Soap Box:  Earthlink: worst customer service ever!

May 04, 2007

I started my on-line presence with Nando, which was bought by Mindspring, which was bought by Earthlink.  So Iím a current Earthlink customer.  I have my email with them and my personal webpage with them.  Iíve been a loyal customer for ELEVEN years, which is probably quite unheard of when it comes to Internet Service Providers.  Do you think all those years of loyalty, and all the money Iíve paid them gains me any favor among their other customers?  No!  Quite the opposite.  My recent encounter with their customer service has to be my worst ever experience.

It all started around April 18, when I noticed that my personal webpage was unavailable.  The error said that I had exceeded my monthly transfer limit of 1gigabyte.  This has happened before, but usually with a warning Iím getting close, and usually the last couple of days of the month.  But this time I got no warning and it was in the middle of the month.  I decided to check my usage using a tool provided by Earthlink.  To my surprise, I found that I had NOT exceeded the limit.  I was only at about 400 megabytes.  That meant the problem was with EarthLinkís servers, not me.  I sent technical support an email on April 20, and thatís when I got introduced to most incompetent, unorganized, untrained customer support I have ever experienced.

On April 23, with the problem still not resolved, I picked up the phone and decided to verbally communicate with technical support.  Thatís where the fun really began.  Every person I talked to didnít understand the problem, couldnít solve the problem, and would transfer me to someone else.  I concurrently started using Live Chat via the computer to try and solve the problem.  Likewise, they didnít understand, couldnít fix it, and would transfer me to someone else.  Youíre not going to believe this, but I didnít get my webpage back up until May 3, almost two weeks after I reported the problem.  During those two weeks, I spoke to TWENTY THREE people!  Three of them were repeats, but I count them because I had to explain the same thing to them all over again (donít they keep notes or have a memory?).  Thatís right, on each of those conversations I had to re-explain the problem, convince them it was a problem, convince them it was their problem and not mine, and the result was that they were always transfer me to someone else where it would start all over again.  I threatened dropping my service.  They didnít care.  Iím only one of many thousands of customers.  It didnít matter that I had been with them eleven years.  The only reason I didnít immediately drop them was that I didnít have time to be shopping for another company, plus the hassle of setting it up.  Rest assured Iím in the market now, looking, just in case this happens again.

For the record, hereís the list of people I spoke with via the phone or Live Chat beginning on April 20 and ending on May 3:

Jewel, Ashley, Maggie K., Shawn S., Gary, Tristan, Jeff, Sam S., Kim P., Anthone D., Ross I., Rose, Penny, Jewel (again), Kevin, Marshall, Mark, Monte A., Maggie K. (again), Ally T., Nelly, Christine, Jewel (again) (Note: most of these names are fake, to sound more American)

I think the main problem was were the computer technical support is located.  Like other companies, Earthlink has farmed their customer support out to India .  Labor is cheap and plentiful there.  Unfortunately, itís also incompetent and computer illiterate.  They are nothing more than glorified greeters, with a script that they follow to the letter.  They have no technical experience or skills.  Earthlink figures for the majority of their customers, that arenít computer savvy, this will work.  This support structure can tell you how to set certain things, or check to make sure something is on, etc.  But if you have a real technical issue, that may require some thinking and experience, you are out of luck.  They canít deviate from that script and they wouldnít have a clue if they could.  And given the turnover rate, they really donít care either.  At one point while I was talking to one of their idiots, and after I had explained the problem, told him it was a real problem, told him it was a problem on their side not mine, etc., he asked me, ďIs your webpage hosted by Earthlink?Ē  That shows you just how clueless and incompetent EarthLinkís technical support really is.  They have hosted my webpage for the past eleven years and this guy, who is their representative on the phone, didnít have the common sense to know that.

During this frustrating two weeks, each person apologized for the previous idiot, and promised that they would indeed solve my problem.  They didnít.  They promised to fill out the forms needed to get it done.  They didnít.  In fact, I got the last person I spoke with to admit that the form wasnít filled out until May 3.  This is despite having reported the problem on April 20, and being told repeatedly that the problem was being worked on.  Yes, thatís right, they outright lied.  And hereís the kicker, each tier of support would in the end refer me to the other to resolve the matter.  They have three tiers, email, Live Chat, and phone.  The phone support would eventually say they canít solve the problem, that only Live Chat could do it.  And of course the Live Chat people would eventually say they couldnít do it, only the phone people could.  And the email people?  Despite me entering several requests, each time explaining EXACTLY what the problem was and the steps I had taken that hadnít got it resolved, and the fact that phone support and Live Chat couldnít do it, they would immediately wash their hands of it and refer to those same exact steps (try phone support or Live Chat).  It was obvious that their script says when you canít figure it out, sent them away.  It didnít matter that I had repeatedly told them that the ones they were referring me to couldnít solve the problem either.  Itís incompetence at its highest level.  But Iím sure hiring idiots saves Earthlink millions of dollars, even if it might cost them some loyal customers.  While I have paid them a lot of money over the years, it really doesnít even compare the savings they gain from not hiring one American.

So, how did my website access finally get enabled?  Did that mysterious form that they all claim they must sent off, finally get into the right hands?  I did FAX a scathing letter to the Atlanta , GA headquarters, but Iím not sure it had time to percolate far enough to actually make someone do something.  But who knows, maybe the right person saw it, make a phone call, and someone took the few seconds that would be needed to ďflip the switchĒ to turn my website back on.  And thatís why it was so frustrating.  Itís a single on or off switch (code setting) on the server.  I guarantee it only took a few seconds to fix.  Iím an eleven year loyal customer, that reported to problem two weeks earlier, and continually complained about it to twenty three people (plus the email changes), yet they wouldnít take the few seconds needed to fix the problem, which was caused by them in the first place.

Based on my experience I would not recommend Earthlink as an Internet Service Provider.  While Iíve had stable service for eleven years, Iíve also not really had to fix any problems. Any little quirks I encountered were from me doing something wrong on my end.  But if a problem arises on their end of things, they have apparently farmed all their technical expertise out to India .  Or to be more accurate, I should say that they have replace their experts with incompetents in India .  Couple this with a lack of care or respect for the customer and you have a recipe for trouble.  This problem, especially since it was because of a mistake on their side of things, should have been escalated to the highest levels within a couple of days.  Plus, you would think they would give a little more attention to someone whoís been a customer of their company for such a long time, especially considering the market it is in.  Long time customers are usually your best marketing tools.  Unfortunately Earthlink has put the value of the dollar ahead of quality service, and ahead of costumer concerns.  If youíre in the market for an Internet Service Provider, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Jeff Polston


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