The Problem with Eircom

As it is St Patrick’s Day tomorrow, now seems like the perfect occasion to complain about an Irish company. The alert amongst you may have noticed a certain amount of calandrial confusion on my part as, in your worlds, Patrick’s day was long ago enough for your hangovers to have cleared but in mine, at the time of writing, Patrick’s day is tomorrow and this is getting posted some time in my future. Once again, my broadband has fallen over.

The Broadband has never worked properly. Ever since I subscribed, about 2 months ago, it has suffered with dozens of mini failures which force me to stop what I am doing and reconnect the modem to the system. Gradually the failures grew more and more frequent until reconnecting the modem no longer brought it back. BT believed the fault to lie with the modem and sent me a new one only to find the fault lay with the exchange. Eircom fixed the exchange only for events to follow an identical pattern over the following month until it died again on March 9th.

From my perspective, the problem is particularly exasperating. Eircom is the main phone company in Ireland and it is they who own the network and thus it is they who are expected to fix it when it breaks. I, however, do not have a telephone service provided by Eircom; I have a service provided by BT so when something technical goes wrong, as it so often does, all BT can do is log the fault and wait for Eircom to fix it. Meanwhile I am left hanging on Eircom’s pleasure and have the bother of remembering to ensure BT credit me for the time it has been offline.

There is a piece of paper somewhere in existence which claims that Eircom must respond to all faults within three to five working days. I’m not quite sure what happens if they don’t manage to do this. Presumably they don’t get any jam for tea. A greater reprimand is clearly needed because a week after logging my complaint, they still haven’t got around to fixing it.
He Who Knows Everything was charged with ringing up the nice folks at BT again to see if they had any news on when Eircom might get around to fixing it. He was somewhat surprised when the nice young man at BT told him that, as far as Eircom were concerned, the fault had been sorted last Wednesday and so when we had rung up on Friday for a status report, that had been logged as a new complaint which would therefore not get fixed until the end of the week.
HWKE was unsurprised. “When I used to work in IT, the tech guys used to clear their job lists on a Friday afternoon by requesting redundant information they knew people wouldn’t be able to give them immediately. As far as the system was concerned, the jobs were getting done even though they weren’t. Somebody at Eircom has ticked a box to say they’ve fixed it even though they haven’t.”

Fearful of becoming on first name terms with the nice people on the BT technical helpline, HWKE rang Eircom to see if they could tell him when they were going to fix it. First he tried the technical support only to be bogged down in their automated system which cut him off when it realised he wasn’t their customer. Next he tried the Customer Complaints.

For some reason, the Irish are, collectively, the worst nation I have ever experienced for customer service. I personally suspect it is something to do with being a Republic; once you abolish the upper classes and begin educating the serfs, they begin to think they are as good as you are and won’t take responsibility for anything. I once had occasion to complain about something to a member of staff in a major chain store only for her to reply “Well it’s not my fault, I only work the desk.” Rather than beating one of our heads against the nearest wall I carefully and politely explained to her that when I used the word “You,” it was in the context of “You, the company” not “You, the annoying and unhelpful person who is standing before me.” She still thought I was an idiot.
The Irish cannot bear to think they are beneath anybody else. Some years ago I had a job interview for a temporary post at Wexford County Council. When I was asked why I wanted the job, I told them I rather fancied telling people I was a civil servant as it would make them think I worked for MI6, only to see my interviewers blanche and stammer that they would never use the word “servant.” In the cheerful manner of one who knows they are being given a sham interview merely to satisfy outside regulations and that the post was already given to their internal candidate, I told them I would.

Eircom, it seems, continue the tradition of diabolical customer service and have topped it off with a degree from the Michael O'Leary School of Talking To People Who Are Unhappy About The Service You Provide.
The Customer Complaints department transferred him to the technical department who spent 10 minutes claiming that it was nothing to do with them and that we should speak to BT. Then they tried to claim they didn’t own the exchanges and that it wasn’t their job to fix them anyway. HWKE was deeply incensed at this blatant lie.
“I think you’d better transfer me back to the Customer Complaints people,” he said to them.
I couldn’t hear what they asked him next but as his reply was a stoic “So that I can make a complaint,” I suppose it must have been something deeply unhelpful.
Instead he was transferred upwards to somebody who told him that they could not tell him anything as he was not an Eircom customer. He offered to sign up to Eircom. He also offered to go and find an Eircom Broadband customer amongst our neighbours (At least 112 people are currently without broadband. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, bear in mind there are, at an educated guess, less than 900 houses connected to the exchange.) for her to give the information to. Then he asked if it was necessary to get the local TD involved. Lacking the will to battle his way through the acres of bureaucracy, he thanked her and gave up.
It isn’t even as though he wanted to take names. All he wanted to know was what the fault was and how long it was likely to take to fix it. Was it really beyond them to give him an unofficial hint?

I should not be so surprised by Eircom’s unhelpful attitude. Even when they ring me up to try and entice me back into their fold they are surly, unhelpful and hang up on me when I tell them I don’t want any as BT is cheaper.
When I applied to have a phone line put into my house, it took them 18 months to do it. I was not driven crazy by the time scale, I was driven crazy by the constant lies I was fed to make me go away and stop bugging them. At one point I was told the contractor would start work when the cable arrived from the North at the end of the month. At the end of the month I was told they had to find a new contractor because the original one didn’t have the correct equipment to do the job. When the new contractor was found I was told he also had to wait for cable from the North. At this point I offered to go and collect it myself but they wouldn’t let me.

The rumour mill tells me part of Eircom’s problem is that they simply don’t have enough engineers to fix the system and have to pay contractors to do the work on a day to day basis. This is why it isn’t getting fixed and even when it is, it isn’t being done properly.
Personally, I would much rather they put their hands up and said “Actually, this exchange can’t do Broadband after all” rather than all of this messing around. It would be a disappointment but dial-up is better than no interweb at all.

Tomorrow is a bank holiday so it won’t get fixed then. It is unlikely to get fixed by Wednesday as the engineers will be nursing hangovers. Fingers crossed for Thursday.

*UPDATE – The broadband is still not fixed. Eircom, once they stopped complaining it was too windy to go up the mast, fixed what they thought was broken only to find it wasn’t that after all. It is now in the hands of a big multinational telecoms company who don’t seem unduly concerned about getting anything done. Almost three weeks and counting.*