June 14, 2005

SBC Global Does it again

.. in the worst way. (I've blogged about this before, but lately my DSL service has been okay.) But my brother just got DSL from SBC Global Yahoo. And it's been challenging for him.

I gave him my old windows laptop to use, which he did for a month, and then brought back to have me help configure stuff, and set up things like the Flickr uploader, AIM, and get his pop mail going on outlook.

I also set up a hodder.org email for him.

Well... the fun began with SBC Yahoo's site links which were broken, on their mail options page. Specifically, the pop mail configuration link, is broken. YES, BROKEN.

Click on help, from the mail page. Get a phone number for SBC Yahoo. Call it. Give loads of info. Get a person, and just as she's beginning to get what the problem is (not our email, but their mail options link, is broken), she disconnects us (we did give her a number to call us back but she never did.)

Call back, and get go through many phone menus and requests for info, to get some other woman who tells us we have to call Yahoo about the link, and gives us a number that turns out to be for Yahoo dating tech support.

Decided to try the online chat since clearly, the phone support doesn't work well. They have an extensive form of questions about the amount of ram we have, or our processor speed, type of OS, modem model (SBC sent it to my brother.. so for god sakes, they should know what it is without asking, and yet, they ask repeatedly on the phone and in the form for live chat, as if this all we might have a problem with..), and then they give us 70 (YES, 70) characters to explain our problem.

Then you hit enter, and guess what? They give us a message saying that something, though they don't tell us what, was incorrectly entered in the form, and when we close the error pop up, the form is returned to us BLANK. Oh yes. Blank. So we try again. And guess what? It happens again, even though all info is entered correctly.

So we call back, and beg, BEG, for the correct URL to reconfigure his settings so that he can have not just webmail, but popmail as well. You'd think that would be the default, having both. You'd think, they would fix the URLs on their mail options page for account holders.. after all these are paying customers.

But we get a woman who tells us we have to go to second level tech support to get a freaking correct URL. To configure the pop access. Which consists of a radio button. I saw it on the screen shot on a help page. Geez. And then, they have to get supervisor approval to go to second level tech support. And we are on hold again.

This has been going on for 1.5 hours.

In the meantime, I'm cleaning spam, popups, and spywear off of the laptop, which I stupidly gave to him, with administrator level access, and then said, don't install anything. I believe himm when he says he didn't but due to the level of access from the general login.. it means that every website he or his girlfriend surfed by with some spywear, that asked them to click on something, came with an install file for some evil crap. So I'm reconfiguring the permissions too.

Ack! I hope this ends soon.. I have other work to do. But most of all, I'm thanking God for my mac. And next time he gets a computer.. it will be a mac. Cause the nightmare of being a window's user is too much for a newby, not to mention a new DSL / email / AIM / flickr / etc user who is having trouble getting to the fun part of this, because of all the technical barriers.

Update: after a half hour on hold for 2nd level tech support, we did get someone who helped with the URL and configuration. This problem is solved, but I'm not sure my brother, as a new user, would really slog through it all, or be able to articulate it all, to the various support people. One problem SBC has is that they try to route everyone through issues around modems, when not all the issues have to do with that... which is why they ask what OS you have or what modem, even after you say the problem has nothing to do with that, as in this case, it did not. If their website had more usability testing and better forms and interaction, we likely could have solved it all online with having to call.. which is my preference.

Update to the Update:
A guy from SBC Global (who asked that his name not be blogged) happened to notice this post, and has been emailing me, trying to get additional information. In the email, I tried to encourage them to look at this as not one specific problem, around my brother, but as an overall usability issue.

This is what I sent him:

The real issue is that your web pages are set up for one kind of problem, regardless
of whether you start by calling or IMing (your version of chat -- which I was never
able to access due to the form). The questions you ask, and the links and information
don't server uses beyond a small set of problems to do with modem issues etc.

Our problem was that the link to the Pop configuration was broken. We were not
able to get help, for almost two hours, to just change a setting, and the people we
called couldn't comprehend that a user might have another kind of problem,
or listen when I explained that this was not a hardware issue. They instead kept
asking for modem model numbers and OS info, and ram quantities, instead of
getting to the real issue, which was that your link was broken, and we had
no other way besides contacting you, to change the POP configuration.

