable to provide me with an update as the call had now been passed to second line support and they were supposed to update the call with progress but hadn’t bothered and since they hadn’t bothered to update the call then he was unable to give me any update. For an update I’d have to speak to the engineer. Cool I thought and asked for the number. Good grief, I was told, we don’t give out that kind of information! What? The only way I can get an update is to speak to the engineer but you can’t tell me the number to allow me to do that? Correct! Sigh, okay I thought, I’ll play this game, so how do I get to speak to the engineer? It turns out that to speak to the engineer, just to get un update on an outstanding call, you have to make an appointment for him to call you. So I did.
Now it turns out that the purpose of making the appointment is to let the engineer know at what time he must not call no matter what happens! The appointed time comes and goes, as does the rest of the appointed day, with no call. Early the next morning, I can’t remember the time exactly, but I was still in bed, the engineer calls and tells me there is no update to my call other than to tell me I’m still without connectivity (no shit Sherlock!) and that my fault would be fixed within 48 hours (fat chance!).
After breakfast I search (without success) for contact information for Pipex complaints department. Failing to find anything I call their support desk (by now it’s on frigging speed dial) and ask them for the number and / or email address. I was told there was no such thing but I could make my complaint to him. What?! If I want to complain about you, I have to complain to you?! Yes sir that is correct. I asked if he was serious, he replied that he was and asked if I wanted to make a complaint. I said that I would make one in the next 48 hours, apparently the joke was wasted. Next I asked for an update on my call and went round the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” loop.
By this time I had no confidence that Pipex were ever going to be competent enough to restore my connection so I asked for a MAC code so I could move to a more reliable supplier, someone like a student running an ISP out of his bedroom for example, and I had resigned myself to the idea that I’d get no more connectivity until such times as I switched.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, I got a call from Pipex asking me to make an appointment for the engineer to call in order to complete the last steps to bring me back online. Woo hoo! I thought great, and told him to phone anytime before Thursday as I was going to be away for the week end. So I’m standing in Heathrow on Thursday morning when the telephone rings and a cheery ethnic chap tells me, good news Mr. Short, he is about to connect me to the internet; bet you’re not thinks I! He tells me that he will wait whilst I power on my PC and he will instruct me on the steps required. I ask if he can hold the line ‘til Monday. Not surprisingly he can’t so we make arrangements for someone to call me back on Monday.
Saturday morning comes, and whilst I’m in a session at DDD, I get a voice mail telling me that the Pipex engineer is sorry that I’ve missed my appointment (WTF!) and I should call him back to make another appointment. I call him back and repeat the arrangements that were already in place.
Sunday afternoon sees myself and the guys travelling back up the road from reading, when I get a call giving me the good news that I am but a few short steps from being reconnected to the Internet and that the same cheery ethnic chappy will hold whilst I power on my PC. I tell him cool, I’m on the M6 so it’ll just take me 6 hours to get there, is that okay? Apparently its not and so we make yet anther arrangement for him to call back on MONDAY!!!
Monday morning and I’m waiting by my desk, I can almost sense the surge of information on the digital highway as it shoots past my house totally invisible and useless to me. The phone goes! It’s the chirpy chappy from Pipex! He tells me after three weeks of work, by some of the brightest minds at Pipex, we have a solution! He asks me to open the settings page on my router and, in the username, change a 3 to a 5 and I’m in!
Needless to say, I now consider Pipex to be a joke and am moving my account. But I truly believe that Pipex are, at the moment at least, the worst ISP in the UK. Unless that is, you know differently…