SBC Web vs. telephone support: Round 2

Once again, bundling is the mantra of the day for telecom providers. If you listen to some executives on their earnings calls, bundling your voice, data and video services will not only bring them more revenue, but it will also cure the common cold.SBC has launched in California to become available in my area.CRM kicked in and I was told, “Well you know, you should move your lines to our new bundled local and long-distance plan, that will solve your problem too.”  I tell the person that I’ve been waiting for that, but it’s not available in my area -  the Web site tells me so. The reply? “Oh, the Web site is never right, my computer here says it is available.” 

So since I’ve heard so much about this lately (and have a little bit of a runny nose), I thought I’d check out if I, too, could get a supersized bundle for my phone line at home. Being a member of the analyst corps, I get press releases all the time about what is available where, and I’ve been waiting on a particular local/long distance bundling package that 

So I’ve checked the SBC Web site each month, expecting it to be available, since it is in California and other SBC states. Each month, I’ve been dissatisfied to find that “We're sorry, SBC does not offer this product or service in your area at this time.”

One day SBC decided to reset something in my CO. This resulted in my rollover feature (moving incoming calls from Line 1 to Line 2 when Line 1 is busy) being, of course, disabled. Clients and coworkers began complaining that they could never reach me when I was on Line 1 talking to someone.  So I called to get this repaired.

While explaining the problem to SBC on the phone, their 

Well after a short HAL9000-ish conversation of whose computer do we believe, we start talking about the capabilities of the package. Being a “let me see it in writing” type of guy, I go to the Web site to see what’s in the package that is promoted on their site, but I can’t see the details because “SBC does not offer this product or service in your area at this time.”

So we go through a process of discussing the offer in detail, and it sounds like just what I wanted.  I can add unlimited long-distance to two voice lines and my fax line for about $4 more per month total, and I get to keep all my features I am using. SBC captures my long distance dollars. Everyone is happy.

One problem: voice mail.  My voice mail today is on Line 2 and I need rollover from Line 1, and then to voice mail (remember, the reason I called in the first place).  With this SBC package, the voice mail has to go on the main line, Line 1.  “We can’t put it on Line 2, it’s not in the package.”  So I ask, if we change my main number from Line 1 to line 2, will that resolve the situation. “Yes” the rep answers. OK, so that’s no problem, so we continue.  SBC will swap the lines and reset Call Forwarding on Busy/No Answer to make this work.

So he proceeds to tell me about all the things he’s going to do, and one of the things is add Call Waiting to each line - “It’s part of the package.”

“But I don’t want Call Waiting,” I say, “That’s why I signed up for two lines and a voice mail on the second line.  Just turn that off.” 

“I can’t, it’s part of the package.”  I explain that I’ll just call customer service after cutover and get it turned off on the switch, and he checks with his manager: “You can’t do that, you have to have it working to get the package.”

So SBC won’t let me pay for something I won’t use, and I can’t put the voice mailbox on a different line.  So while I’m considering this, the rep drops the casual remark that I’ll see a $60 setup fee on my next bill.  “That’s not for signing up for the bundled package,” he says, “That’s for changing your main number on the account,” which we would have to do in order to make the voice mail work.

Now we don’t like piling on SBC (there are so many similar situations from other carriers that we hear about from clients and friends), but this isn’t an isolated incident. When Pat moved his home office recently, he switched to exactly this same package. Or so he thought… Two weeks later, he checked to see who his LD carrier was - and it wasn’t SBC. It took several weeks of three-calls-a-week to finally get his service cut over. Oh yeah, and he’s stuck with Call Waiting too.

This really goes to show that an old truth remains:  if you can’t execute, then the best package or deal or bundle isn’t worth the money you spent on the advertising (or Web site development). Creating a bundle takes some serious integration, training and back office work.

In the end, I abandoned the order. Instead of capturing me as a customer for the bundled package, they are now dispatching someone to fix the local switch. Go figure. I think the Web site was right: it’s not available in my area.

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