Economical with the actualité

I’m a little concerned, because either (a) I’m turning into one of those difficult customers that I dislike so much, or (b) customer service in HK really is often risibly inadequate and infuriating. I hope it’s the latter.

Case in point: Hutchison Global, my home ISP. When I got home last Friday night, my broadband wasn’t working: there’s no “sync” light on the modem, so either the line’s down or the modem’s brain has died. These things happen; the modem looks like it was put together in China for a few cents, so I’m not unhappy that it’s lasted nearly 18 months already. And getting service should be easy: my HGC installation document has a “24-hour Broadband Service Hotline” number on it, and the HGC web site promises in its FAQ:

Q17. Do you provide 24-hour technical support?

Yes, you can call our 24-hour Customer Service Hotline on 1222 for technical support at any time. Our service team will make sure your enquiry is directed to the right person.

Take heed, all ye potential HGC customers out there. This statement is an outrageous lie. Except it isn’t: see below.

I called 1222 after 11pm on Friday. There is no technical support. Instead, there is an extended series of telephone menus which (eventually) tells you that “the office is closed”, takes your phone number, and queues you for a call back. It’s now after 3pm on Monday, I’ve heard nothing from HGC, and my broadband is still broken. Does that make the FAQ entry a lie? No: it’s actually very cleverly disingenuous and dishonest. You can indeed call 1222 for technical support at any time (although there may not be any humans on the other end). And their service team will certainly ensure that the enquiry reaches the right person, although it may take several days for them to do so.

As a bonus, HGC have the most blitheringly incompetent set of telephone-driven menus that I’ve ever had to battle with. Here’s some examples from Friday evening (and, in a moment of hubris, bear in mind that I dismantle the semantics of computer-based systems on-the-fly professionally, so if it makes little sense to me, it makes less sense to the majority of HGC’s customers):

  • Early on in the dialogue, HGC asks you to input your account number. I typed in the eight digits from the “account number” field on my installation sheet. I then navigated what felt like a dozen more menus before the system told me that the account number I’d entered was invalid, and asked me to “select one of the following options”. Except it didn’t proceed to list any options. It simply thanked me for calling and disconnected the call. If you accept critical data from the user, validate it immediately; don’t allow the user to continue with a lengthy doomed transaction.
  • So I called back and this time, when the system asked for my account number, I pressed ‘#’ (an option it explicitly suggests) to indicate that I didn’t know my account number. After another dozen menus, it asked for my account number again! And this time, there was no option for “I don’t know it”. There’s no way to proceed from here. Be consistent in requesting input from the user, and don’t contradict input that the user has already provided.

My full account number is shown on all my HGC bills, but I receive the bills on-line so my lack of Internet access rather hampered my efforts to find it. Eventually I “borrowed” the neighbour’s wireless for a minute and found the extra three digits that needed to be appended to the number on the installation sheet.

It took me two more tries to complete the transaction, because HGC don’t mention the need to press ‘#’ after entering your phone number (it’s not implicitly obvious: phone numbers are always eight digits so a terminating ‘#’ may not be necessary, and if it is, the system should damn well say so; it was quite clear about pressing ‘#’ after entering the account numbers).

So, nought-out-of-ten for customer service so far. Let’s see how long it takes them to call me back, and from that point, how long before my broadband is working again.

    2 thoughts on “Economical with the actualité

    1. Why are you using HGC and not PCCW like most people?

      What are your download speeds like?

      How much are you paying?

      Do you get annoyed at questions like these?

      But I am interested.

    2. Fair questions. I’m using HGC because at the time I had the broadband installed they had better $$$-per-Mb/s compared to PCCW (don’t ask me to remember the actual figures; it was well over a year ago!).

      Currently I pay $160 per month for 10Mb/s symmetric, and the download speeds are generally okay given HK’s ropey peering to the outside world.

      It never occurred to me to change to PCCW; HGC’s service, when working, has been entirely satisfactory – fast enough, and with very little downtime. It’s only when the damn thing goes wrong that HGC’s customer service weakness manifests itself.

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