Fairpoint Communications is truly a sick joke. Their 10K financial statement reveals how deep a financial hole they've dug and how they are stripping all available cash from their "legacy operations" outside of New England to pay for their acquisition of the Verizon business there. They actually admit they have little interest in furthuring their "rural" business. Here's a letter I sent today with copies to the relevant regulatory bodies. You may think this can't be real, but it is!
May 27, 2009
Mr. Jim Cooke
Vice President, Operation
627 Route 3
South China, ME 04358
Dear Mr. Cooke:
I have just spent seven (7) hours online and on the telephone attempting to make an online bill payment. I have spoken to four separate people, including a supervisor (Cindy in the Business Group) on a recorded line, which means that you can verify every word of what I’m writing in this letter.
I am away on a business trip, so decided to pay my telephone bill online so it would not incur a late payment and the nasty “disconnect” letter that is always mailed on the exact day the bill payment is due.
I realized I didn’t remember my online account password, so I called customer service. The first young man I spoke with told me he couldn’t tell me my online password unless I could tell him my online password or he could call me back at the telephone number listed on my account. No, that’s not a typo. That’s exactly what he said. When I discovered I must be talking to a ###, I asked to talk with a supervisor. Cindy came on the line to help. She asked me if I knew my Pin Number. I did and gave it to her. We realized that the first customer service person should have asked for that, but kept asking for a password instead. Problem #1 resolved. Note to Management #1: Train your customer service people better or don’t hire monkeys for the job.
Cindy informed me there is a separate group (which she couldn’t transfer me to) that handles password resetting. She informed me (at 9:45AM) I would be getting an email “shortly” to do the reset. I continue checking for that email until 2:PM when I called again and reached another customer service man. He told me that the request was being processed and still had to go to a “manager” for approval of the email before they could send it out. Note to Management #2: More than five hours and the involvement of a manager to send a customer support email, when most other vendors (American Express, Verizon, Chase, etc) allow for getting a password emailed at the customer’s online request, is a major system failure.
When no email had arrived by 2:45PM, I called again and got a woman who had no idea how to handle the situation and kept telling me she only knew the “basic things”, but there was no technical support person in the billing unit who could help me. Once again, I asked for a supervisor (more loudly this time) and, in a stroke of good fortune, got Cindy again. As we spoke, the reset email arrived and I tried it. No luck. She called the “reset” people and they sent another temporary password. Again, no luck. During this process, we realized she and I weren’t viewing the same screen. It turns out that because she’s in Maine and I am being redirected to the New York web site because my phone is in Chatham, we’re seeing completely different web screens. I gave her the URL I was looking at and she confirmed this wasn’t what she had been seeing, so she switched over. Note to Management #3: It would be helpful if the Customer Service people saw the same information on screen as the people they’re trying to help.
Unfortunately, although Cindy and I got ourselves on the same screen, the password didn’t work. She requested yet another temporary password and this time tried to log in herself using my information from My Account ( which I, of course, couldn’t see). This time, we were not only given an “error” message, but the system locked us both out because of “multiple login attempts”. At that point, both Cindy and I gave up.
I will not be able to pay my bill with a corporate check until I return from my current business trip next week and I will be damned if I will pay a late fee. Any attempt to impose additional fees will see us in court.
NOTE TO MANAGEMENT #4: YOUR ONLINE BILLING SYSTEM DOESN’T WORK AND, LIKE THE REST OF FAIRPOINT’S SERVICE IN THE OLD TACONIC TELEPHONE AREA, IT IS A DISASTER.
My experience with your billing system is similar to all my experiences with Fairpoint. As you may not be aware, we no longer have any human beings in the area who can handle problems, repairs or billing. All services are provided by out-of-area people, many of whom when I tell them I’m calling from Chatham ask, “Where’s that?” Your company is a disgrace and deserves to be in the financial hole it’s dug for itself.
PS: As I finished this letter, I had a call (thankfully on my Verizon cell phone) asking if I would help your systems people solve this problem. My consulting fees are $300 per hour if you need such help.
Cc: Mr. Eugene Johnson, Chairman
Hon. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General
NYS Public Service Commission