Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Peter DeHaan: Author, Blogger, Publisher, EditorBy Peter DeHaan

When my DSL service goes down — which seemingly happens about every other month — I seldom call to report it. I simply don’t have the time to waste with my phone company’s nonsensical troubleshooting process. Instead I usually wait in hope that someone else will report the outage and achieve a timely resolution.

This hasn’t always been my approach. When I first had DSL service, I would dutifully call at the first sign of an outage. However, their agents’ poor customer service skills and time-consuming nature of their queries left me feeling angry and frustrated. The agents acted as though the problem was my fault and proceeded on the apparent assumption that a correction would be found by reprogramming my computer or repeatedly resetting my DSL modem. And after several years of service working, asking if I installed the DSL filter is ludicrous.

In essence, they operate on the assumption that I and my computer are guilty until proven innocent. Feeling remorse over forcing me invest up to an hour of my time before a trouble ticket can taken is seemingly beyond their comprehension. Even more astounding is that apologizing for an outage is apparently not part of their protocol.

To compound the situation, in the process of “troubleshooting” they instruct me to make all manner of changes, which would result in leaving me unable to connect to the Internet once access is restored. Never once have they given any instruction on returning my computer to its original configuration. They even neglect to suggest that I make note of the original settings so that I can later restore them. Fortunately, I am wise to their foolish ways.

In a monopoly environment this indifferent attitude would be understandable, albeit untenable. However, I have options and will select the provider that irritates me the least. Notice that I did not say that I seek a provider with excellent service, or who delights the customer, or that has first-call resolution. My customer service expectations are so low that I merely desire to minimize my annoyance.

I will not even suggest that my phone company pursue customer service best-practices. They can go a long way towards improvement by merely adopting a few commonsense ideas.

Take Responsibility: The people I talk to act as though their network is impervious and the blame lies with me. Even if the customer is at fault, agents should back into that conclusion, assuming that there is a network problem until a contrary conclusion can be correctly ascertained.

Isolate the Problem: The final troubleshooting tests they perform is to connect to the customer’s DSL modem. This should be the very first test. If they can connect and run diagnostics, then the problem resides on the consumer’s end. If they can’t access the modem, there is no need to harass the customer with needless tests and counterproductive reprogramming.

Apologize: Is it that difficult to say “I’m sorry that you are experiencing problems?” Even more germane would be to say “I’m sorry that I hopelessly messed up your computer configuration and have no idea how to put it back to the way it was.” Of course, if they followed the two prior suggestions, the first apology would suffice, and the second would be unnecessary.

Use Customer Relationship Management Software: If they had a functional Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, the agents could readily determine that every time I call it was because of an outage and never once have I called because of a problem on my end. They should be able know that I have a history of being credible and not wasting their time — even though they have a history of wasting mine.

Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.