(PREFACE NOTE: To be fair, I will state for the record that SMART does care and generally does listen to its customers. They’ve established social media services on Twitter @ Smartcares and willingly accept comments regarding customer concerns via e-mail at [email protected] )
As much as I’d like it to be, this is not an “Open Letter to SMART Bro.” It’s more like venting my frustrations than anything else. I mean, I’ve been pretty doggone patient and understanding over these past four months. Things seem to have arrived at a point, however, where I am starting to feel as though someone is taking advantage of my patience and understanding, and ignoring their duty to fulfill their contract to the best of their ability.
I am at a precipice, delicately balancing all considerations while trying to maintain that patient and understanding outlook on my current situation.
Perhaps the flood of SMART Bro commercials appearing on the various local television channels or playing endlessly on the local radio stations has tossed a little imbalance into the game. I can still hear the “Nine out of Ten” claims echoing from the sala.
Well, here’s a “shout out” from that “One out of Ten”!
Local ‘Bro is Outstanding
I’ve no beef with those members of the SMART Bro organization here in my municipality and in the provincial capital of Laoag City. They have served me extremely well.
Signing on for SMART’s broadband internet service was simple and without any hassle or tedious wait. Courteous, friendly, and beaming with customer service, the personnel at the local PLDT office really took good care of my application and me. I went out of my way to pass my commendations to them personally and to their managers in their presence. I wish all business people I deal with in The Philippines were so considerate and caring.
The local technical team quickly responded to the internet connectivity problems that unexpectedly popped up during the past four months and resolved them well beyond my best expectations. Like anyone inconvenienced, I had wished the team to have shown up and cured the internet ailments “yesterday,” but I did realize that I had a definite place on their list of repairs and found their response time to more than make up for any inconvenience I experienced. Cures were solid and sure. I couldn’t ask for more. Here, again, I made sure that I mentioned my complete and total satisfaction with the team’s efforts and their prompt problem resolutions when completing the follow-on “How’s our service?” survey.
The Gripes Begin Here, ‘Bro
I must reiterate – I’ve no problems with the local SMART Bro organization. They’re tops in my book. They’ve done and continue to do their job efficiently, effectively and with the customer foremost in their professional minds.
Outside of those local stalwarts of good service, there’s a problem – a BIG, SMART Bro problem. I know there must be people elsewhere in the national organization, but they lay low and pretty much reside below the radar or off the radar screen. The problem appears systemic.
Not having a landline, I’ve more than once used up my (Globe) cell phone loads contacting SMART’s “toll free” customer service number in Manila, being placed on hold for “just one moment, sir,” and watching my cell pesos pay for my “enjoyment” of the latest SMART Bro advertisements playing in my phone’s earpiece.
Even the simple joy of talking to a human being seems tainted. One “customer service” clerk, upon hearing of my being unable to use the internet, suggested that I download this or that software tool from the SMART Bro website and that would undoubtedly help me. DUH! I would if I could connect to the website! (The software tools, by the way, don’t help – they won’t work properly if one can’t establish a connection via the internet.)
I’m afraid the best “customer service” technical advice I’ve received via my cell phone was an honest response from a young woman who apparently hadn’t been with the organization long enough to pick up their “techniques”: “I’m sorry, sir, you’ll just have to wait until your internet comes back!”
Beyond the SMART Telecommunications Tower
ATTENTION SMART Bro – lost service doesn’t “come back” just like that. In fact, lost service doesn’t come back at all. It’s gone! POOF! It’s lost forever in the ether, never to come back. Service can be restored but, once lost, can never be recovered.
My contract states that I will receive unlimited internet connectivity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so long as I keep my account current. Well, I HOPE TO SHOUT that I WOULD CONSIDER MYSELF LUCKY if I have ever received a day or two’s worth of 24 continuous, uninterrupted hours of internet connectivity since I’ve started using SMART Bro. Patient? Yes. Understanding? Most definitely. Tired of poor service? YOU BETCHA!
I understand that these past few months have been plagued with the type of weather conditions that prowl on and attack utilities such as electricity and telecommunications. I can understand how typhoon rains and winds, with their accompanying floods and landslides, could hamper or eliminate such services. I cannot fault SMART Bro for service interruptions occurring while I’m experiencing a brown out.
Tell me, SMART Bro: With all of the bad weather, and its accompanying physical maladies, why is it I can still text or speak on my cell phone? It is similar technology, handled pretty much via systems found on the same telecommunications towers outside weathering the storms. I wish I knew. I’ve often wondered why groups like the N.P.A., the M.I.L.F. and the A.S.G. target telecommunications towers for explosive destruction. (Could insufficient or nonexistent download speeds be a contributing factor?)
