ADSL Guide recently published a new survey containing some depressing statistics on broadband providers' customer service. Particularly mortifying was the news that Telewest actually came out on top. As a current customer of Telewest's, I have to ask: how can this be? Has the world gone mad, or are other broadband providers going around beating up their customers and setting fire to their homes?
Perhaps these words are a little harsh - maybe for those subscribing solely to Telewest broadband, the standard of customer support is not so bad. But what about those of us who thought triple-play was the way to go; that it would spell an end to being ripped off paying monthly line rental for a landline you barely use? Well, having taken the triple-plunge, I now find that once a month all my services get cut off, despite the fact I never miss a payment.
Why? Well, the reason that Telewest keeps cutting off my broadband, phone and TV is due to a flaw in the billing system, which means that I automatically exceed the cap on my account every time I get billed. Many hours have since been spent on the phone to the billing department making 'one-off' credit card payments, ultimately to no avail.
This problem has been compounded by Telewest's support team - does triple-play really have to mean your routine customer enquiry getting transferred across three different departments, as opposed to one? So much for convergence…
All of this suggests to me that the Telewest triple-play machine is missing several important cogs - while it can physically provide each part of the package, it can't properly bill for or support them. And if a company ends up repeatedly cutting off paying customers as a consequence of these failings, then you have to ask whether it should be offering these services in the first place.
I dread to think what it's like for customers that have signed up to Telewest and Virgin's 'quad-play' service, now the focus of renewed attention given that the two companies are merging. It'll be interesting to see whether the unholy mess that is the current billing system will be re-evaluated, or whether Richard Branson's assumption is that the relatively well-respected Virgin brand will be sufficient to gloss over these obvious failings.
And for me? Well, I'm either switching to Sky, or I'm switching off...