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Technical Support (Or Lack Thereof) July 4, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Odds and Ends, Ramblings, Technology.
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I’ve discovered the most effective way to get results from PLDT DSL’s technical support line: yell indiscriminately at the person on the other end.

Well that’s an exaggeration, but let’s face it: there are times when enough is enough. Maybe it’s when for some inexplicable reason the DSL service you pay for is unbearably slow. Or when you call them several times to report the problem and are promised a return call each time for remote testing, and they never do. Or when your internet service stays dead for an entire month, and the person on the other end of the line refuses to give you a definite commitment as to when you’ll be able to use the service again (which you’re paying for in the meantime, by the way). Take your pick; but when that straw breaks the camel’s back, I think otherwise reasonable people have every right to act unreasonably, and with interest.

By and large, PLDT DSL’s technical support is one of the worst I’ve experienced in a long time, and it wasn’t always like that. When we (my family) first signed up for the service a couple of years ago we faced none of these issues. The few times we’d encounter problems – and the fact that there were few problems in the beginning is revealing of how terribly they’ve deteriorated – the help line was just that: very helpful. The people on the other end would be easy to talk to, reasonably articulate, and most importantly, effective.

Now it’s just the opposite. When you call, you end up on hold for no less than twenty minutes before you can even talk to a human being. Then no matter what difficulties you have, you will be fed the line that they’re experiencing network problems in your area (yeah, right: in my case, one month of “network problems” is just absurd). You will be “assured” it will be fixed, which gets ridiculous each time you call to report the same problem, which apparently they are aware you still experience. When you ask when it will be fixed you will be told, so sorry, they can’t say, but you’ll just have to wait, as if their customers will take solace in the fact that the problem will miraculously and eventually disappear. If you’re extremely lucky, you might even end up speaking with a person who sounds like she doesn’t believe you when you describe your problem, or is condescending towards you as if you don’t know anything about computers (obviously, I have had such luck). More, it doesn’t help that the person on the other end of the line speaks bad English and sounds more like an auto mechanic at the local talyer than a computer engineer – and saying that is an insult to machanics everywhere.

And that’s just the tech support line. Dealing with their billling department is an altogether different circle of hell.

In the month prior to my return home, my brother tried to deal with the tech support line to resolve our problem with no luck. When I got home, I initially tried the polite tack with the same results. After two days of repeated calls I decided I’d had it, and when I finally got through to them that last time and a person named “Roger” introduced himself, I didn’t even give him a chance to say anything edgewise and started “yelling”.

I’m not proud of it, and I actually pity the guy. Compared to anyone else I talked to previously and at least one person I talked to since, he was the most helpful. No one else suggested solutions that were nearly as inspired after really listening to what I had to say, and ultimately he was the one who was able to resolve my problem. Sadly, we will never be able to disentangle whether this was because he was relatively more adept than his colleagues or because he was on the line with an otherwise irate customer.

On some level, this may be just one of the unintended consequences of the Philippines’ booming call center industry. With so many foreign firms setting up their backroom operations in the country, and at the wages they’re willing to pay, it should come as no surprise that they get their pick of the best people to hire. Unfortunately, this leaves local companies that require similar backroom support with the dregs of the workforce, competing to scrape what’s left at the bottom of the barrel.

I don’t envy anyone who has to deal with PLDT DSL’s technical support anytime soon. In fact, if PLDT DSL is any indication, I worry that technical support and customer service for Philippine companies in general face a bleak future. But perhaps there is hope. After all, there was Roger.

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