Why does it take a major telecommunications provider eight days to rectify a simple fault on a phone line in New Zealand? No. it’s not a bad joke, it really happened to me last week.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed there was a lot of background noise on my phone line. About the same time, my home office ADSL broadband began to get mighty slow. Eventually I lost all access to the Internet, although my phone remained working, but with even more noise. So I set about eliminating all the possible causes of the fault including swapping the router/modem, replacing the cabling and testing wall socket filters. No joy, so now it’s time to call the helpdesk.
Now when you call the helpdesk you first have to navigate the voice activated interface which (if it works) places you in a queue to speak to a real person. That’s fine, they play some cool Kiwi music that I like whilst I wait (Liam Finn, Anika Moa etc). Any moment I will get to speak to a technician who can resolve my fault – wrong. After a few minutes a lovely Filipina lady called Maria answers and we go through all the standard questions like, “have you turned your modem on and off?” She’s very polite, so I play along. When this fails to solve the problem she decides to put me on hold in order to speak to her supervisor. More music. After ten minutes in the holding pattern I realise she has lost the call.
Second attempt to call helpdesk, virtual receptionist then more music. Then I get a charming fellow from Manila called Arvin. He’s a bit more technically savvy and we talk about testing and swapping filters on all the wall jacks (I bought new filters and a very long cable in anticipation of this conversation). Still no luck. But Arvin agrees there is a line issue and kindly books me a service call with “Advanced Broadband” the division who actually fix the phone lines back in New Zealand. Next day I wait at home for the scheduled call. Nobody calls.
Then I have some meetings and don’t get to follow up. I use CafeNet in the city to check my email and do a bit of business online. Couple of days later I try again. Another call patched through to Manila and the same music whilst I hold. Another lovely lady re-books my technician call, “thank-you so much for waiting”, she chimes. But the technician again fails to call the following evening. Why is this is taking so long? I head off to bed tired and annoyed. The next day, an early helpdesk call, more holding music and then a very sleepy sounding night shift worker in the Manila call centre. We both manage to remain polite. He books me another service call. This time the technician calls as per the agreed schedule. The technician agrees there is a line fault (told you so) and promises to contact me when he is at the local exchange. He makes good on his promise and cheerily calls back to report that a small wire-end was loose at the exchange. Back in business.
So I guess my first question is: why does it take eight days, five phone calls and two hours of my valuable time to resolve a simple fault? Now to be clear, I received very polite and helpful service at all times from the call centre workers and the technician. The problem is the system and how it is managed. Outsourcing call centre work is a great way to lower costs, especially so given that recruiting locally is also getting harder. But if the helpdesk staff do not have authority to make any decisions it reduces their role to that of triage and placating the customer. Furthermore, when they do take action, better make damn sure that request is followed up locally or risk alienating the customer.
I have long maintained that broadband speed is not the issue in New Zealand. I can run my consulting business from home on 500kbs or 100Mbs line speed or anything in between. There are other more pressing problems like international connectivity. And as long as we have a monopolistic situation we risk the continued imposition of high prices and poor service levels for broadband. Bring on the competition.
My second question then is this: if it takes eight days to reconnect a loose wire, how long do you reckon it will take to build and support a nationwide fibre network?
Epilogue of Enragement
I don’t normally speak out on such issues, but I am growing tired of political correctness and can hold my tongue no longer. A father of three young children has died as a result of another armed robbery by three bandits in South Auckland. [Subsequent to first posting this article, an 80 year old Asian woman has been beaten to death in the same area and another Asian businesswoman intentionally run over and killed in a carpark.]
I hope Tapu Misa, who attempted to rubbish a recent controversial research paper by Greg Clydesdale on Polynesian social , educational and economic underperformance, will visit the family of the shot man and apologise for the way both Maori and Polynesians continue to be overrepresented in the violent crime, child abuse statistics and in the prison population. I hope she will explain the reasons why the adoption (by some) of L.A. style gangster culture has led to an increase in drug taking, teen promiscuity and gun ownership.
I hope she will also write another editorial detailing why some members of her community feel they are somehow exempt from aspiring to contribute economically apart from in the colourful street markets of Otara or mopping toilet floors at nearby Auckland airport.
Clydesdale’s research was not anti-migrant and neither is my argument. The victim in this attack was a migrant, a family man who came to New Zealand and was prepared to work hard for a better life. His attackers were young Polynesian or Maori males probably born and raised locally. The issue here is that we are growing a brown underclass and nobody seems to want to talk about it nor acknowledge the likely downstream consequences for our society. If embarrassed government agencies try to shut down this discussion, how can we possibly find a solution?
Forget broadband or taxation. This is the real election issue debate we should be having because it impacts on our collective economic futures and our prospects for ongoing social cohesion - irrespective of our skin colour.