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PlusNet’s announcement

14th April 2006 • Dave

The recent announcement from PlusNet posted here a few days ago concerned me
more than I originally thought. The more I think about this the more I find
PN’s announcement disturbing.

I was heartened that over 90 percent of respondents to my quick survey
seemed to also not welcome the introduction of 50p per minute technical
support. At time of writing 72 people have cast their vote. Thank you
everyone. Ok, the result was probably a forgone conclusion. But if premium
rate technical support is such a good idea for PlusNet’s customers, why then
are the results of my quick survey so overwhelming.

–PN wrote:
> We’re not afraid of change – in fact we embrace it.

As a leading Internet Service provider I would not expect anything less from

–PN wrote:
> 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.

Quite right. And as a customer I want PN to be able to continue to improve
their level of service. If customers do not feel their money is being well
spent, then we are welcome to spend it elsewhere. The reason so many
customers are joining rather than leaving PN, is owing to the quality of the
existing service.

PN signed up it’s one-hundred-thousandth customer last year. This means
that over-all PN’s support costs will have increased. However, revenue will
have increased proportionally. In fact the larger the customer base, often
the cost of support per customer as a proportion of revenue should go down
not up.

–PN wrote:
> We like to talk with you.

I have trouble swallowing this. I need to contact customer support maybe
once per month on average. PN discontinued email support some years ago.
My experience has been that queues on the phones are increasing, often staff
rush calls insisting that I visit the web site. (I have documented
elsewhere the problems some customers face with accessing the web site).
Occasionally staff are pulled off the phones to deal with questions received
via Contact Us, and the phones are left with just a skeleton staff. PlusNet
have never contacted me to ask whether or not I am satisfied with the
service. Often customers are told about policy changes rather than
consulted. So the idea that PN like to talk with me is ludicrous. The only
communication I get from PN is when PN want to sell me something, or bill me
for my Internet access. I have not seen much evidence that PN like to talk
with me.

–PN wrote:
> You may think we talk too much – enthusiastic people often do.

No I do not think PN talk too much. Unless the recent marketing campaigns
targeted at customerers email addresses is called talk? Most internet users
would call such unsolicited promotional email spam. The perception of
people who talk too much is that they do not think enough.

–PN wrote:
> 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.

It already does. Audio, video, instant messaging, voice over IP, etc. BT
are even promising broadcast quality TV by the end of the year.

–PN wrote:
> Customer service and technical support are really important to us,

And Customer service and technical support are really important to us too,
your customers.

–PN wrote:
> we work hard to provide a service you’ll be happy to recommend.

And as an award winning multi-million pound company, so you should. I have
recommended PN and would be happy to continue to do so were it not for the
nature of PN’s recent money making schemes.

–PN wrote:
> 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.

I have never told you that! As far as I am aware, the dozen or so other PN
customers who I know have never told you that either. I would also submit
that the 91 percent of people in my survey who are aposed the the premium
rate technical support have probably never told you that either. The people
who welcome the premium rate technical support either do not need to use it,
or cannot get the advice they need on the PN web site so are prepared to pay
50p per minute to get the answers to their questions. So I would be very
interested to learn more about this supposed constituency who like rummaging
through the PN portal for answers. Who are they?

–PN wrote:
> We believe if you can’t find an answer online and have to phone us we >
have failed.

So on the one hand you like to talk to me, but on the other hand if I need
to talk to you, you have failed? If I need to talk to PN, and PN are
friendly and helpful then PN have not failed. In fact I am more likely to
stay with PN if I feel I have had quality telephone support.

–PN wrote:
> 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.

How likely? I only have a home phone to enable me to access ADSL. And to
find the cheapest calls I use the UK and International call checkers found

Freeview, Sky and NTL are very well established TV platforms providing
myself and millions of others with the TV services we require. Yes it is
important for all companies to explore new markets, and I would be
interested to see what kind of video on-demand or IPTV services PN are able
to come up with. But these services should not be provided at the detriment
of existing customers.

My mobile phone is with an established cellular operator. I hope PN will
not waste customers money by attempting to break into this already crowded
and competitive market.

I and thousands of others want PN to firstly continue to be a quality ISP,
not a telco or TV provider. PN have been one of the higher echelon ISPs but
are in danger of loosing that status, if PN’s recent announcements are an
indicator of how PN view’s it’s future.

–PN wrote:
> 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 types of questions are very different. Why are PN even dealing with
the “how to use CGI” questions anyway? I would not expect my electricity
provider to instruct me on the use of my appliances.

–PN wrote:
> 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.

At least? You really do not want to talk to customers do you. 🙂

–PN wrote:
> The service we provide will allow you to do lots of different things – if
> you know how to use it.

That is right. And the reality is that most people who are online really
have very limited knowledge of how to get the most out of their Internet
Service. But instead of investing customer subscriptions in quality
affordable technical support, PN appear to be cashing in.

–PN wrote:
> 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.

And so there it is, an admission. PN@s staff are not trained to provide
technical support. In order to train them, customers will be forced to
stump up 50p per minute. Thanks for that PN.

–PN wrote:
> 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.

Well that pretty much sums it up.

–PN wrote:
> We also believe you will look at our web site for your answers before >
calling our 50p per minute consultancy line.

Absolutely. 50p per minute is certainly one way to reduce the amount of
people PN talk to.

–PN wrote:
> 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.

I disagree. This statement seems more than just a little bit disingenuous.
PN are a company in a competitive market who’s primary objective above all
others is to make money.

PN want to make money from your phone calls – PN want to provide > answers
online keeping cost ass low as possible.

–PN wrote:
> If you can spend a little time looking over the information now, it might
> save you time and stress in the future.

Should that not be, Save PN time and stress and money in the future? In
other words RTFM and do not call PN if you need help.

I have been a loyal customer for over 6 years. I am not going to be forced
into making any rushed decisions. I will watch developments with interest.
However, I am recommending that PN customers think about shopping around.
Your existing deal may not necessarily be the best one out there.

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