Whatever happened to keeping the promises both implied and real that you make to a customer? In nearly every industry you look nowadays, it seems customer service is getting more miserable. Why is the onus now on the customer to make sure you're getting exactly what you pay for?

Consider my recent experience upgrading my DSL service: SBC is trying to lure people away from cable's broadband, and to keep its own DSL customers, with hot pricing deals of $15 for basic service and $25 for expanded. I recently discovered that since I signed up for DSL years ago, I was getting speeds worse in some cases that what'd you get for basic service.

A quick call to SBC was meant to change that. I signed up for DSL pro, which offers 1.5 to 3 Mbps downstream and 384 to 584 Kbps upstream. A super-chatty customer service agent told me I would have to sign up for long-distance to get the better price (as a current SBC customer). I did that, then was told to wait for seven days for the DSL speed boost to occur automatically.

Nine days later, I was still waiting.

Again, I called SBC customer service, only to be told that the first customer service agent had noted the change but never actually submitted the order (though he did manage to submit the long-distance order that was adding some bucks to my bill). I was told to wait seven days more for the line upgrade to be provisioned.

Another eight days later, still no faster speed. In fact, the upstream speed appeared to have slowed down! I called customer service again, but was told the speed had been upgraded. My testing through dslreports.com told me otherwise. The new suggestion: Wait a few days more, then call back.

Fed up, I e-mailed the regional PR rep for SBC and described my problems, noting I planned to write a blog on them. Within 24 hours, I was getting speeds near the top of the promised faster range.

An SBC rep told me the problem is that 90% of the time, you can upgrade a customer's speed simply my entering the order into the electronic system. But the other 10%, you must physically do location work to replace old cabling or equipment.

Oddly, no one told me that when I first ordered upgraded service, nor at any point when I called to complain. Other friends say they, too, have ordered the faster service but seen no upgrade. Not being journalists, they haven't been told of the 90-10 problem.

Where's the love SBC?

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