Hiding from customers won't help

There are no known problems on the Xtra network. If your connection isn't working, it's probably your own fault. You've probably tripped over the cord and it's come out of the wall socket.

When I was a little kid and something scary came on television, I used to sit beside the TV set -- where I couldn’t see the screen -- until it was all over.

My theory was that if I couldn’t see it, it wasn’t happening. Which is fine if you’re hiding from evil-looking Wombles (hey, I scared easily), but as a business model it’s not ideal.

But try telling that to Xtra.

I work from home and returned from my lunchbreak the other day to discover my JetStream ADSL connection wasn’t working. I checked my modem, but that was functioning fine.

So I switched to dial-up and checked the Xtra website: “Currently there are no known problems on the Xtra network.”

I phoned the Xtra helpdesk on my second line where a message advised me there were problems for ADSL users in the Wellington region. I assumed that was the cause of my connection troubles, but since I live in Dunedin I decided to speak to a live helpdesk person just in case.

“For support with your JetStream ADSL connection or account, press 2.

So I pressed 2.

“For modem and connection problems, press 2.”

So I pressed 2 again.

“If your modem was supplied by Telecom or Xtra, please hold the line. If your modem was supplied by an alternative supplier, please refer back to them.”

Eh? Well, no, my modem wasn’t supplied by Telecom or Xtra ... but the problem wasn’t my modem. I could see from the non-flashing lights that it was working fine. Just as it always has. I pondered to myself what the Dynalink helpdesk would say if I phoned to ask what was wrong with my JetStream connection. Probably: “How would we know?”

It’s an interesting way for Xtra to service customers. We’re here to help you as long as you bought your modem through us. Otherwise, bugger off please. Think how many fewer problems they have to deal with by this finger-in-the-ear approach. “If we can’t hear you complaining, there are no problems … la la la la.”

I checked the help web page again … still no “known” problems on the Xtra network.

(I have a theory that most of New Zealand could be burning down after a nuclear attack and Xtra’s website network status message would still be there, advising there were no known problems on the Xtra network.)

I decided to break the rules and continued to hold on the helpdesk line. In no time at all the friendly helpdesk man was on the line explaining I was no doubt experiencing the same fault as Wellington users and that he’d let the technicians know that Dunedin was also affected. Well, glad I could be of help. Did he know when it would be working again? No. Fair enough, since they were still figuring out the fault at the time.

So I questioned him about the options when I called. Did I not get support on connection issues because I sourced my modem independently?

He explained that they can’t support all the different modems out there, which makes sense, but I pointed out that I was talking about network problems, not a modem problem. Ah, he said, but you’d know if it was a network issue when you listen to the network status message.

Except of course when the network status message doesn’t tell you there are any problems, as on this occasion. I’ve also called in the past when the network status message said there was nothing wrong at all, only to have had a problem identified by the end of the conversation with a helpdesker.

I said goodbye to the helpdesk man and called back 15 minutes later to listen to the network status message, which informed me that ADSL users in the Wellington area and ALL of the South Island were experiencing problems.

I checked the web help page again. It told me there were no "known" problems on the Xtra network.

Of course there weren’t. Everything was just fine. There were no “known” scary wombles. Nothing to see here. Move along please.

Mills is IDGNet’s online editor.

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