direcPC installation


I'm usually at work by 9am, so I was planning to be a little late. At 9:45, there was no sign of the installer, so I called him to ask where he was. He gave me the address of where he was at. Rather taken aback at his matter-of-fact response, I asked when he would be installing my satellite dish. His reply was what every customer wants to hear: "Who is this?" I explained that I had an appointment to have DirectPC installed at 9:30am and it was now 9:46 (it took a minute for the conversation to get to this point). He informed me that the installer was on his way.

By 10am I was very frustrated. A few minutes past 10 I got a call from the installer stating he was going to be late. I informed him that he was not "going" to be late, he was late and I was none too pleased. He told me it was going to be another half hour before he could get there. I was shocked at his casual dismissal of the time I had already wasted waiting for him, along with the half hour he expected me to wait. I tersely told him I had a meeting that I had to attend at 10:30am and would not be there when he arrived. I was informed (for the first time) that the install was going to take four and a half hours, so I asked my roommate if he would be able to let the guy in to get started on the install. When I gave him the address, he asked if it was an apartment. I told him it was a condominium and he inquired how high the roof was. I estimated about two stories and he complained that it was too high and that the standard install is only for single story houses so the install was going to cost even more. That was exactly what I wanted to do: pay more money to wait around for the installer. This was yet another tidbit of information that would have been nice to have known beforehand.

The installer called me during the meeting to find out where the condo was. I gave him directions to it (again) and called my roommate to let him know that a Redneck Installer would be soon be knocking at the door. A few minutes later the installer called me again to ask what number the condo was. He was dumbfounded when he learned that the address contained the number of the apartment. I returned to the meeting and my roommate had the joy of spending some quality time with our new friend.

After I got out of the meeting I walked by my cubicle and found my roommate there. Apparently the guy had finally gotten to the door and after walking around the place declared that he couldn't do anything without a taller ladder. He said he was going to see about getting a bigger truck that could hold a bigger ladder and call me back. It's hard for me to fathom that our roof is so abnormally high that he had to go get a bigger ladder and charge me $40 to do it. I don't like paying for another person's lack of planning and yet I had little recourse. I had exhausted all the other options I knew of for high-speed internet access so I regretfully agreed to the additional charge.

Our upstairs neighbors have a barking dog that is admittedly annoying, but my roommate informed me that this guy couldn't stop talking about how annoying it was. Usually, someone will mention an annoyance and continue with what they are doing. Not him. He couldn't get over it. In fact, he talked about it so much that his complaining became more annoying than the dog barking. Thankfully I didn't have to hear him whine about the dog.

After an hour or so, he called saying he'd found a bigger ladder and we agreed to meet at the condo again. When I arrived he asked me to help him get the ladder up against the building. Isn't that what I'd agreed to pay him $40 to do? As a comparison, we had an installer from a wireless company come to our condo a few months before and he grabbed his ladder, hopped up onto the roof and took a look. It was great to deal with someone who knew what he was doing and did it well. Dealing with this guy was like having a mechanic start working on your car and then come in with a part in his hand and ask you what it is.

When we finally got the ladder situated, he gingerly climbed it, stepping up with one foot, then bringing the other one to the same rung as if it was the first time he'd ever ascended a ladder. Efficiency and speed were not on his priority list. After deciding that the roof was okay, he popped some more bad news. We needed a modem and a phone line to register the dish. We don't have a phone line because we both have cell phones. He stated there was no way to install the dish without a phone line. I called my roommate to see if he had a modem somewhere and while I was talking to him, noticed that on the box the satellite came in it read: "No modem or phone line required!" How's that for sweet irony? My roommate and I tried to come up with alternative solutions while the guy just kept stating how he was just going to have to leave because there was absolutely nothing else he could do.

We decided that my roommate would get an adaptor for his cell phone and see if we could make a call using that. During the wait for my roommate to get there, I put in a load of laundry and he followed me around the rooms dutifully, asking me rhetorical questions about what I was doing. "Putting in a load of laundry, huh?" "Washing your hands, aren't ya?" When he saw my juggling clubs he asked me if I juggled. Lucky for me, I didn't have to visit the loo because I'm convinced he would have marched right in behind me and asked me if I was going to relieve myself.

My roommate had gone to Radio Shack to get the cell phone adapter, but they didn't have any in stock. There was a laptop that had a modem in it (none of the other 4 computers in our apartment had one) so we decided to use it for the gateway. We stuck a long phone cord into our neighbor's bedroom window (with her permission of course) to use her phone line to make the toll-free call. In the end, we managed to do the impossible and got our satellite registered.

Once we successfully completed that task, I had to leave for another meeting at 3pm. I had signed up to play golf with some people from work at 5:15pm so I told him I wasn't going to be back by the time he would be done. His solution was that I would have to miss golf. My solution, after explaining that if anything, he was going to have to come back another day, was that I sign the papers now and let my roommate meet with him after the install. He said that we couldn't do that and the discussion got a bit heated. Just before I walked out the door he pulled out the papers for me to sign. Did he just enjoy arguing?

Before I left I made sure to thank our neighbor for letting us use her phone line and that if it was alright with her we wanted to use it once more at the end of the install. She said that would be fine and to just let her know when we wanted to use it. I came back and told my roommate and the genius what our neighbor had said. His response was, "We'll just kick the neighbor off the phone when we're ready to use it." I retorted that maybe we could wait for her to get off the phone first and then ask her if it was alright to use it again. He sheepishly admitted that it would be a much more appropriate course of action.

I returned to work after having spent nearly two hours dealing with him. It was not a pleasant customer service experience. He was argumentative, smelly and in his own words, "sweating like a stuck pig." Even after hearing that both my roommate and I had assembled our own computers and worked as computer programmers for a living, he felt the need to explain simple steps to use the computer. "Now you'll want to click the Start button in the bottom left of the screen."

The experience as a whole was negative. I'm hoping this was a rare instance of poor customer relations and that in general it's much better, but I only know how I was treated. After all of the torture to get it installed, you are probably wondering how it performs. The first few days we got speeds worse than a dialup, but recently I've gotten up to 160KB/sec in the very early morning. I haven't seen it go for more than a few minutes at a time and even that is rare. It stayed up during a severe thunderstorm so reliability is good so far. The only complaint I have is the latency. The lowest I've seen is 800ms and the worst I've seen is around 3s (yes that's seconds) with a few packets taking up to 5s.

I'm hoping that when our year contract is up we'll have companies knocking on our door trying to sell us their services for less money and with higher bandwidth. Until then we're stuck with a high-latency connection. The only alternative I'm aware of would be a fractional T1, which would cost on the order of $300+/month. In order to make that price practical we would have to set up a wireless network within the condo buildings and charge a monthly fee to use our connection. We would probably offer web hosting services as well to subsidize the cost even more, but I would prefer to avoid the headaches of doing all that.

This is a list of things that would have improved the quality of customer service I received:

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. If you're going to be late, call at the time you were supposed to be there.
  3. Before anyone comes out to install the service, have the salesperson verify that the customer has everything they need.
  4. Give the customer as much information as possible (like how long it's going to take to install)
  5. Don't require something that is not necessary for the service (modem, phone line). Why couldn't I just register using the satellite connection? The installer could have had an access code to get in and then I could have registered my information without the use of a modem or a phone.
  6. Don't argue with the customer. If they're wrong, explain calmly and clearly what the issues are.

Updated Oct 25, 2016