More bad Customer Relations…

When you get an e-mail from someone that has as part of its title “Final Notification”, do you expect to have at least had one previous notification?  Calling something a “Final Notification” when its the first notification isn’t inaccurate or technically incorrect… It could both the first and last time they’re telling you.  But in my mind the branding “Final Notification” is usually reserved for use as a last resort after warning people a few times has failed.  It commands some level of urgency, and a bit of a “You’ve been naughty. You haven’t done what we asked and now you’ll be in trouble if you don’t listen to us” type tone.

So today I got an e-mail from my “favourite” customer service department (the one at iBurst)  which told me that “Due to excessive incidents of spamming on the iBurst network and the corresponding risk of being blacklisted by the various anti-spam organisations, we will be implementing certain preventative measures on our network.”  Now I got the mail at 1:18pm on Friday the 24th of June… Their e-mail also states that these measures will be implemented on Monday 27 June 2005.  They then go into a whole bunch of technical talk about how “All subscribers will only be permitted to relay outgoing mail through our authorised relay server”.  Now to the average user that would be greek – I can hear them thinking “I’m not relaying mail, I’m sending it”.  From what I understand from their e-mail, they’re bascially going to block all port 25 traffic unless its going to their smtp server.

Now I fully understand that there are probably a bunch of people on their network who’s PC’s are spam zombies and are sending out spam at massive rates.  Heck even my poor PC fell prey to that when I first connected with them, and I had a firewall and an antivirus product running on my pc, and my PC was pretty up to date with patches, and I ran at least 2 anti-spyware programs to keep my pc clean.  (I have some theories as to how my pc got infected… but I can’t verify any of them)

Anyway, back to the point… while I understand the problem that they face, I don’t really like how they’ve chosen to sort it out.  Basically their entire customer base now has 2.5 days (two of which are over a weekend) to sort out their mail settings.  Luckily my company uses its IS line to send its mail, and uses its iBurst connection for web surfing.  So our “techies” won’t have to be here on the weekend making changes to their settings… but I do know that they were hoping/dreaming about the possibility of moving away from the IS line entirely and using only iBurst for our whole company.  I guess this “lets treat our customers like mindless slaves” type incident won’t help their dreams.

I don’t mind changing my mail settings to use smtp.wbs.co.za but I really liked using my own mail server to send my mails – at least I’m in control of my server unlike wbs’s.  But I DO mind being given a deadline 2.5 days away without any previous warning.  Any half decent company plans ahead, and actually understands that these things might take time for some people to understand.  What if I was on holiday – I could have taken a long weekend, and I’d never have seen their mail until it was too late.  What if our company’s mails were sent out via our iBurst and they didn’t send their mails via smtp.wbs.co.za.  Since WBS sent the e-mail to the customer’s one email address, the “techie” who gets those mails could have been away this weekend, and on monday our e-mail service would have died, and we could lose business. I’m sure we wouldn’t, but it could happen… But WBS seem to be unable to think about what the consequences of their decisions will be.  I’m not sure about you, but I was taught as a kid that my actions have consequences both for me and for others.  I know that not all businesses seem to be aware of that life lesson, but I was kinda hoping that in general we’d moved beyond that phase in business.

I half expect that on monday their mail server will fall over, nobody will be able to send mails, and their help desk will still be asking “Are you sure you have the right MTU settings?”.  It frustrates me to even think about it.  So I’m going to go and call FusionReactor quickly to see if I can’t perhaps use their mail server instead of WBS’s – going by the quality of their tech support guys I’m sure we can arrange something – even if it is just reassuring me that nothing will go wrong.

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