Thu, 15 Oct 2009

It is easy to not hear when your fingers are in your ears.

I read this post by Steve Waddington of Exetel where he says that customers never seem to follow-up with him when he asks them about their poor customer experiences. I just had to laugh. I had actually just filled a complaint with the TIO about Exetel.

I have emailed Steve Waddington a number of times, generally outlining problems, but I am yet to ever receive a response.

Generally if you want to hear feedback from your customers, you have to take your fingers out of your ears.

Here is my (most recent) Exetel story.

To set the scene, I am synchronising a large backup of data. Think around 100Gb. In reality a small amount.

Towards the end of September, we receive an email indicating that we had used a large amount of service. Furthermore that we had 72 hours to pay an interim fee of AUD$100. The email was sent in the early hours of a Friday morning. Which effectively turned it into a single business day. Heaven help you if you had decided to take a long weekend.

At any rate, the fee was paid by that afternoon and a name and receipt were obtained. Everything should have be hunky-dorey.

Come Monday morning - the Internet service had mysteriously failed. After some remote, expensive AU to UK phones calls and diagnostics I determined that the problem was that Exetel's system had disconnected the service anyway.

I emailed them to see what the problem was, and contact was made from Australia. Around the middle of the day, service was restored.

A complaint was filed with them (reference: #1691636), that day, which was summarily responded too. I left things for a while since I was busy.

But on the 13th Oct night, I decided to file a complaint with the TIO (reference: 09/251856). Here is the full text:

Describe your complaint

On 25 Sep, roughly 07:30am, an email was received from Exetel that they required an interim payment as our usage had exceeded AUD$100. The email indicated that if payment was not received within 72 hours - the service may be suspended.

At roughly 3:15pm, on 25 Sep - i.e. the same day. A payment of AUD$100 was made and we were issued receipt number 346650646 by an employee who indicated that there name was Rukshani.

On 28 Sep at roughly 8am, the Internet ceased to function. After some investigation we determined that Exetel's automated systems believed that the payment had not occurred.

#1: I sent an email at 11am on 28 Sep to their billing department, along with their senior management, with payment and service details asking why this occurred.

#2: A complaint was sent by the payee at 11:30am on 28 Sep indicating that we were unhappy with the service -- having been customers of long standing (over 4 years) -- being disconnected for over 4 hours despite paying is annoying.

Particular when this was not through fault of our own. Nor a technical fault.

How did the service provider respond to your complaint

#1: On 30 Sep at 12:45 an email was received from James Lowe, who said "Your service is un block now [sic]". No explanation was provided for the outage and non-application of the payment made.

#2: 2 responses were received to this email.

#2a: At ~11:50am on 28 Sep we received an email from Larry Kaeto who said that the service was unavailable for 2hrs 31mins, not the 4hrs as we had claimed. Additionally he indicated that we had a residental service which is not to be relied upon for business/mission critical requirements and suggested we purchase a more expensive service which has "business grade type support".

#2b: At ~09:40am on 29 Sep we received a further email from Larry Kaeto who claimed that no payment had been received by Exetel on 25 Sep.

How would you like the service provider resolve your complaint

Exetel appears to pride itself on its automated systems. (c.f.

However, in this case, the automated system issued a demand for money. The money was paid, but it suspended access to the service anyway.

Service should not have been disrupted for 1 minute nor 150 minutes nor 240 minutes.

I believe the charge of AUD$100 and the monthly charge should be credited back to us for the hassle.

I've put in the headings as they are on the TIO complaint form, and made the URL a link otherwise it is exactly as I submitted it — which is also why the text is not very lengthy, as the TIO restrict how much you can submit.

This morning, at 09:10 I received an email from Exetel acknowledging receipt of the TIO complaint and asking Please detail in a point by point manner your concerns. This email was from Larry Kaeto. It also contained a copy of the most recent LNS logs. I replied with a full copy of the complaint as I submitted it to the TIO (reference: #1770435) and also indicated I would speak with the TIO to confirm what they had sent to Exetel (Exetel reference: #1771491).

By 12:56, Larry Kaeto was able to responsd, quoted here and edited to occlude privacy information:

Exetel acknowledge payment 25/9/09 was manually processed 25/9/09 but the record to remove the timer to suspend in 72 hrs was not removed.

I did not see the manual payment of the 25/9/09. Sorry for my ''incompetence'' for saying payment was not made.

The duration of suspension was 2 hours and 28 minutes (or thereabouts) as the facts show below (our session logs and your usage time logged in and out) and nto 4 hours as is claimed.

As gesture of goodwill, Exetel will provide a refund of $100

Exetel has made a commercial decision to end the relationship with you. See e-mail sent separately titled ''Ticket #1771491: XXXXXXXX5X - Notice of Termination - XXXXX XXXXXX ''

So, as you can see from John Linton's post, if there is a problem with taking payment – your service is summarily disconnected.

And, as you can see here, even if they take payment, but their automated system fails, if you complain about it, your service is summarily disconnected.

It is much easier to listen to your customers when you take your fingers out of your ears.

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