The Bane of the Unnecessary Truck Roll

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I received this email from a retired field technician who is also a POTS and bandwidth customer of a large RBOC that he worked for.

Donald,

I’ve been reading your column for what seems to be 20 years. Always good stuff. 

I was formerly an outside plant field technician, facility technician, and testing technician for a large RBOC. After an injury from a fall from a telephone pole that ended my career as a field technician, this led me to working at a rather prestigious space facility that has no aerial plant. My stint there lasted 14 years working and providing technical support for trouble calls on inside and outside plant. I retired a year ago. 

I would like to say thanks for your articles, because they served to help me and many others to better understand the nature of the copper infrastructure beast. You have frequently offered very good explanations about troubleshooting the copper infrastructure and why we should do what we do to keep the plant healthy. 

As I am newly retired, I am becoming frustrated with the service that I receive when calling our POTS and bandwidth provider. After 5 years of excellent service for our 3.0 Meg DSL service we have had failures once a month for the past year. The POTS service has never failed. Each time we contact repair service, the cable pair is tested and found to test OK by the test center technician, who then schedules a service technician to our address.

It’s important to note that my DSL service is immediately restored after the test center technician concludes his testing. When the field technician arrives and tests our copper cable pair, the inside wiring, and our equipment no trouble is found. Dispatch then escalates the trouble ticket to a Tier 2 team that rebuilds the back channel without success. When No Trouble Found the ticket is closed. When the problem occurs again, we call in and a new ticket is generated and the cycle repeats.

We’ve seen 12 field technicians in the last year, all reporting No Trouble Found. I have noticed that when the DSL service fails the modem light remains green, but the Internet light is red. Rebooting has the same results. Logging into the modem shows a good connection up and down but shows no Internet connection. This leads us to believe the problem is the DSL Server that is reset when the line is tested.

It seems the Telco has a myriad of communication problems. Calling repair takes you through no less than 5 menus re-explaining the same problem every time when reaching a “special” support center in an overseas location that cannot see the previous attempts when trying to correct the problem. A repeat trouble is handled like it’s something new each time, causing needless dispatch of field technicians. It is ridicules how untouchable and unreachable the Tier 2 management and engineering are when the same problem repeats over and over. It seems that no one actually takes ownership of the problem although customer service people say they are. I’m suggesting that this is evidence of the impending demise of OSP copper services. Most people would have given up and moved on to another ISP. We will too.

Thanks for listening.
Wishing you all the success.
Steve

The following response to Steve is a blended response from me and an industry-respected copper and fiber consultant, Vernon May.

Steve,

I and 200,000 field technicians who maintain the copper, fiber, and coax infrastructures feel your pain. Millions of dollars are wasted on unnecessary truck rolls. I have been in the repair business for a lot of years and have had the good fortune of working with a plethora of skilled technicians and managers who provide technical support for trouble calls on inside and outside plant.

I believe that the missing entity is interdepartmental teaming. There is a very old saying that there is No I in team. There should always be a positive interaction between departments to provide quality service for the customer. In many instances, I have seen an adversarial position between departments. Too often the field technician and the central office testing and dispatch technician are at loggerheads when they should be working together.

In your case, it looks like everybody is trying to fix your problem, so effort is not the issue. Many times, the help desk is discouraged to dispatch, so it can require several calls and a few days to get on-site help.

Based on your description, your provider is looking for a copper problem or a DSL problem. It could just as easily be an Ethernet problem. And that does not necessarily mean in the network. The home network is Ethernet also.

Since the problem is fixed when the help desk performs a test suggests that a reset solves the problem temporarily. Some buffer is getting full or some threshold is being passed.

Based on many provider silo structures, no employee is allowed to take ownership anymore. Each department does its function and nothing more. This works OK when the trouble is easy or normal.

Subscribers in your situation with difficult trouble causes are far too often left out in the cold. When another provider is an option, these subscribers run to the competitor. A certain percentage of subscriber loss is built into the silo business model. It is shocking to those of us taught to value every subscriber, but good customer service is becoming more and more rare in this industry.

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Signing off
Thank you, Vernon, for joining me in commenting about this reader’s problem. And thank you, Steve, for sharing your challenges with us. I’d love to hear from more of you out there! Please email, text, or call, if you are facing an unsolvable problem. Thank you also to my loyal readers. 831.818.3930 or dmccarty@mccartyinc.com.

As the Chief Technologist and Founder of Vernon May Solutions, Vernon, an expert in OSP and ISP Operations, is focused on new technology introduction, from Marketing and Sales to Design Enhancement to Training to Product Approval. Along with writing a quarterly column for ISE magazine, he also hosts seminars available throughout the country. For more information, please email vernon@vmaysolutions.com or visit http://vmaysolutions.com.

 

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About Author

Don McCarty is the OSP EXPERT columnist for ISE magazine, discussing the issues around provisioning, testing, and maintaining copper for all services from POTs to IPTV. Don is also president of and the lead trainer for McCarty Products, a technical training and products company training field technicians, cable maintenance, installation repair, and Central Office technicians and managers. For more information, email dmccarty@mccartyinc.com or visit www.mccartyinc.com.

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