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Remember, We Are Customers Ourselves

How much does it take to get the internet at home? Here’s a surprising story about the cost of inefficient processes and terrible customer service versus well-managed processes, continuous improvement and excellent customer service. 

New Beginning

We moved to a new house this summer in a village 3km away from Sofia. It’s the capital of Bulgaria. We got the keys at the beginning of August. The house wasn’t wired for the internet, and we started calling the providers around the end of June. We had four options – A1, Vivacom, Bulsatcom, and EasyNet.

My husband and I are working from home, so the speed and stability of the internet connection are a requirement. 

A1, Vivacom, and Bulsatcom are the largest providers across the country. A1 and Vivacom are telecoms, and Bulsatcom started as a cable TV provider.

Vivacom inherited the national phone company and its infrastructure. A1 had the worst reputation, and I publicly said that I was not signing up for them even if they paid me. EasyNet was a small local provider. 

They all had coverage maps on their sites, but none covered our address.

We knew it would take time to send a tech crew, perhaps dig a cable and open the line for us. We built our expectation around a month and a half to have the internet at home. 

When New Markets are No Longer a Goal

So we started calling. Vivacom immediately told us they had coverage on the street below us, but they couldn’t connect our address. You think all companies are fighting for more customers and bigger markets. Nope, they don’t. Apparently, once you have enough, you don’t care for the rest of the users that really need your service and will enable you to get even more customers. 

The same happened with Bulsatcom, but if it cost Vivacom one 5-minute call to let us know, see below how much fun we had with Bulsatcom. 

My family had been a customer of Bulsatcom – TV, and Internet for 20 years. They had one huge advantage, very flexible payment plans. We’ve been prepaying a whole year at the price of the half, and they just cut the service without any forfeits if you don’t pay. Then you pay a new month and start again. Naturally, I thought they were the most reliable provider. 

We called Bulsatcom, and they confirmed they didn’t have coverage for our address. And they were not interested at all in getting us connected. 

The Ignorant Local Monopoly

Now, with me swearing away from A1, we had no choice but to call the local provider – EasyNet. We were reluctant to sign with a small local provider because we’ve had such service before, and we knew their support would be sub-par for a very high price and not the most stable connection. 

“Sure, no problem. We’ve connected the whole village. We’ll send our technicians Wednesday next week.” Well, excellent, we thought.

The day had come, and a very sleepy young man came to our house. 

He started complaining that he hadn’t had any sleep last night because of his toddler (we’re with a two-year-old as well). Obviously not well-coordinated, he opened the connection box where all the old TV cables were in a big dusty mess. “Oh, you have a big problem!” We raised our eyebrows, puzzled about what problem he was talking about?! “You have a big problem if you want a TV in all of your rooms. I have to trace all the cables. No, this can’t happen today. You have a big problem.” But we didn’t want a TV connection in any of our rooms by cable. We’re on IPTV and hadn’t even mentioned TV when we called. “Ah, sorry, I thought you wanted a TV connection. Well, then where’s your internet cable coming from?” There weren’t any, that’s why we called them. “Oh, then you have a big problem.”

He and his colleague walked around the house for two hours, telling us how getting a cable to the house was our problem. They only turn on the internet. We had to dig a line from some connection point on the street, run the cable somewhere, and make a hole in the wall ourselves. Then they could get us connected. 

My husband needed internet asap. We were paying for mobile data, which was 10x times more expensive. We were in constant video calls and needed regular internet and Wi-Fi already. He was ready to grab the shovel.  

I, on the other side, had enough of these guys’ attitude and warned them that if I heard that this was my problem one more time, they were getting out of our property. “No, no, don’t get me wrong, we would help your husband to dig the cable, but it’s your problem.” I showed them the door. 

However, they managed to notice one thing: the neighbors’ cable was black, and only Bulsatcom had black wires. 

