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Blogger Recounts Problems Trying to Get SBC Phone Service

Jack Decker (jack-yahoogroups@withheld)
Wed, 16 Feb 2005 12:12:14 -0500

If you wonder why people are going to cellular substitution and VoIP,
it may not just be price considerations; it might also be that they've
run into a situation like this. I found this on a blog called "IP
Inferno" at

Tuesday, February 15, 2005
The Dyspeptic Consumer

(Sponsor: Lok Technology)

In my next life, which could begin minutes from now, or never, I ought
to write a column called "The Dysfunctional, Dyspeptic Consumer."
(Dyspepsia -- isn't there a pill for that now?) The column would
mostly be an acknowledgment of a theme I see in my writings when it
comes to what we might call the interface between companies and the
people they're trying to sell to. Although I'm assured by many
acquaintances and much reading that life as I know it would not be
nearly as full, fruitful or satisfying without the efforts of the
for-profit enterprises I do business with, I continue to suspect the
companies, or the people who run them, have an agenda that puts my
welfare as one of their customers pretty far down their list of

The latest small, real-life exhibit to feed my suspicion comes by way
of one of my brothers. He and his wife took the plunge last year and
had a new house built in a town south of Chicago for themselves and
their three kids. They moved in in mid-January. Their new home had
light, heat, water, and cable TV service (with broadband Net access)
when they moved in. The only utility that wasn't hooked up at the time
-- their phone. The local provider there is Ameritech (the successor
to the Illinois Bell of my childhood). Ameritech is one of the RBOCs
acquired over the last few years by wanna-be monopoly SBC; the same
SBC that's in the process of buying what's left of AT&T -- a deal that
will be just super for telecom customers everywhere as well as for the
7,000 or so employees of the merged concern who will be laid off as
part of maximizing efficiency (or at least cutting operating costs).

When my brother was ready to move into his new home, he called
Ameritech and set up an installation appointment (if I had been a
better big brother and more plugged in to what was going on, I might
have suggested he skip Ameritech altogether and sign up with
CallVantage or Vonage over his cable broadband connection). He was
told he'd have a two-week wait until a technician could show up to do
the necessary work (and what the necessary work is I don't quite know;
the place is wired inside and out). Two weeks! That seems excessive to
me, but what the heck -- as part of maximizing efficiency and cutting
operating costs, SBC-owned Ameritech probably doesn't have as many
service crews as they used to.

So my brother made an appointment. The day came. No one from Ameritech
showed up. No one called to explain whether there was a problem or to
reschedule. When my brother finally called to ask what happened, he
was told that the company technician couldn't locate a service box
outside the home and therefore couldn't do the installation. The box
is in plain sight, and my brother described precisely where it is to
aid the apparently visually impaired phone techs.

Ameritech was so moved by my brother's plight -- he and his wife are
getting by using their cellphones -- that they rescheduled his
appointment. In another two or three weeks. So today, more than a
month after moving in, still no landline service. If we were talking
Moscow before Gorbachev, OK, sure, I understand. Or Kabul after the
Taliban. But we're talking about the heartland of the wealthiest, most
can-do nation on Earth. Aren't we?

If you look at Ameritech's service problems since SBC acquired it --
just Google "Ameritech service complaints" -- it appears that the
company 1) has a long history of poor customer service and 2) things
really got bad after SBC entered the picture. But this discussion
shouldn't be about beating up on one company. It should be about how
to fix things. As to that, I admit, I don't have the answers beyond
suggesting that there's something seriously broken in an industry that
treats customers this way. The situation also suggests the value of
real competition and, perhaps, the window of opportunity that exists
for VoIPs to win business through a better customer-service ethic.

Hmmm. We'll see how it pans out. In the meantime, I'm going to suggest
my brother cancel his Ameritech appointment and sign up with someone

posted by dan at 9:07 AM 2 comments

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