Customer Service Empowerment Techniques Kudon'ts Opinion

Starry snafu highlights why misleading customer service is worse than none at all

Customer service representations that don’t hold up to actual performance are worse than no customer service at all. My Nextdoor post last week addresses my frustrating “Starry Snafu” experience:  “As a backup to CenturyLink Internet/landline, which I’ve had nearly 5 years, I ordered Starry on a trial basis. When I put in the order, I specifically asked about keeping both services–which was my plan. I was told there could be some interference if both routers were operating at the same time. At 11:30 on the scheduled install day, both my phone and Internet went out. I went to the phone room and found the Starry installer, who informed me that their install was going through the same DSL line as CenturyLink. I would have to choose one or the other. While I was looking forward to checking out Starry, I’m staying with CenturyLink. I wasted my time. The installer wasted his.”

At first, I was delighted. On the heels of so many customer service frustrations, I thought I had a winner with Starry, a new Internet offering. They had just completed wiring our complex, and were offering a no-contract service with up to 200 Mbps download speed, many times faster than my present CenturyLink service. The pricing structure (a free month, then $33/month) afforded me the opportunity to try it out while maintaining my existing Internet/landline service through CenturyLink—which has been remarkably reliable, if not overly speedy.

When I explained my plan to the customer service rep, she said there could be interference if both routers were running at the same time—but didn’t apprise me that Starry might require the same DSL line access as CenturyLink, meaning I would have to pick one or the other. If they had, I either would have cancelled the order or asked for a service technician to see if they could install without impacting CenturyLink.

I was so happy that their customer service seemed to be well-organized, informative, and accurate—until the installer showed up. I knew the installer was here, because my entire CenturyLink service went out. That included my phone line, which hadn’t gone out in nearly five years of service.

When I marched down to the phone room and found the Starry installer there, I asked why my CenturyLink had been disconnected. He said they had to install over the wires occupied by CenturyLink. I immediate cancelled the install, and directed him to fix my CenturyLink, which he did. He indicated that a lack of accurate customer service information was proving a regular impediment to his installations. He even wanted to know the contact info for the customer service rep, so he could follow up. I gave him the info.

Then, I filed a customer service complaint with Starry, and indicated on my Nextdoor communication: “…if you’re considering Starry, make sure to find out the correct install info upfront. Also, if you suddenly start having disconnection issues with your DSL, check to see if Starry has been in the phone room (even if you haven’t ordered it). The installer did restore my service before he left, but wasn’t sure why it went out. That tells me there may be systemic problems/challenges going forward.”

I also apprised our HOA Board President and the General Manager of my disconcerting experience. Evidently, there are multiple levels of concern: Experiences of would-be/existing subscribers, and wifi interference with non-subscriber communications systems such as CenturyLink.

My takeaway from all this is far more negative than if I had been informed upfront of the potential conflict, and decided to pass based on that information. I would have been disappointed, but satisfied that Starry had fully and accurately informed me.

I wonder if the rep’s lack of complete and accurate information was due to inadequate training. I’ll likely never know for sure, but of one thing I am certain: Comprehensive customer service training is both critical and a lack of it is one of the biggest failings in corporate America. Next up: The need for that training.


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