Last fall, my plain old telephone service (POTS) stopped working. There was no real mystery as to why: The gorillas I hired to build a deck on the back of my house had plunged their clamshell digger or their spud bar through the phone cable buried in my backyard. As the saying goes, things occur. At least they hadn't hit the power cable.
I put in a call to Windstream's automated phone repair service from my cellphone. There were the usual automated questions. Do you have a dial tone? Have you disconnected the incoming service at the network interface device (NID) to see if service is available there? Does your home have proper feng shui ? Who was your favorite Beatle?
Eventually, the automated voice assured me something would be done. Surprisingly, something was, but not before I became impatient and dug around in the hole left by my hired gorillas. I found the stub of cable with dial tone leaking out of it. I unearthed (in both the terrain and electrical senses) sufficient amounts of cable to strip off the outer jacket and select the blue-white pair. I spliced that to a few feet of quad station wire and ran that over to the NID, et voilà — dial tone at all my phones.
When Repair Guy showed up, he checked my work and said it all looked pretty good. He added proper protection to the splice and said he'd enter a work order to get a new cable put in (buried) across the lawn to the nearby terminal vault. Days passed and became weeks. Weeks turned to months. Calendar pages flipped off and blew away, but no installer appeared with a ditch witch. This was mildly annoying, but what the heck? My POTS was working — until one day a couple of weeks ago, when it wasn't. This time, I had side tone but no dial tone. I did have an annoying 60Hz hum, so there was clearly a ground imbalance.
I repeated the call to the repair service. (Do you have a dial tone? Connection OK at the NID? Beatles or Stones?) Later that day, Repair Guy showed up, poked around in the NID, and declared that its surge suppressor had gone bad, likely from a nearby lightning strike. It seemed plausible enough. Since the NID had provisions for two separate phone lines, the repair guy just rewired my phone line to the other (unused) surge suppressor, et voilà — dial tone and no hum.
Repair Guy said he would enter a work order to get my buried cable replaced (why does this seem so familiar) and to get my NID replaced. Woo hoo.
Days passed. Days became weeks. See above. One day, we got a particular heavy rain, and my phone line developed an annoying hum. It wasn't like the last time, when the fault current made the line appear to be engaged. This time, it was just enough to make callers think I was mowing the lawn while I was talking to them. Clearly, water was seeping into places where it should not be — probably at my splice.
I decided to contact Windstream's repair service a third time, but this time, I'd do it online. I figured I'd have the chance to type in the details of the repair work (broken buried cable, need new NID, prefer the pre-CBS Fender guitars). There was no opportunity to do that with the automated voice system.
A quick check online took me to the Windstream Communications customer service site, where I supplied the needed information (who I am, my phone number, what I need). I received an email the next day saying that the problem was resolved. My phone is still humming, and a check outside shows the company hasn't changed out the NID. Apparently, its idea of “resolved” and mine are different.
I then contacted the repair service from a link in the report it had provided (“To access your question from our support site, click the following link or paste it into your web browser”). The response, which looked vaguely automated, was as follows:
Thank you for using the Windstream Support E-mail System.
Some issues that are reported via this mail system are able to be addressed via email support, however some issues require additional information that cannot be obtained by electronic means. In those cases we do request that customers contact our support desk so that we may provide better assistance and report issues accurately. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause, however when contacting the support desk we can ensure that proper troubleshooting is completed and issues can be addressed more efficiently.
It's ironic that a company with “Communications” in its name seems to have difficulty with communications. Why would it say it needs additional information that can't be “obtained by electronic means”? This company is in that business. What could possibly be better than having me describe exactly what is needed? I'll find out eventually. I think. Perhaps the fourth time is the charm.
Has this sort of thing happened to you? Have you tried dealing with companies that claim to have superb communications skills (either business-to-business or business-to-consumer), only to discover that they communicate via Morse code? Let us know.