Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Tale of Telecom Woe

My wife and her business partner have tried for weeks to get a large telecom provider to reactivate an existing DSL connection to their art gallery.   However, they will not do it per an official letter which states that my wife has an outstanding balance of ZERO and until that balance is paid, no further work can be done.

As Joseph Heller would have written - you do not have an account and you owe nothing.   Until you pay us nothing on an account you do not have, we cannot give you an account.

Numerous phone calls to the telecom's service centers have been answered by people who will not give their full names or contact information.

No one seems empowered to solve the problem, there is no accountability, and no possible escalation.

How can a company with such great technology have such onerous customer service?   I'm a CIO so I understand the challenges of running a large organization.   I accept variability in individual employee behavior.   What I cannot tolerate is weeks of effort across many employees that demonstrates this telecom provider has lost control of its own business processes.

Here's my wife's account of the struggle thus far.

"We would simply like to contract for internet and phone in a commercial building. We are a registered LLC with a 4 year lease, in the second year of operations with this landlord.

Business partner Natacha Sochat is so frustrated that we will need to start reviewing our alternative options. We have been operating our business without phone and internet since May 3 and need to start service as soon as possible.

NK Gallery LLC (Massachusetts) was established January 2010 by business partners Natacha Sochat and Kathy Halamka.  Our initial location beginning February 2010 was 460 Harrison Ave #17, Boston, MA 02118.

On May 1, 2011, we relocated to a larger space at 450 Harrison Ave #61, Boston MA 02118 (current lease runs to November 2014).  The landlord/property manager is the same in both locations - GTI Properties.

The 450 Harrison building space #61 has preexisting writing, so we wish to purchase your phone and internet service.

On May 3, 2011, Natacha initiated contact.  Your business services informed Natacha they would not proceed with our application until we updated the lease to prove we were a real business in the 450 Harrison #61 location.

On May 20, we obtained a finalized signed lease from the landlord. The lease includes our personal names, Kathy Halamka and Natacha Sochat, as this is the standard policy of the landlord, consistent with our prior lease in the 460 Harrison building.

On May 23, Natacha devoted the entire day to resolving this issue.  Natacha visited your website and spoke with Laura.  She was helpful and pleasant, but could not navigate your internal business operations.

Natacha called the your Credit Center twice while Laura was on the phone with her.

Four hours later, Natacha received a "denial of lease" fax.

Natacha again called your Credit Center and spoke with a heavily accented woman.   The representative said she had no idea why the application was denied but told Natacha it may be because the lease refers to people rather than a corporation as the tenant.

Laura had no insight as why NK Gallery had been tormented, as no one else that day had been required to call your Credit Center, and when Laura  called her fellow employees at the Credit Center they would not explain it to her either!

Laura advised Natacha to speak with a supervisor at your Credit Center.  Natacha spoke with a supervisor and he would only tell Natacha his first name, Travis.  He refused to provide any further contact information.  He was very challenging to understand and requested many additional documents. (IRS, Fed ID documents etc).  Natacha asked him to send her an email with a list of the documents he needed.  She asked him if she could respond via e-mail instead of fax.  He said no - the  Credit Center cannot print anything, so fax is required.

You then sent a letter refusing to offer services until we paid a ZERO balance on the account that had not yet been created."

So there you have it.   We tried desperately to give this telecom the business, but they refused.

As a test, I used my role as CIO and a major purchaser of services to escalate this Catch 22 situation and instantly received numerous offers of help from the telecom's Director and VP level.   I chose not to pursue those offers and the gallery purchased services from  a competitor.   A CIO with a multi-million dollar budget should not be required to get simple DSL service!

There's a point at which companies get too big and lose touch with their customers.   This particular telecom is a case study in broken business processes.


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