Needing to patch my finances, I signed up for a job in a Belfast call centre to provide technical support for those poor Sky customers who had bought their broadband Internet package, in the belied that they would be getting a 16MB broadband speed through their BT line from Sky.
Having built networks and web sites since 1989, I believed that my knowledge would come to good use and be appreciated. Little did I know about the realities of the let-them-moan services that these call centre are contracted to provide! To add insult to injury, after 10 weeks of answering futile calls that I was not allowed to do anything about, I was brutally dismissed for failing to lie to callers.
After I ended my shift on Monday, 2nd of April I got a letter next day that I haven’t been working since 28th of March and if not providing the doctors letter by today, they consider my employment voluntarily ended? That’s a lie, because last time I talked with my Team Leader was Friday 30th of March.
During my time there, I encountered many absurd situations. Here’s a small collection of them:
Customers must always call a premium line number, and then listen to queue music around an hour before getting to talk with someone. Calls are answered by inexperienced staff, working on minimum salary. Having received one week of computer and network training – most of which was incompetently done and wildly inaccurate – they were expected to be networking experts?
- Getting connected is a problem for many customers. Some have been waiting since September-October 2006 – and charged for the service? In many cases, an engineer had made a mistake in connecting the cable and marked the work order as completed. Only, there was no procedure for issuing a new work order to fix it!
- One customer had a faulty BT line, and had himself ordered a new line from BT as recommended by Sky representatives. He wanted to have Sky engineers to reconnect the new line to the broadband service, as BT is not allowed to do this – but this was not authorized, as there is no procedure in place for it. Once connected, customers can’t be reconnected.
- The MAC codes issued by Sky won’t be valid anyway. There was no procedure to issue MAC codes as Sky had only department to deal with incoming MAC codes as the outgoing MAC codes department was not yet established.
Some of the Sky engineers are useless. Once an engineer called our premium line number – from the customer’s phone! – Having trouble installing the Sky-provided wireless adapter. We did not have any training or documentation on this, but based on my experience I spent over an hour on the phone trying to help him. Finally, I tried to transfer him to the manufacturer’s (NetGear) technical support in India – but the Indian guy there told me that Sky have ordered special adapters which are incompatible with their standard product line, and they are not able to help with these. So, if even Sky engineers are not able to get those products to work or get support, how can anyone?
- Another customer had booked a visit from a Sky engineer, paying £65 for it. The engineer connected the cables, but could not get the Internet working – and left. He promised to get back within a week but was never heard from. After a few months of waiting, and paying for a service that he was not getting, the customer wanted to reschedule the engineer. But the system only allowed us to book him a new visit, costing another £65. Hopefully the next guy will be more competent… surely there must be SOME competent engineers working for Sky?
Misinformation and silly if not illegal practices are rife:
- After installation using Sky installation disk, you are asked to log in to sky’s customer pages “before you can browse the net”. This is of course absurd – you do not need to log in anywhere to use the net, this is only needed to use the Sky customer pages.
- However, if you want to use the sky-provided email mailbox, then you need to get a login. For this, you are asked a lot of personal details – which Sky shouldn’t be asking as they have no need for them! So customers who don’t want to enter their confidential information, have to call the premium-rate helpline number again to be told that “you must give all your personal details to have any internet access – this is Sky’s rules”!
- OK, you gave your date of birth and shoe size to register? Don’t expect to be able to login to the Sky email. The next joke is that the Sky disk comes with McAfee internet protection software – with settings at maximum protection. It very wisely stops any access to the Sky page that has been set as the Internet Explorer start page – not to mention other helpful pages such as the Sky NetGear router instructions. OK, bell the premium help line – our instructions were to tell customers to switch off the McAfee security before they access the internet!!
- I have had callers crying in frustration when they realize they are not getting anywhere near the promised line speed. If you don’t read the small print, you may think from the advertisements that you will be getting 8MB, or even 16MB broadband. But as with all broadband providers – who have already learned to be much more truthful and direct in their advertising – actual line speeds depend on the distance from the local BT exchange as well as on the technology installed there. Most customers only get between 0.7 and 2Mbps when checked using BT’s DSL availability test. Even if the BT local exchange supports the “up to 8Mbs” service this will end up being much less in practice, due to lack of capacity between Sky’s network and the rest of the internet. Is Sky trying to save money instead of purchasing more capacity as the number of users grows?
I was in “Tier1” and only expected to record the problem and issue a “ticket” to Tier2 or Tier3 for resolution – but instructed not to try fixing the problem. I felt sorry for many customers that really were in a hurry – people crying in frustration, children not being able to do essential homework needing the internet. What could I do besides issuing a ticket to Tier3 who SHOULD investigate the customer problem within five working days?
- For most problems, our instructions were to order a new router sent to the customer – so we did. The customer probably waited for the next month or two for this to arrive, paying for the service all the time – just to find out a new router did not fix the problem anyway. Often I knew that the problem was not in the router, but had to send it anyway and lie to the customer, as that was what we were strictly instructed to do.
- Of course, the Quality Assurance team was unaware of the problems, as they never saw what the actual faults were – they just saw what actions we recorded, from the instructions. That we had followed the regulations and asked the customer “Do you have electricity?”, “Is your phone working?” and then consider the fact “And your Sky Broadband does not work?”
Thus, everything was fine in Skyland – according to the computer, there were no unhappy customers. If there were, this was quickly dealt with by the “Tier3” actual Sky engineers. I read to a customer on the phone what one of them had had the decency to write to the system: “Closing this ticket on my Team Leaders request, as no ticket cannot be open over two weeks”. More usually, there was just a lie: “Called the customer, they are happy now” – and the customer on the phone with me goes “WHAT???… WHEN???”. After waiting a month for the problem to be solved, it was back to the end of the queue.
As I mentioned earlier, I was one of the pioneering users and developers of the Internet and its applications. I feel as if part of my life’s work has been destroyed by these cynical businesses that are trying to maximise profits without giving back a decent service to the community of users – which is exactly the opposite to the ideals that the internet is based on!