The complainers

I am intrigued by an advert for a new TV series "The complainers" about a trend of people that just complain for the hell of it.

I suspect I will be shouting at the TV.

At AAISP we really do try hard to provide good service for our customers (even though making this not part of the contract for legal reasons!). I know a lot of you know this, and appreciate it. But there are just occasionally, and very rarely, occasions where I really cannot win and we have to give up.

This is seriously rare, but I have once again (second time in 17 years, I think) sacked a customer. It is so rare, and such a concern, that I think it is worth blogging. What do you think? I am being a bit frank here, and obviously I am not going to name and shame the customer.

This is a case of a customer that is, apparently, an on-call doctor (surgeon, I think) and apparently needs to be contactable as a matter of life and death, but lives in the middle of nowhere that has no mobile coverage on any network.

OK, that is scary for a start. We really try not to be involved in "safety of life" services. We even make that one of our terms. We cannot exclude liability for death or personal injury from our contract terms, and if it happened and we were negligent we'd have to rely on our public liability insurance. The services we offer are subject to a lot of other companies (not least of which is BT) and is not something we can safely say will be 100% reliable. We'd love to say it is, but we are realistic here. We were not told this when the customer ordered (and would not have taken the order if we were).

So first issue, after the broadband was installed and working, was the phone line suddenly ceased. We suspect our customer migrated her number to a VoIP provider and that killed the phone line (which we were not providing) and so that killed the broadband (which we were). We are not entirely sure of the cause of the cease, but it was not us! We worked hard to get her back on line as soon as possible, obviously, and we started providing the phone line as well.

Thankfully, after a lot of nasty emails she agreed it was not actually our fault and we did everything right. It was hard work and took a lot of man hours to sort this, for which we make no extra charge.

We explained carefully that relying on a single connection when on-call was not really very responsible. We explained how we do offer some higher availability multiple line services using separate carriers and more than one phone line. It still cannot guarantee 100% uptime, but was likely to be a lot more reliable, especially in a rural area. But no, she did not take that.

This weekend she hit her usage limit on Home::1. Yes, for an on-call doctor using VoIP she purchased a domestic service with strict credit controls that cut off when you hit quota. We point this out specifically as a term when ordering, and on the invoice and order confirmation and in the printed information pack. We also explain that you can opt to have auto topup rather than being cut off. But no, she opted to stay with the "cut me off when I use too much" option, and it happened on a weekend. Fortunately someone was around at the weekend, picked up the email and topped her up and got her on-line, out of hours.

Apparently, doing exactly what we agreed is disgusting. She had considered going to a hotel so she could be contacted while the broadband was down. She wants compensation and will be taking legal action. Hmmm.

Bear in mind she has a phone line, and that works. It is a BT line we provide now (for the broadband), and has a phone number and can be called. If she plugs in a phone and someone calls the number, it will ring. We had explained this already after the last fiasco with the line cease. But apparently that is not good enough - she needs her working VoIP, and only that, on the one and only domestic broadband line she has which has strict credit control enabled.

I have said I will waive the six month minimum term and terminate the service on 30 days notice - clearly we cannot meet her requirements. I personally think that, if what she says is true, she has to be the most irresponsible doctor I encountered. Who goes on-call and then deliberately buys the most unreliable system of communications, ignores other means (phone line), ignores advice, and then complains? Does she go in to surgery with just one scalpal? I am quite shocked at this, to be honest.

I am struggling to find what we could have done better - I have checked, and we not only highlight the terms on the web page, and during the order, but we send email and paper information pack explaining it all in great detail. If there is any way I could do better I'd like to know and I'd like to improve our service. Sacking a customer is a sorry admission of defeat here, but I don't see an alternative.

Lets hope this does not turn in to an ADR case. I think we are being very reasonable letting her off the six month term, and wish her the best of luck with her next ISP.


