Insight snafu left us quite unconnected and unsatisfied

May 23, 2006 at 7:37 pm

Last week a group of relative strangers were standing around waiting to be let in a movie theater. The subject of Insight Broadband’s major problems came up.

As it turned out, one was a guy who calls himself “The Computer Guru.” Of the others, most were Insight BB customers. Of those, all had experienced serious problems of one kind or another during the Internet provider’s recent server migration.

None were happy campers.
A couple had experienced total connectivity breakdown. That is, they couldn’t even get on the Internet. A couple, myself included, had, for periods of time, experienced severely slower connections than one pays for with broadband.

All had major problems with e-mail. Some couldn’t send it. Some never received messages they knew were sent.
You can almost pictures millions of missives whirling around haphazardly in the cybergalaxy.
Like I said, they were vexed.

I was most displeased.
We weren’t alone.
I laugh now when I think of my initial reactions to that intriguing ad campaign IBM ran in the early ’80s. The one where a Charlie Chaplin as the Tramp look-alike roller skated about, clutching a personal computer. He dodged perils and generally made viewers feel that such a machine in the home might not be a bad idea. That it also made IBM seem a bit more warm and fuzzy sure pleased the muckety mucks in the home office.
Despite the ad’s engaging qualities, I distinctly recall thinking, “Why the hell would anybody want a computer in their home?”

What a futurologist I was! Of course that was before the Internet became the most significant communication breakthrough since Alexander Graham Bell. But it was still mighty shortsighted.

Truth: I didn’t buy “plastics” after seeing “The Graduate” either.
Today’s reality is this: Most of us need to be connected. Whether we have to use our computer to check in with the dub dub dub at that moment or not, we need to know we can if we wish.

The need to instantaneously know Teddy Roosevelt’s birthday is now a given. The ability to order that new copper flower box from at 2 a.m. is imperative. Why schlep to the passport office when you can print out a copy of the application right at your desk?

The number of citizens who don’t regularly use the Internet or e-mail now fit in the other half of that 3x5 room with those reluctant old school writers still pecking away at manual typewriters.

Which is why observers view Insight Communications’ botched handling of this major snafu in disbelief.
Two-hour waits on the phone for tech non-support by frazzled, overwhelmed staff with few answers — and less hope — was not a good thing.

One of those strangers asked if the others had gotten that taped telephone call from the head of Insight, the one where he assured customers just how important they were to him, by golly, and thanks for sticking with the company. “It just didn’t seem like enough,” she said. The rest of us nodded in agreement.

Which reminded me of another event from the early ’80s. Seven people in the Chicago area died after each swallowed an Extra-Strength Tylenol. The product’s mother company, Johnson & Johnson, acted immediately, correctly and with compassion.

In a flash, they disseminated a warning through every possible media source. A blink later, they removed every Tylenol product from every shelf in every store everywhere. According to one study of the situation, that totaled 31 million bottles of the pain killer, with a retail value of more than $100 million.

Funny what happens when a corporate entity acts responsibly, admits a mistake and deals with its financial backwash. Its consumer base reacts favorably. Contrition coupled with action goes a long way.

Insight botched a major change to its Internet backbone, causing hassles for all of its customers. I’m advised the company attempted to facilitate this major server changeover in way too short a time because of a petulant argument with AT&T.

So one has to ask — why is Insight putzing about without a legitimate, responsible response to a serious blunder?

The company still has its head up its anal cavity.
My Insight bill came today. It had the usual charges for Internet service.
That line should have read zero. There should have been a note of apology. One that said, “We messed up. We’re sorry. It will not happen again. This month’s on us.”
Instead Insight displays no insight at all.

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