In fact, I think it would be very reasonable of you to simply make the combo of
web access and pop access the default setting for all your email uses. That way
people don't have to change a setting in order to pull down mail locally.

Secondly, i would suggest user testing and usability heuristics for your chat system.

I can understand wanting to to know the user's OS, etc for modem issues, but once
a user says the problem is related to email config up top, the form questions should change,
and then if the user incorrectly fills out the form, the system should not delete all the entries
the user just filled out (20!) but instead should highlight the incorrect entry and give the user
the chance to correct it. Also, if users use AIM or YahooIM, you should simply allow us to
IM you directly instead of using that irritating form, and then requiring that we install a program
to chat, when in fact we already have two highly used chat programs to begin with
(the height of arrogance on your part to ask us to install a chat program that only works
with your system.. like I have CPU and RAM to burn on programs that only work with you,
and that I will likely use once or twice.

As it is, due to the one month in which my brother had the laptop without spyware protection
or user permissions that would block the installation of spyware, he got 7 new spyware
programs. So to protect against this, I made him a different user on the system that won't allow
installation, without a special password. I don't think at his new level that he should be
able to install. And therefore, asking him to install software at all, when a large company
such as yours could easily license web chat software (I can direct you to a number of
software developers that would license it to you) that doesn't require installation is another
option for you, when dealing with new users, that will have issues and need to communicate
with you. There are also at least ten open source web based chat code bases you could
use to accomplish this, which also would keep your uses from having to install web chat
software that only works when talking with SBC.

I appreciate your looking into this problem and trying to solve it, but really, there is a long
way to go before your system is really usable and stupid simple.

Posted by Mary Hodder at June 14, 2005 09:06 AM | TrackBack

Given that SBC's DSL service could charitably be described as, well, ass, why do you continue to give SBC your money? Also, did your brother ask for recommendations before subscribing to SBC, and, if so, why didn't you tell him to avoid it like the plague?

I've heard you fervently declare that after the troubles you had with your Treo 600, you would never purchase another Treo. Is there some reason you don't apply the same high standard to your DSL provider?

Please don't parse this as personal criticism. It's not meant to be. It's just that you're one of many folks I hear complaining about SBC's atrocious DSL service. If all those people switched to other DSL providers, and perhaps blogged about it, it might influence SBC's bottom line enough to improve its service. Conversely, it might allow other DSL providers to reduce their prices, thus making them more attractive compared to SBC.

Personally, I am a very happy customer of speakeasy.net. Friends I trust also have very good things to say about sonic.net.


P.S. Please forgive me if I inadvertantly double-posted this. Your human detector appears to be missing from the post options if one initially clicks Preview instead of Post.

Posted by: Daniel C. Silverstein at June 14, 2005 09:20 PM

Actually I had to push them to get mid-speed bandwidth, verses dialup. That was a deal in itself, and since they live in a rural area, SBC is the only provider and they went with that.

The SBC guy who emailed did say he was going to make the usability case with management, and hopefully succeeds. It is cool that someone there is paying attention, and attempting to do something about their problems. Hopefully they succeed.

Posted by: mary hodder at June 16, 2005 06:41 PM

It really doesn't take too long to find a basket of alternatives to SBC. I switched to sonic.net last year and have never been happier. What is ironic is that Sonic uses SBC lines but they provide all the ISP and network support. They deal with SBC for you and they get results. Its no suprise that they are the #1 ISP on BroadbandReports.com and their customers love them. My theory is the #1 reason that SBC-Yahoo has really c**p support is that their lines are tied up all day with people complaining about how their machines have never worked the same since the day they installed all the SBC-Yahoo software c**p on them. As someone who does IT support for local people and businesses I can attest first hand to the number of people who have had this experience. There's really no excuse for a person to believe they have to buy a new computer just because the old one stopped working when they installed SBC-Yahoo (that actually happened).

Posted by: Simon Waddington at June 21, 2005 11:15 PM