  1. Scares me more that she's spent a long time in education, learning some really tricky stuff, to wind up in a situation where peoples life can literally be in her hands, and yet, she doesn't seem to get these concepts.
    You're better off rid of her! Madness!

  2. Shesh! For some clients (and I'm in no way in a "life preserving" role of any sort: just a dev), I've provided my business VoIP number, my personal VoIP number, my Skype number, my mobile number and my home number (with all of Skype+VoIP able to be used via home - admittedly single connection - internet and via mobile coverage [two different phones on two different networks "just in case"] or any WiFI coverage). If anybody sounds negligent, it's her.

    Out of interest, have you got any "evidence" they are a medical professional which needs to be on call? Back when I worked for a low-cost web hosting company, we had someone try something similar on and called their bluff (they wanted thousands in compensation, but had paid us just £30 for a year!).

  3. sounds like business use of a product supposed to be for home use. She must have been using it quite hard to get to the 100GB limit. Also if she's on call and needs to be contactable, surely a good fall back plan would be a doctors surgery or hospital, rather than a hotel

    1. I wouldn't bet on that being business use; more likely something like Netflix/iPlayer streaming, which can be several GB per hour (Netflix say 3 for HD, or 7 for 4k) - so just over one hour of HD video each day would hit the Home::1 limit. For most small businesses, I suspect business use will actually be lighter than home: my own office only downloads email and software updates, so an hour of Netflix at home probably exceeds a typical *week* of office use! (Having said that, I have very little idea how much bandwidth the office actually uses: since it's an "unlimited" connection, the ISP doesn't give me any indication of usage, which is one reason I ruled out A&A for it.)

      I agree using a hotel is bizarre though. My sister in law is a doctor; when she's on call covering anywhere except the middle of the city she lives in, she stays in that hospital's on-call flat. (Which can itself be a pretty bad place for mobile reception - but work calls would come on the landline anyway.)

      It wouldn't surprise me if she's making the on-call aspect up as an excuse; I also wonder if she's gone and got a femtocell so she can use her mobile, without realising that of course when broadband goes down, so does the femtocell.

  4. There will always be muppets. There appears to be nothing that can be done about it.

  5. Never underestimate the potential stupidity of users.

    We do a fax to email service and one day a few years ago we received a call from a user who reported the faxes started coming in upside down. Now sometimes people do send the faxes through the wrong way as it can be an issue if you are trying to read it on a pc. So we were about to tell them how to rotate the pages on the screen when they mentioned that they were printing them out. At this point we suggested they just rotate the paper in their hands and the customer went away happy.
    We were sure it was a wind up but nobody admitted to it.

    1. Many years ago a secretary where I worked was concerned about confidential faxes because anyone at the other end could see them coming out. I suggested she put the documents in an envelope and put that through. As she was about to hit send I stopped her only in case it jammed the machine. She was unamused.

  6. I have a lengthy email back from her now - almost every single point is answered by "that was in the information pack we sent you". Sounds like she simple did not read it. She insists we never communicated that the Home::1 has strict credit/usage controls even in writing. In actual fact it was on web site, on the order form, on the emailed invoice, and in the posted paper information pack.

    1. Not much you can do if customers do not read the terms and conditions and features of the product they are purchasing from you, and the contract both parties are entering into. Some people just don't get it, and quite possibly never will, and she seems to be a classic case of "some people".

  7. And now she is raising loads of questions, one ticket at a time, and pointless, but one was fun... She queried something in the "information pack we send to new customers", thereby confirming she did in fact get it! Where the previous long email has almost every reply being "That is in the information pack", that is amusing.

  8. "Want you gone" from Portal 2 seems like the perfect track for this situation.

  9. I hate clients who expect professional uptime/service/support on cheap domestic services, especially when they lie to get stuff they haven't paid for. My attitude is "fuck 'em", they can upgrade to business grade package, or fuck off. "As you've violated our TOS by using a domestic package for business purposes, we we are disconnecting that service. Goodbye"


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