From a Trusted Provider to the Worst Service Ever

I called my neighbor, Maya. “Yes”, she said, “we’re on Bulsatcom. They even changed the cable last year because they bought the previous provider.”

So I called Bulsatcom again, telling them that my neighbors, at the same address, we’re just the house behind, were their clients. 

“No, we don’t have coverage at this address at all.” 

“Yes, you do! My neighbor pays you every month! The cables are yours!”

“I don’t know how that’s possible. Our coverage map clearly says that we don’t have coverage at this address.”

“Alright, may we check further?”

“Ok, madam, I will connect you to our technical team”, I could hear him rolling his eyes.

Speaking with an engineer now, he was also curious how it’s possible that our neighbors had Bulsatcom internet while the map says different. But not so much because he knew it was usual that the systems may not be synchronized. 

I gave him our neighbor’s name, and he confirmed they provided the internet. “I’ll transfer you to the Contracts department. Tell them we’ve checked, and there is coverage at your address, so they don’t check the map again.”

A couple of minutes later, a lady recorded my request, and we hung up. I’ve calmed down. We’ll be online very soon. 

One week later, I’m calling to check what’s happening because I’ve heard nothing of them so far. Were they sending someone or what? “Oh, that’s weird. Did nobody follow up? Our SLA to schedule a visit is 2 hours. I’m sorry, madam, I’m raising the priority of your request. Expect a call from our technical team to schedule a visit within a workweek.” 

Finally, the technical team called, and we scheduled a visit. They came and saw that there were no more slots available in their box. “Couldn’t you mount another one so you’d have the opportunity to connect 10 new customers?” we wondered. “Well, our tech lead is very busy, not sure what he’ll decide, we’ll call him and get back to you”.

Another week later, nobody called back. I’m calling them again. “Oh, I’m sorry, madam, that’s very odd. I’m raising the priority of your request. Let me connect you with the Contracts department.”

“Hello, this is Annie from Contracts. How may I help you?” I’m explaining the entire story one more time, trying very hard to remain calm and polite. “Let me check, madam.” Waiting. “I’m sorry, your request has been declined.” “What do you mean Declined?” “We can’t provide you with the internet. I’m sorry, madam.” 

It was more than a facepalm moment. We were speechless out of rage. 

My husband wanted to call the local cuties again, which by the way, with all the nerves, called back after I sent them away to tell us that they were very busy and if we wanted them to come again, we would have to wait at least two weeks. 

“No”, I said. “I’m calling A1.” It was Thursday. 

If You Continue to Improve, You Become the Best

A nice lady from A1 walked the whole coverage map with me on the phone, searching for an address anywhere nearby that is connected. We didn’t find any, so I asked, “Well, so are you interested in connecting us at all?”

 “Sure, why not? The local manager needs to prioritize your address, but why wouldn’t we? I’ll write a request ticket, and you’ll get an SMS within 2 hours from our technical team if we could connect you or not.” I’ve heard that before, I thought to myself. 

One hour later, I got an SMS that they would connect us. I signed an e-trust contract for top-speed internet at an unbelievably low price on Friday. On Monday, a lead engineer came to figure out where they should deploy the cable. On Wednesday, a tech team came to deploy the cable. On Friday, another team came to dig a hole in the wall and get us online. It has been exactly one week since the first call. 

Now, I wonder if I need to summarize and come up with some profound conclusions, but I’ll leave it up to each of you. Because we, who build software products and services, are customers ourselves. The moment we forget this and stop improving is when our customers start paying our competitors because of our awful service. 

Don’t let this happen. 

If you’re ready to level up your service, stop wasting your resources, build a reliable brand and deliver high-quality products to your customers, book a call. I’ll be more than happy to help you clean the inefficiencies from your processes. 

[Update] Bulsatcom called today – 6 months later. Someone from the Quality Control department to ask me about my canceled request and to offer to connect us. I am actually impressed, apparently they have some improvement program.