Thursday, February 25, 2016

TalkTalk - Service with a smile . . . or maybe not!

For much too long a time, I've been with TalkTalk as my internet provider.

This wasn't actually my original choice of providers, as I had first registered with AOL, and they had been providing me with a reasonable service - one that did fine for me, given that, at that time, I had only just started to learn about computers and the internet, and was ready to apply to the Open University, in order to study for a BA in Literature and Creative Writing - which necessitated in me having internet to the house.

For the six years it took me to take my BA, AOL did a grand job of providing me with that necessary link, and I managed to get through it all with only one small glitch - which was my own fault, through lack of knowledge where computers were concerned - and one major glitch, caused by who knows what, where my laptop was fried (forunately, I'd learned by the small glitch to back up everything by then!), and so I had to get a new laptop, which had a much bigger memory, and even a built-in webcam, which meant I could talk face-to-face with my daughter, who travelled all over the world with her work! Wonderful!

Unfortunately, and without my prior knowledge, AOL was taken over by TalkTalk, and I only learned of this after the fact, when I got an email, then a following letter, telling me that my service, and the cost of it, would remain exactly the same.

Fortunately, everything seemed just as they'd told me, and it all seemed the same - I could still stream the occasional movie from Amazon as I had done previously; I could still talk on Skype to family and friends; and my internet usage as a whole seemed fine but, slowly and surely, all of this seemed to degrade over the months, until it started to take an age to do anything on line, and I became hauntingly familiar to the 'wheel of doom', as I named that buffering circle that would appear, every time I tried watching anything online!

After having my new laptop and router checked by a local computer engineer, who assured me that it was working fine, I started to phone TalkTalk with my complaints, all the while talking to someone different every time, and knowing that they were in a call center somewhere abroad - and each one would ask me to do certain tests with ethernet cables, and various other things that sounded so complicated that I couldn't understand the instructions, let alone know how to do them, even if my health had been better!

I told them, time after time that, even if I understood what it was they were asking me to do, all of it would be impossible for me, given that I was housebound, and virtually 100% bed-bound, and with a husband who was a total technophobe!

And so the ever-decreasing circle started between us, of me asking for an engineer, and them promising me that the 'glitch' would be fixed, as long as I did the tests required first - which, as I told them time and time again, was a physical impossibility for me and so, having no choice, I would persevere with the problem, as I was told by another internet provider that I couldn't change providers until the problem was fixed!

I sat there so many times, hoping against hope that it would improve - which it occasionally did - and, being ever the optimist, this kept me from going elsewhere, especially as one advisor after another told me that it was actually the area where I lived that was at fault; it was the phone lines; there was a temporary fault on the line that would be dealt with as soon as possible, etc., etc., etc.

Now, during all of this, I had been (and still am) battling various health problems that are only getting worse, and so fighting TalkTalk was becoming such a stress on my health, and what energy I had, that I just left things as they were - until December 2015, when my internet became so bad, that the only way I could get online, was if I phoned somebody (or they phoned me), and we stayed on the phone while I did what was needed, such as checking my bank account, or putting in a shopping list - it had got so bad that this was all I was able to do!

And so I phoned TalkTalk yet again - but this time I lost all patience with their excuses, and told them that they should send an engineer to my property to investigate something that should have been fixed many months ago! I told them that I was fed up of paying for a service I'd very rarely had, and if they didn't do something soon, then I would let the world know about it.

They promised me an engineer on the 2nd January!

When the day came, the BT engineer appeared. He checked my  equipment via a laptop/tablet thingy (I'm sooo technical, aren't I? lol), and assured me it had nothing to do with the fault - that whatever the problem was, it was outside the house, and had something to do with the telephone lines near the house. He promised that someone else would be sent to fix the problem, as his only remit was to check for a fault, and not to fix anything. He then left.

Later on that day TalkTalk actually phoned me (a real rarity), and told me an engineer would be coming on the 8th of January, to fix the problem. The 8th came, and nobody knocked on the door but, later that afternoon, my internet access improved very slightly - well, enough that I had access for more than a few moments at a time.

A couple of days later, it went right back to me having to make a phone call to get internet access, but I was so ill at the time, I couldn't do a thing about it.

February came, and my health improved enough that I wanted to go online again - only to face the same problems so, once again, I phoned TalkTalk, and explained everything that had happened, and that I needed the engineer to call again, as the problem was still with me.

I was told that it couldn't be the same problem, because engineers had fixed it. I asked when, they told me an engineer had called at my home on the 8th - to which I replied that nobody had called at the house that day! The person I spoke to practically called me a liar at this point - and so I lost my temper!