I also wonder why it is that I can now accurately predict a pending brown out by observing a pattern of intermittent then nonexistent internet service offered by SMART Bro. Yes, if I observe certain characteristics “on line,” I can bet anyone “dollars (or pesos) to donuts” that an electrical brown out will shortly ensue.
I Can Communicate With “Our” Tower
Being experienced in electronic and information systems troubleshooting (a previous career best not elaborated); I can tell where a problem does not exist. Telecommunications technicians have always used the “It’s on the distant end” method of fixing problems whenever they found themselves in over their heads. In my case, the problem is not on this end. Nor is it between my antenna and the telecommunications tower at which my antenna is pointed.
On one occasion of a SMART Bro technical team visit, I “obtained” access to their link testing protocols for my service (and my service alone). With these smart tools, I can see whether my antenna is in proper alignment with and my equipment is effectively “talking” to the equipment located on the nearby telecommunications tower. I use these testing protocols quite religiously whenever the internet gets flakey.
The result is usually the same – no problem communicating with the tower. If I knew the electronic addresses of the nodes further down the link, I’d be able to test them as well. Unfortunately, I can only avow for my equipment, that nearby tower’s equipment feeding me, and the 5,978 feet of air between my antenna and that on the tower. Power levels are always at peak performance levels, “jitter” is barely existent, and all is well with the world.
So, What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?
The intermittent and poor internet connectivity problems I experience obviously originate elsewhere. Somewhere among all of the system nodes, routers, wire-wraps and jury rigs, there is a poor internet connection mirroring itself on my computer’s screen. I’ve checked everything on this 5,978-foot end, SMART Bro. How about a little troubleshooting assistance, here?
Please check the equipment on your end. If it’s not causing the problem, then check the system between us. I’ve got my side of “our” tower, which I longingly gaze at day after day, covered. You cover the other side from that point on up to your equipment.
While you’re at it, how about repairing the aircraft warning lights on “our” tower. They haven’t been “seen” in ages – I see the Globe and the Sun towers’ warning lights every night.
Oh, one more thing: HOW ABOUT CREDITING MY BILL FOR THE SPOTTY OR NONEXISTENT SERVICE? I readily pay my bill on time, every month, as directed by our contract. Filling out additional paperwork and waiting over three months to possibly receive (or be denied) credit is NOT a billing credit – it’s a deterrent at best, and a nightmare at worst. If you can’t “carry the water” and provide it to me, why should I pay you for it?
Just think – if you cleared up these problems, you endless commercials could quote “Ten out of Ten”!
(UPDATE: Once again, my sense of fair play demands that I provide this update.
I’ve been monitoring my “24/7 connectivity” on a 24/7 basis during the past three weeks. While there hasn’t been a single calendar date [e.g., 12:00 midnight, November 1 to 12:00 midnight, November 2] of continuous 24 hour connectivity – and certainly no two consecutive dates of 24/2 connectivity – there have been periods of connectivity that exceeded 24 continuous hours. Unfortunately, the outages which broke the “Bro’s winning streaks” occurred in peak moments, when I needed connectivity the most.
So, I still don’t get 24/7 connectivity but I do get a few random 24 continuous hour periods of connectivity during the 7 day week. Download and Upload speeds reflect 6% – 14% of the SMART Bro averages [speed test results obtained from and are available at www.testmy.net]. My Upload speeds are most often faster than my Download speeds. I think there’s more than one problem here, ‘Bro!
My “next appointment” with the SMART Bro Tech Team is 11/24 – quite a wait this time around, as there are a “lot of problems” that are being taken care of. I shudder while thinking, perhaps, that this next visit will be a repeat of prior visits. The techs will check antenna alignment, signal strengths, jitter, and BER [Bit Error Rate], find all within tolerances, bust a few moves to show that they’re doing something, and depart victorious from another “it’s not on our end” battle with the illusive connectivity monster.
If and when all problems are solved [i.e., I am receiving 24/7 continuous internet connectivity without drop-outs, my Download and Upload speeds come close to matching SMART Bro’s average customer speeds, and I receive adequate compensation – in the form of a true billing credit – for the lack of service I’ve been subjected to over the past four months], I will immediately and joyfully rush to my laptop and compose an article praising SMART communications and lauding their broadband internet service, and post it without delay – provided that I’m able to access LiP. )