Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Gloom, despair and agony

Beneath the media hype about free broadband in the UK lies a sordid underbelly of broken promises and frustrated customers. In the latest example, one of my colleagues has suffered from a complete lack of connectivity on TalkTalk broadband for the past 36 hours (the line is working fine for voice), and can't make contact with the premium-rate help desk, no matter how hard he tries. However, he has happened to notice that the Carphone Warehouse corporate site (not the consumer-facing site, interestingly) appears to contain Charles Dunstone's email address, to be used in case of "customer service issues."

He has risen to the challenge and sent Mr. Dunstone an email. Highlight: "Now, this morning we dial through to the helpline which lets us wait for 5 minutes before telling us there is a service disruption. Why doesn't this message appear after 20 seconds? Free broadband forever, but it's costing us an arm and a leg in premium rate phone calls. Not impressed. My wife is now on her way into one of your stores which I hear other customers have been doing recently in desperation. So, your store staff are having to mollify frustrated broadband customers instead of concentrating on meeting their sales targets."

Viral marketing can work in reverse, we must remember. It is said that we're separated from the rest of humanity by only six degrees of separation, though in my case I have had two examples recently of only one degree of separation from complete free broadband despair - and that's just in my office. Wait until my next door neighbors, recent happy converts to Sky but still using NTL for telephony and broadband, realize that they have to go back to BT to take up Sky's brilliant new offer. As Peter Cook said in his appearance as a pop idol in Bedazzled, "(Free broadband) you fill me with inertia."

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