As a local independent telephone engineer, based in the Middlesbrough and Stockton on Tees area in the UK, one of my key jobs, on behalf of my customers is dealing with the dreaded ISP Customer Service Department.

I am called by home users who have a problem with their broadband speed, phone service, or both. Once I’ve been to their house, I often find that the problem is on the ISP (“internet service provider”, or “phone company’s”) side of things. Typically, this is a line fault, or major issue with broadband stability and/or speed.

So, I call the ISP customer service department. Here are some of the thing I’ve learnt…

1/ They Are All Quite Frustrating to Deal With. So Just Get Used to It.

Customers all say the same things. Long hold times, robotic staff, unsatisfactory answers. An ISP Customer Service Department costs money rather than makes money. So little is spent on numbers of staff and decent training.  You just have to learn to cope with them.  There are ways to do this…

2/ Before You Call, Get Your Paperwork Together.

The whole encounter will take at least 30 minutes, so try and eliminate any possible delays from your side. Have your bill, account number, security questions, password ready. If you are not the named account holder, find who is. Without their authority, they won’t deal with you.  Write out your password, and number each character of it.  Why? They may ask “please give the third and seventh character of your password”.  It’s easier to count them out first, as if you have multiple failed attempts, they may refuse to deal with you.

3/ They Are Not There To Help You, But “Process Your Call”.

So, be firm and persistent in explaining your issue. They will try and come up with a quick (and incorrect) answer. Each customer service agent is closely monitored on how long they take to handle a call. League tables are published in the call centre. Questions are asked if agents take too long. They are not targeted and rewarded for being helpful, but for how quickly they handle your call.. Read some disturbing “insider” truths here…

4/ They Probably Won’t Understand Your Problem. Only Their Solution.

If they don’t seem to want to understand, and you seem to be repeating yourself, don’t worry. The task of the ISP customer service department agent seems to be to fit their simple solution to your problem, even if it does not actually fit…

One classic “dodge” in respect of a noisy line is to call the agent from the actual line with the problem, and let them hear the noise themselves. Even then, they might not believe you.  Their “remote line test” equipment comes up with “no fault found” in 95% of cases, even if there is clearly a fault.  Don’t take that as the final answer.

5/ Before You Call, Get Your Hardware Sorted Out.

One of the quickest ways for an ISP customer service Department to get rid of your call is to blame your equipment. They will try and get you to buy new stuff.  So, make sure that you are using a reliable and proven land line phone with no known issues. Isolate the wiring in your house via the master socket . Plug everything (their broadband hub, phone) straight onto “their” line via the master socket test socket.

6/ Go to The Toilet Before You Call.

(Yes, really.) This all may take some time. Get yourself a drink. Make yourself comfortable.  It’s like a long-haul night-flight, but without the movie. Or any chance of reaching the destination.

7/ Use a Hands-Free Phone.

You can do something else useful as you listen to appalling music on hold, and “your call is important…”

8/ Get a Name, Contact Details and Ticket Number. Give Yours.

Having waited and waited, a “dropped” call is a disaster. Get assurance from the agent that they will call you back on your mobile if you lose contact. Even try and get a direct dial number and/or email address for them. Occasionally this works.

9/ Don’t Let them Transfer You To Another Department.

You risk disconnection. Try and talk them out of it, or at best take a direct dial number for the department.  If they do pass you through, make sure that you don’t have to start from the beginning with your story – ask the agent to brief their colleague firs.

10/ Keep Calm and Carry On.

Stay focused and courteous, no matter how frustrated you may feel.  Become flustered and vaguely rude, and you risk confusing and/or offending the customer service agent, with the result that nothing will get resolved.  Worse, they will become distracted, annoyed, and make a mistake that will push you even deeper into the mess.  Read back any critical details to the (numbers, dates, passwords, etc,etc).

11/ Try and Avoid All This.

Choose an ISP with relatively decent customer service. Some “big names” in the market have big service issues. What you save on monthly rental with some of them is not worth the hassle when things go wrong, and you lose your service for several days.

And if you’re in the Middlesbrough, Stockton on Tees, Darlington, or wider area, I can provide moral support on site.