I admit to feeling bad about this, but to be called a liar, when I knew for a fact that nobody had come to the house that day (we had deliberately made sure we were awake early, and had sat in the house all day, waiting!), made me mad!

The operator told me that the only way an engineer would call, would be if we paid for it! I asked that, as I had been paying them for a service I hadn't had for months - if not years - then surely I was entitled to an engineer calling to finally fix the problem? But they insisted that, the only way they'd send an engineer, was if I paid for it! At that point I really lost it, and said 'So, in fact, you are holding me hostage - you won't fix this problem, unless I pay you even more money?'

At that point, they put the phone down on me!

By this time I was at my wit's end! I had been putting up with such a shoddy service for so long, that I really didn't know what to do - then, that evening, my hubby was watching TV, and he called out to me that a firm called Plusnet, who were based in England, were advertising, and that they seemed like a good service (not that hubby would know one, if it bit him on the nose, bless him! Lol)

At this point, I should add that the only way I had figured getting online without constantly disturbing family and friends, was by phoning my hubby's mobile phone, which, because there was no mobile signal in our part of the village, would go onto answerphone, and so open up the telephone lines enough to get internet access, so this is what I did to get online, and look up Plusnet.

The deals they had seemed really good and, being a British firm, I hoped it would help where customer service was concerned, and so I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained, and filled in the forms to apply to them, paid the initial fee, and waited.

I heard almost immediately by email - which told me I would be transferred to them on the 16th February and a week later received the router I'd need, along with a booklet with comprehensive, and easy to understand, details on how to get the router working! Compared to the instructions I'd been given by TalkTalk, it seemed even I could manage to do this and so, on the day stated, I got into the living room with my laptop and the equipment and, between us both, hubby and I managed to get everything working!

And it was working!

I actually got online without having to use the phone to do so!

Admittedly, there was a crackling noise on the phone when we used it, but I was actually getting online!

For the next few days, I went online a couple of times, to do my usual bank checks and shopping for food, but wasn't well enough to do much more, but my husband told me the noise on the phone was getting worse, and so I went onto Plusnet's site, signed into my account, and looked for something on there to see if it could be fixed.

There was actually a test that I could do from my laptop, to check my line and, when it finished, a page came up, telling me to contact Plusnet on the number provided, and so I did, with my heart sinking, as I expected the same old go-around that I'd had with TalkTalk.

To my wonderful surprise, I had a great chat with the person who answered, explained my situation to him, and he asked if it was okay if he did some tests on my line, and then phoned me back with the results! Of course I was okay with that! So I put the phone down and, 15 minutes later, it rang, and the chap I'd spoken to told me that there was definitely a problem, and would I mind if an engineer called on my home the next day to see what the problem was!

I was gobsmacked that they were that quick and so, of course, said 'yes, that would be fine'! :)

The next afternoon, as promised, 2 telephone engineers called, and did a thorough check on my eqipment, then told me there was definitely a fault on the line outside my home.

I expected them to tell me that somebody would come sometime to fix it, but the 2 chaps immediately went outside to check the lines. After about half an hour, they knocked on the door again and, when they came in, told me that they'd found the fault - a connector had literally fallen to pieces in one of the engineer's hands as he checked it, and so he had replaced the connector, and they asked if it was okay for them to check to see if the fault had been fixed by using my telephone.

I was absolutely delighted to say yes, and they did another thorough check, and stayed until they were certain the fault was fixed, even going online to check that, too :)

One of the engineers told me that it might be a few days before my line settled down, as the internet was really low, but, if it didn't get better within a couple of weeks, to contact Plusnet again, and they would sort that out, too!

Well, a week later, and I am actually able to get online whenever I feel well enough to. It's not super-speedy or anything, but it's the best it's been since before TalkTalk took over so, until Fibre Optics comes to our neck of the woods, I'll be a happy bunny to use the access I have now.

As for TalkTalk, they actually had somebody phone me a few days ago, asking about the complaint I'd made! I asked if I was going to get any compensation for all the grief I'd been through, to a hurried, 'I can't authorise that' as a response - the chap who phoned wasn't even aware that I'd left TalkTalk, even though they'd been informed!

As far as Plusnet are concerned, I couldn't have asked for a better firm to go to. They were so quick to respond to my problem, the engineers who called couldn't have been kinder, or more helpful where fixing the problem was concerned, and I know I can get back to them, and any problem I have will be dealt with quickly, with courtesy, and treating me as if I am a real person, and not just a bother to them.

Well done, Plusnet!

As for my blogging - I can now start letting you know all that I've been doing since the problems getting online started, and I promise to start that within the next day or so :)