Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Core values: why Earthlink is a big fat liar

For over two months I have been utterly frustrated and infuriated by Earthlink. Back in December I finally gave in and signed up for their Internet phone service after repeatedly being hounded by telemarketers to open an account. But as soon as I tried to get help hooking up the device they sent me, that's when the trouble started. Getting through to technical support was like Mission: Impossible. I tried various times and ended up waiting on hold forever only to be disconnected at the end. Wow, if this was how it was going to be, I thought to myself, I better not switch. So I called them and was able to reach a live person who had no problem canceling my service. Phew! I felt relieved that I had averted that problem so easily.

A couple of days later, I tried making a call. Dead silence at the other end. I check the handset, the the wires, I try again. Nothing. No phone service. Aargh!! When I call Earthlink they inform me that my old carrier disconnected me because I failed to notify them that I wasn't going to switch. What?? No one told me that I had to contact my old carrier!! Then they said I'd get my service back quicker if I rejoined with Earthlink, so I agreed to go back. Whatever it takes to get my phone working! It actually ended up taking 10 days to get hooked up again...Double aarrgh!!!

A month goes by. I bump into a friend who said she'd been trying to call me that morning but got a recording saying that my number had been disconnected. Oh-oh... When I got home I quickly tested my phone. Nothing. I won't bore you with the unpleasant details but what followed was pure hell. I called customer support and tried to get help for three days, until I realized that with Earthlink, YOU need to be the technician. You can't just report the problem and have someone come fix it, like the old days. No, you need to wait forever on hold and then get transferred to a zillion places and then follow instructions from a person with a very thick accent that will make you fix the problem. It took almost three weeks to get my phone to work. Needless to say, I am in the process of switching to yet another carrier.

Why do companies push you into buying their products and services, then fail to deliver? Since I've been working on my own mission statement, I was curious to see what Earthlink's was. It says in their website: "We deliver a reliable and personalized experience our customers trust." Uh-huh. Right. Under "Core Values" they say: "We make commitments with care, and then live up to them. In all things, we do what we say we are going to do. " Liars! Big fat liars!

When I was putting together a list of core values for my business plan last week, I came up with these: integrity, honesty, quality, achievement, perseverance, flexibility, tolerance, respect, trust. These are the things I want my company to stand for, and having had this recent experience made me realize how important it is to keep those values alive always, and to not allow greed or fear of failure to cause me to use deceptive practices with current or prospective clients. No way, no how. So Earthlink taught me a great business lesson: what not to do. Here's another reason companies stray from the mission: Tony Bennett POV.

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