In 1994 I took my first steps onto the Internet. Migrating from the old regional dial-up Bulletin Board system using it’s FidoNet messaging system, I had my first taste of the Internet when I started using Almac BBS in Scotland which had – gasp – Internet e-mail connectivity. A few weeks later, spurred on by the glimpse of the “big network” I joined Demon Internet – an ISP which offered dial-up access to the Internet “proper” at a “tenner a month”.
Cliff Stanford founded Demon Internet in 1992. It was one of the first Internet Service Providers in the UK and allowed budding geek’s like myself to get on-line and experience E-Mail, Usenet, Telnet, Gopher, and later a budding technology known as the “World Wide Web”.
As a member of Demon, you felt like part of a real community. What’s more, the staff at Demon were helpful. They were happy to provide “under the hood” help, Technical information that enabled you to fix your own issues. Maybe time makes things seem better than they were – but I rarely remember any serious complaints about the service.
In 1998 Demon Internet was sold to Scottish Telecom, who went on to become Thus plc – and it’s here where my story takes a turn for the worst.
One of my customers chose Demon as their ISP last year, to provide a 1mb SDSL line in their Head Office. Demon weren’t my first choice, but it was the customers decision and they were a name I recognised and remembered fondly.
The first hint of problems was when my customer, frustrated with the fact that repeated dates for installation of the SDSL line had been promised but not delivered upon, turned to me to get to the source of the issue. It was at this early stage that I became familiar with Demon’s ideas of a “Premier Service”. The service costs more, you telephone a different number for support – but hey, it’s “Premier” so it must be better right?
Earlier this month my customer lost their SDSL connection. They tried to telephone Demon’s “Premier Support” – but after an hour on hold, the line rang out. This happened repeatedly. E-Mail to the Support Department wasn’t responded to, and the customer was left wondering what was happening and when it would be fixed.
When they finally get through to Support, they are told that there is an “Authentication Problem” affecting Premier Customers. There is no ETA for resolution.
One day of downtime turns into two, then three, then four – each day the cycle continues – the customer telephones Demon, spends most of the day (literally) on hold – then is told that there is no update on the issue.
So the customers turns to me to see if I can get any more information from Demon. “We’re a Premier Customer, but we’re getting shoddy service”, “Why are ‘Standard’ customers working, but we aren’t” and so on. I explain that an SLA for any xDSL service isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, but I promise to see what I can do.
I then too experience the horror of a wasted hour on the telephone to Support only to be cut off – so I turn to other support methods. There is no response to e-mail, but behold! Demon offer an Text based Instant Messaging service – why don’t all ISP’s do that?
So after a few minutes wait, I get through to my Demon Support representative. “I appreciate there is a system issue affecting Premier Customers – but it has been almost 7 days now. What on earth is the problem?”. “I’m sorry Sir, we don’t deal with Premier Support issues through Instant Messaging – can you call 0845 blah blah for Premier Support”. “But all I want is a shred of information!”. “Sorry Sir, we simply cannot help”.
Unbelievable. The first time I’ve ever seen a case of a “Premier Customer” being penalised for paying extra!
Some 7 days on, the service was restored. Not that Demon told us – I just had the customer rebooting the Router on a regular basis in the hope that it would spring into life. In fact, if you check Demon’s Network Status Page – you’ll see the same “Authentication issues on Premier Broadband” message that’s been on that page for almost 2 weeks now!
The customers contract with Demon is up in July and guess what – they can’t wait to get away. I’ve already recommended an ISP that takes Support seriously – they aren’t the cheapest, but then if you’re relying on your Internet connection to power your business, price shouldn’t be your first concern.
As for Demon – it’s a sad sad story. From being the company that got me online all those years ago, providing all the technical information I ever needed, they are now a faceless corporation who think their customers are too inexperienced to be fed even the slightest bit of information on issues.
Demon – go to hell!