How to Snap! out of customer service

snap_01Three years ago we moved our internet and phone to Snap! The company had just been voted New Zealand’s best ISP, and we liked the fact that their head office was in the South Island. Sure, we’re in the North Island, but we’re contrary like that.

We were staggered at how good Snap! was. When we phoned, we got a real person within three rings. One of their technical support staff called in favours from colleagues at our previous ISP so we could retain our primary phone number. The customer service was outstanding, at least for this customer.

snap_02Three years later we’ve just moved to fibre, and saw no reason not to stick with Snap! – no reason not to sign up for a 24 month contract. Two weeks later we’re not so sure that was a good decision. It seems that over the last three years, customer service at Snap! has changed somewhat.

Our experience

Snap! delivers its fibre connections through a Fritz!Box which it provides. Ours failed three and a half days after installation. We certainly don’t blame Snap! for that – a small percentage of hardware failures is unavoidable – but that’s only the start of our story.

The failure happened at 3.00am on Tuesday. When we phoned Snap! that morning we were asked to carry out a series of diagnostic tests, which we did. They indicated the box was dead in the water, and we were told a replacement would be sent out overnight.

Imagine our surprise on Wednesday when there was no Fritz!Box and, later in the morning, a call from Snap! asking us to carry out some additional diagnostic tests. We were sanguine about this too: when you puzzle over problems you often come up with new angles. However, the tests only confirmed that the Fritz!Box was history and, again, we were told a replacement would be sent out.

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But there was no Fritz!Box on Thursday morning either. When we talked to Snap! they confirmed it was scheduled to be sent, but hadn’t been dispatched yet. Why? I don’t know, and the friendly support staff didn’t seem to know either; but we certainly expected it to arrive on Friday.

Early Friday morning I had to travel to Wellington. When I returned on Saturday evening I was very surprised that no Fritz!Box had yet been delivered. So on Monday I phoned Snap! again. To his credit, the support team member sounded embarrassed to tell me that the replacement Fritz!Box still hadn’t been dispatched. He assured me it would be leaving that day by overnight courier, and that I’d receive a text message that afternoon with the tracking number.

The tracking number didn’t arrive; I had to phone for it first thing Tuesday morning. Thankfully the replacement Fritz!Box did arrive late morning – a week after the original unit failed – and we were able to stop paying $20 per gigabyte for mobile data to keep the world turning.

This was an expensive exercise for us, and completely avoidable if a replacement box had been dispatched when it was first promised.

Reflecting on this experience, I’m reminded of a line from one of Paul Simon’s songs: Everything put together sooner or later falls apart.

snap_03I realise that delivering superb customer service is a Sisyphean task. Every day you have to push the same rock to the top of the same hill. Not “most of the rock”, not “almost to the top”: the same rock, the same hill, every day. As companies grow, maintaining this focus becomes increasingly difficult. The amount of rock and the distance up the hill tends to shrink, almost on a daily basis. Only the very best companies can fuel growth and keep pushing that rock to the top of the hill every day.

The others? Somewhere along the line they Snap! out of it.