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PlusNet is devolving

11th April 2006 • Dave

PlusNet’s core business is providing access to the Internet. This is what they have done very well for 6 or 7 years, and it is the reason why the customer base is expanding. Many PlusNet customers have no interest in purchasing anything other than internet service from PlusNet, and my £21 per month is intended for internet service and support only.

Judging from a recent message sent to PlusNet customers this is not an arrangement which works for PlusNet any more. A complete copy of the email is included below.

As a blind customer quality affordable telephone technical support from my ISP is very important to me. I find the PlusNet web site very confusing and difficult to navigate and cannot rely on it for answers to technical support questions. As far as I am aware PlusNet have not conducted any Web Accessibility and usability Evaluation or testing.

PlusNet’s recent discontinuation of binary News Groups on their News servers, and more concerted efforts of late to enforce an Acceptable Usage Policy with traffic shaping at peak times all seemed like sensible business strategies. But the introduction of 50P per minute tech support, and a recent trend toward PlusNet spamming it’s customers with thinly disguised promotional messages dressed up as newsletters, have got this customer surfing over to to find another ISP.

If this is not the thin end of the wedge then I do not know what is. The following is simply a nice way of saying PlusNet are introducing premium rate telephone technical support, just like all those other tacky Pay As You Go internet service providers. PlusNet’s customer base is expanding massively and presumably PlusNet is not giving away internet service, so where is all the money going? And why is it not going into customer support.

It seems apparent that in an effort to offer the widest range of services via the widest range of platforms, many companies are scrambling toward diversification with pound signs in their eyes, whilst neglecting their core constituents who put them in business in the first place.

Vote with your wallet.
From: PlusNet Customer Support
Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2006 6:23 PM
To: PlusNet Customers
Subject: PlusNet is evolving

PlusNet is evolving – in an evolving world.

We are different.

We’re not afraid of change – in fact we embrace it.

We want the service you buy from us today to be a service you’ll want to buy from us in the future – it needs to be a service that’s just what you are looking for and one we can earn our living from.

We like to talk with you. You may think we talk too much – enthusiastic people often do.

In the future it looks like your Internet connection will deliver more than just the web pages you search for and the emails from your friends. No one can predict the future, but it doesn’t stop us trying – here at PlusNet we believe our customers will combine their Internet, telephone, mobile phone, TV, film watching and more things than we have room for here.

We’re getting ready for that day – we want to continue to deliver you a reliable service and be here to help you make sense of the changing technology. It probably won’t be easy and we will make mistakes along the way.

One of the changes we are going to make is to the way we provide you with support. Customer service and technical support are really important to us, a large number of our new customers come recommended from our existing customers – so we work hard to provide a service you’ll be happy to recommend.

We like to think we do a good job; the readers of PC Advisor seem to agree, they recently voted PlusNet No. 1 for customer service in their 2006 poll and we’ve always won awards for our technical support.

When we talk to you, you tell us you like to be able to find the answers to your questions online and the first place you look is on our web site. We receive great feedback on our help information and will continue to work hard to keep it bang up to date.

We believe if you can’t find an answer online and have to phone us we have failed.

In the future it’s likely you’ll be looking for help on things like combining your mobile phone with your home phone or how to get the TV channels you want working. So to maintain our high standard, we have decided to make a distinction between support questions.

Crucial technical support questions like “Why can’t I get a connection?” are different to “How do I use CGI scripts on my website?”.

These crucial support questions will always be a priority and more often than not this is when you will have to phone us. It would be difficult to find the answer to “why can’t I get a connection?” on our web site if you can’t get online at all. You can ring us 24/7 at a lo-call (0845) rate. If we have a problem delivering your service we don’t expect you to pay for it to be fixed.

For less crucial questions our web site will provide the answer to all the common questions, and some more obscure ones too. We plan to launch help pages on subjects like Wi-Fi wireless technology – set to become ‘the’ way we connect our bits of tech kit together at home. The great thing about web sites and online communication is they can evolve as the technology evolves. The opinions of our ‘experts’ can be read by thousands of people. It’s not just one way though – if you have ever visited our forums you’ll know there are thousands more opinions and conversations to be had.

In an ideal world you’ll find the answer you’re looking for on our website easily – but it’s far from an ideal world. So the next best thing is to send us an online message – we still see this as a failure of our site, but at least you haven’t had to call.

We’re quite proud of our online messaging service; if you’ve got a question you just go to our site, type it in, press send, and we’ll reply. The great thing about this service is you have a record of the conversation and can take a look at it at anytime. Some questions that turn out to be something like a BT line fault will always take time to sort out, whereas other questions are answered in around 20 minutes.

Whilst our web site will probably be the most convenient way to get help, we realise many people (particularly those new to the Internet) may have questions not directly-related to technical difficulties. The service we provide will allow you to do lots of different things – if you know how to use it.

That’s why we are setting up a consultancy phone line where the web site information can be discussed if necessary. We plan to charge 50p per minute to cover the cost of training our team and providing this service. We believe it will only be a worthwhile service if the people on the end of the phone know what they are talking about; there is nothing worse than ringing somewhere for help only to discover you know more than the person at the other end. By charging for this service we can keep on investing in quality people and make sure they are constantly given training to keep them in step with the technology changes that are just around the corner.

We also believe you will look at our web site for your answers before calling our 50p per minute consultancy line. If this happens we can continue to provide a low cost service that evolves with new technology. We don’t want to make money from your phone calls – we want to provide answers online and keep our cost as low as possible.

Over the next week or so we will be sending you details of how to get hold of our help and advice. We intend to make it clear where to look for the answers to your questions. If you can spend a little time looking over the information now, it might save you time and stress in the future.

Kind regards

The PlusNet team

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