An Ode to’s Customer Service

Several years ago, I was voicing my ongoing frustration with AT&T to my friend, Jason. Jason recommended that I look into I did some research, and made the switch soon thereafter.

Overall, I’ve been satisfied, although I haven’t been thrilled by the speed or the uptime. Uptime is critical for someone who works from home and hosts a lot of teleconferences. While I haven’t had any major outages (unlike AT&T), I’ve had several intermittent outages, some at inopportune times. I know that some of this is out of’s control, but that doesn’t make me any happier when I lose my Internet access while making a presentation. I’ve also had multiple modems fail, including another one this morning. Recently, I’ve been pondering a switch to cable.

What’s prevented me from making the switch has been’s incredible service. It’s a joy to talk to their customer service people. I always get a human being who isn’t reading from a script, who doesn’t patronize me, who goes out of his or her way to solve my problem, and who is friendly and knowledgable. It reminds me of the good ol’ days fifteen years ago when most ISPs were mom-and-pop shops where everyone knew what they were talking about.

This morning, I woke up to discover that my DSL modem had failed, which was super annoying, considering I was planning on working all weekend. I looked up the customer service number on my phone and saw that the call wait was over 30 minutes. On the one hand, that made me grumpy. On the other hand, it was cool to be able to know the wait time before I even called.

So I called, waited a few minutes, and then was given the option to leave a call-back number. Why doesn’t everyone do this?! I left my number, ate a leisurely breakfast, and relaxed. Someone from called back about 45 minutes later. I explained what had happened, he saw that I still had 15 days left on my warranty, and said he’d send out a new modem right away.

I asked how long it would take, and he said two to three business days. Again, that made me grumpy. It meant that I would not have Internet access until Tuesday at the earliest. I expressed my annoyance and asked if there was anything else he could do. He thought for a second, asked me to hold, then said I could swing by the office in Santa Rosa to pick it up myself.

Santa Rosa is over an hour’s drive from San Francisco. It would not be convenient. But, it was better than not having Internet for five days. Plus, there are many worse things you can do than take the beautiful drive up to Santa Rosa in a sunny Saturday afternoon.

So I drove up and met the guy at the offices. He gave me my new modem and asked whether I was heading straight back. I said that I thought I’d find a coffee shop somewhere and camp out for a while. He suggested I go to Flying Goat Coffee nearby. And so here I am, at Flying Goat Coffee (which was an excellent recommendation), sitting outside enjoying the wonderful weather.

I woke up this morning frustrated about my modem. Replacing it was going to be inconvenient no matter what, but if I was going to be inconvenienced, this was the way to do it. It’s yet another reminder of what a difference great customer service makes.

I love the fact that, even on a weekend, I’m going to get someone good and friendly on the phone who will take care of me. I love the fact that, even when the call queue is long, I won’t have to wait on the line, because there’s a callback service. I love how, when I mention on Twitter, the company’s CEO, Dane Jasper, often responds. I wish I had better uptime and faster speeds, but I’ll take the great customer service any day of the week.

People Time

Adina Levin quotes Peter Kaminski:    (21Y)

“Time together in person is too important to spend working.”    (21Z)

Reminds me of something Paul Visscher and Jason Cook told me when I had dinner with them a few weeks ago. I was asking about the hacker community in Dayton and whether folks ever got together to do code sprints. Paul responded, “When I get the chance to see these people in person, I’d rather just hang out with them.” Jason told a story of how he went to one local hacker gathering, where everyone was in a circle, staring at their laptops, something he found rather unappealing.    (220)

To some degree, it shows how spoiled techies are in the Silicon Valley. There are so many of us here, doing code sprints doesn’t necessarily interfere with socializing. When Seb Paquet met up with me in December, he had just come from Marc Canter‘s party and was in awe of how easy it was to run into cool and interesting folks — not just techies — around here. (Hey Marc, where was my invitation?!)    (221)

Stopover in Bloomington

On my way from Fort Wright to St. Louis, I stopped over in Bloomington to have lunch with Chris Dent and some of his colleagues, Joe Blaylock, Kevin Bohan, and Matthew O’Connor. Matthew is one of The Canonical Hackers.    (1YQ)

Lunch conversation was good — spent two hours longer than I had planned. I especially enjoyed meeting Matthew, as well as Paul Visscher and Jason Cook a few nights earlier. You can gather a surprising amount from interacting with folks via email alone, but it’s still only a partial picture. It was good to finally meet these guys in person, and to get a sense of their personalities and passions.    (1YR)

Arrived at Scott Foehner‘s place in St. Louis at around 8:30pm. Had dinner on The Hill at an Italian restaurant called Via’s, then went to Milo’s, a neighborhood bar, for drinks. I was surprised to learn that folks in St. Louis brew beers other than Budweiser. Had a Schlafly’s there, which was very good.    (1YS)

Dayton Redux

Just completed my adventures in the Midwest and South. Will post my notes from my trip over the next few days. -EEK    (1Y4)

Some interesting facts about Dayton and Cincinnati, courtesy of Paul Visscher and Jason Cook:    (1Y5)

  • The Wright brothers are from Dayton.    (1Y6)
  • So are the Sheen’s and the Lowe’s.    (1Y7)
  • So is Edwin Moses.    (1Y8)
  • The aluminum can pop top was invented in Dayton.    (1Y9)
  • Jerry Springer was mayor of Cincinnati, by all accounts a pretty good one, until he was caught giving a check to a prostitute. The check bounced.    (1YA)
  • There are no strip clubs in Cincinnati. Where do folks go for adult entertainment? Dayton, of course.    (1YB)
  • The weather in Dayton is fairly moderate, as Midwestern towns go. Apparently, even the bad weather avoids Dayton.    (1YC)

I talked to many Midwesterners throughout the trip. None of them raved about the area — many complained about the people, the politics, the lack of decent restaurants, etc. — but few of them had any desire to leave. I think a big part of that is family.    (1YD)

I chatted with someone on my trip who suggested that folks on the West Coast have adventurers’ genes. After all, our history is one of exploring the frontier and of immigration.    (1YE)

A Day in Cincinnati

Spent the day with my older sister, Sujean, and my brother-in-law, Isaac, tooling around the Cincinnati area. We spent some time at the Cincinnati’s History Museum, which was very good, and we also saw the SuperCroc exhibit. I was a paleontology nut when I was a kid, and I still enjoy looking at fossils. Scientists have unearthed many new species in the past decade, and the SuperCroc — a 40-foot crocodile from 10 million years ago, discovered in the Saraha Desert — is one of the more interesting finds.    (1RM)

The highlight of the day, of course, was the food. I’m always anxious to sample local specialties, and in Cincinnati (formerly known as pork-opolis), there are two. The first is a pork-and-oats hash known as Goetta. I was a bit scared when Isaac first described it to me — it sounded suspiciously like spam — but it’s actually quite good. Of course, my sister bought it from a great vendor at Findlay Market, so that might have had something to do with it.    (1RN)

The second is Skyline Chili, also known as Cincinnati Chili. It’s chili cooked with cinnamon and cloves, served over spaghetti noodles and piled high with cheddar cheese. There’s a chain called Skyline Chili, where we ate, but there are also several other restaurants that specialize in it.    (1RO)

Tomorrow, I’ll poke around the city a bit more, then will have drinks with Paul Visscher and Jason Cook of The Canonical Hackers.    (1RP)