Ramblings, meanderings, rants and discoveries.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Earthlink: End of an Era?

Last night I could not connect to the internet. My daughter had been on earlier, the wind was up so I suspected a server outage or lines down. I tried a few things, nothing worked. So I called tech support at Earthlink. Now let me state here, that I have been a customer of this company for over a decade. I used to LOVE them. Now I like them, well better than my alternatives, but they have become like all the ones I avoided in the past, about getting it done and doing more not about customer service.

I called, I get the voice response sftw call router asking me what sort of connection I use. I answer. It offers me the option of trying the self help route or a techie. I try the self help route after 3 more questions it puts me in queue for a tech (THAT was a waste of time). So I settle back to music on hold. I keep getting the adverts to check my trouble online at their troubleshooting site. If I could access the stupid site I would not be calling. GET THIS THROUGH YOUR HEADS! If you are in a technology industry and people are using an alternate tech to contact you for support, it is probably because it is not working!

So that starts annoying so the poor techie has a customer that is not pleased by the time she gets to me. (not very long btw MAYBE 10 minutes so they get good points for that). First let me say the technical support person, Julie was not awful or stupid or any of the horror stories one hears, but she was obviously following a script or a decision flow based on the problem type. I am afraid I am a troublesome customer. here is how it went.

She asks me what the problem is. I tell her I cannot connect and it was working maybe 6 hours previous. Did she know of any server outages in my area? She looked and said nothing had been reported so let's check my side. First we do is it plugged in and are the lights on stuff. I checked before I called, but yeah any techie should check that first.

Ok. Next she says Open I.E. (FIRST MISTAKE One should ask the customer how they connect. as it so happens I do not use a browser to connect) I tell her I do not use I.E. (yes I have suspicion of what she wants to try). She says oh what do you use? I tell her Opera, but the browser is not the issue, I connect using a network connection profile I set up. She puts me on hold again and comes back with we can check your Opera instead. By this point I have I.E up.

We try the connect to the ip addy routine with a new default connection. My firewall is going nuts so I have to keep telling it ok. I mention this. No response (SECOND ALWAYS ASK ABOUT FIREWALLS, what if it was in lockdown mode or gaming deny mode?) No luck so she has me clear cache. (Not needed since I stated I do not use that to connect so the cache cannot be the issue.) We clear all history then try again, no luck.

So now she wants me to delete all network connection profiles. So I delete the one I just made, the others stay. It took me a while to tweak em and if the plain vanilla doesn't work it isn't the connections. So we try several more things through the browser including changing my master account password from a high security password that I use to a no security one. I was not happy with that and was less so later on.

FINALLY we get to trying a ping from the command prompt. YEAH! The modem works (I knew that) The diagnostics show nothing is wrong on my side and the phone line works because I am calling from it. It is now perhaps 45 min to an hour later. She says she will call back in about 10 min . I load up a game nada 2 hours later, so I turn all off and go to bed.

This morning same thing, no connectivity. So I call back. The call routing sftw recognizes I called about connectivity last night and asks if I am calling about the same issue. I answer yes assuming (incorrectly it seems) that that will bring up a call number that the techie can access. Now I get William. Now unlike Julie, William does not hear so well. First he asks what the problem is. (hmm no call record on his side?) So I tell him I cannot connect to the internet. Because NOW I have stuff to do that I did not get done the night before I am not in the mood to humor anyone. So when he says You cannot browse the internet? I correct him.
No, I cannot connect at all. I am not looking to browse I am looking to get online, open winscp and ftp some files to the test box. I am not using a browser I am trying to merely connect. (I am not a morning person btw)

He starts to walk me through the open i.e routine. I sigh, open it and of course nothing (I have to sign in don't I?) I am still trying to get the network to go through while I am talking, suddenly it goes through then disconns. Hmm I mention it to him. He says really? He sounds surprised, mainly because we have not really done anything. I try again it goes through, I open winscp and connect to the test box. It's back. I thank him and tell him it is up now.

NOW I still suspect it was a hardware issue on Earthlink's side and they did not bother to tell their tech support. It MIGHT have been an AT&T or Sprint issue with lines, but again, either Earthlink did not know about it or they did and did not inform their techies. The reason I suspect this is a third party group is that in the past when I have called, they have checked the record, recognized that I have been a customer for a long time and I might have a clue about how to use the service. Neither William nor Julie seemed to have this information. Nor did they have the O/S info that should be on my account information based on my purchases. Last walking through a tech support decision flow is all well and good but most people who support their own company's products can listen to the caller, ask a few questions and have a good idea where to start, you can always back track to the flow if you know exactly how your supported product works.

So It seems this is the end of the era of Earthlink being a GREAT ISP and it has now slipped to a good one. But hey it is still better than Verizon. But then again Sneaker net is too.

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