A straw poll of 14 ISPs concluded that most are not providing the quality of service that prospective customers expect. The report concludes that ISPs are neither willing to chase business nor are capable of providing a single point of contact capable of handling simple technical enquiries.
The poll was conducted after Kingfisher, a public relations company, had several bad experiences when setting up Web sites for itself and its clients. Jim Fisher, managing director of Kingfisher, said: "The situation reminds me of the early days when microcomputers arrived on the scene, with all sorts of cowboys looking to jump on the distribution bandwagon."
The report concentrated on 14 companies, a mixture of the most publicised ISPs, some unknown to the authors, and the remainder comprising companies local to the PR firm (SE England). They were all faced with the same scenario: a company looking to set up a commercial Web site using a personalised domain name, multiple mailboxes and dialup facilities. The only technical dimension was the desire to upload pages and CGI scripts, accepting that some ISPs prefer to test CGIs and load them themselves.
"Almost universally, call handling was poor - with long ring times before answer - and often pathetic," claimed Matthew Fisher who conducted the poll. "Once the call was established, the levels of competency displayed varied hugely, but was rarely good."
In four cases, the people responsible for taking the call were unavailable. Only two of them called back on the same day. Nine days after the survey, AT&T had not returned the call and another company explained that the salesperson responsible was at lunch and suggested the caller phone back in an hour. "In our eyes that gets them the golden cock-up award - if they want our money, they should do the work, not us," commented Fisher.
EasyNet and Pinnacle Internet came top of the poll. In both cases, one person handled the full enquiry and seemed to have sufficient understanding of the products and services on offer. A couple of the larger companies, Demon and UUNet Pipex, fell at this hurdle because calls were passed between departments.
Over half the sample could not provide one or all of the services requested. This prompted Fisher to state: "We found that ISP is too broad a term. These companies should be more specific about what they offer. This would save both their time and the enquirer's time. Most of the companies had set packages which they were often unwilling to change.
It was more a case of 'this is what we do, take it or leave it'."
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