Saturday, February 28, 2009

Internet Service Providers Not Providing

I sort of grew as a businessperson along with the era of the Internet and modern technology. However, there is still so much for me to get used to and it is growing on a daily basis. It is one thing to have been involved in this growth all along, but quite another to be able to keep up with it; and, when you are blind or do not have enough vision to see things, there is a huge gap.

The mainstream person (someone without stereotypical special needs) who is lucky enough to be able to see and learn things, who can easily understand and fix technical problems, and who knows how to communicate with technical support teams at their Internet service providers, can consider themselves lucky. However for me, the picture is different. Yes, for the most part when a glitch occurs in my Internet service I can understand what is going on, but the trouble starts when I try to communicate this to technicians at my Internet service provider.

You see, my Internet service provider is staffed with technicians whose first language is not English and their culture is one where they have not been exposed to persons who are either technically disabled or otherwise disabled due to anyone of the following: hearing, sight, or physical impairments. So whenever I phone them with a problem, they are at a loss as how to communicate with me. 99% of the time, I spend the first 15 minutes trying to explain why I am unable to give them the requested info about my modem. The conversation goes something like this:

Technician: "Please give me the model number on your modem."
Donna: "Sorry, but I can't because I am blind."
Technician: "Well, do you see the lights on your modem?"
Donna: "No, I do not see any lights on my modem because I am blind."
Technician: "Okay, then what color is your modem?"
Donna: "Sir, I told you that I am unable to see because I am blind."

After about 15 minutes of this type of conversation the technician finally gets it and understands that something is wrong with me, and he then informs me that maybe my modem is not working. This occurs after much wasted energy and only after I have convinced him to check to see if there is a signal to my modem from his end. He tells me that there is no signal, so the modem is dead. He is going to order a new modem for me but guess what? I will not be able to install the modem when it arrives because it requires vision to do so.

We haggle on the phone for another 15 minutes, and in the end I am told that there is no one from the company to help me with this at the present time. A technician will not be available until about three days later. So in the meantime, I will have to do without Internet service. Tough. If I really want to restore my Internet service sooner than this, I will need to pay a technician about $100 to come to my home office and install the modem which the Internet service provider is only too willing to send to me via priority post.

So what is the problem here? As a general rule of thumb, most Internet service providers do not provide on site technical support to their customers. If you need help over and above phone support, you are out of luck and you will have to pay out of your pocket for on site technical support. What disturbs me greatly is that my particular Internet service provider falls woefully short when it comes to both phone support and lack of on-site support. Yet every month they are more than happy to accept my payments, but if you make the mistake of missing a payment one month, then see how quickly they will cut your services.

What Internet service providers need to understand is this: Their bread and butter consumers of tomorrow will be those who did not grow up in the age of technology. Aging baby boomers, retirees, seniors, and the ever-growing number of those with physical, hearing, and vision challenges. If they continue to ignore these consumers, then much sooner than later they will find themselves facing a massive exit of customers seeking better services or even more serious may be a series of lawsuits by customers who will take them to court over inadequate service.

Internet service providers need to provide better support services to their consumers; phone support by technicians who can communicate better in English, and reliable on-site support. This can all be accomplished but we need to have cooperation and communication between Internet service providers and their consumers.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan, your accessibility and business needs consultant, wishing you a terrific day and reminding you to start educating your Internet service providers as to how they can better serve their bread and butter consumers of tomorrow.

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