When Third-Party Systems Crash Customer Confidence

We all know our systems are heavily reliant on third parties to deliver primary services to the home like cable/satellite, telephone, and internet. And for the most part, we and our customers live in a kind of detente with these service providers. But what do you do when these must-have third-party systems start derailing and crashing your customer’s confidence in the work you’ve done?
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We all know our systems are heavily reliant on third parties to deliver primary services to the home like cable/satellite, telephone, and internet. And for the most part, we and our customers live in a kind of detente with these service providers; customers understanding the occasional cable box lock up or that the internet might drop being things beyond our control, and we knowing that any encounter with the service provider is likely to be a frustrating endeavor.

But what do you do when these must-have third-party systems start derailing and crashing your customer’s confidence in the work you’ve done?

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I just finished a decent-sized ($50K-plus) project where we fought with the ISP through the entire finish of the job, especially as I was trying to finalize the system and give my customer education and walkthrough. All of my issues started because one of the two ISPs in our area decided they would try something “new” with their cable TV delivery service and go to an IPTV system. Typically, this company installs a fiber optic modem outside of the home, which we connect a Cat cable to the WAN jack on our router, set up the PPPoE settings in our router, and we’re off to the races.

On this job, my lead tech beautifully trimmed out our wiring panel, installed our router and switch, routed all the cabling and connected it, leaving everything ready for the ISP.

When we were told TV and internet had been activated we returned to find that our panel had been ripped apart and a new router had been jammed inside with the IPTV/MoCA adapter Velcroed on top of it. And, of course, our router was disconnected and none of our devices had internet.

From then on it was a series of phone calls over multiple days going back and forth with the ISP trying to resolve the issue. One of the major problems is that you never seem to be able to talk to the same person twice, so each new call requires starting your process all the way over at square one, explaining what you’re trying to accomplish, and each person seems to give you different and conflicting information, and has a different level of problem-solving ability.

Our first step was to call and put the ISP router in bridge mode. Our network is all working, and everything seems golden. Great. We button up our programming, test our systems, and leave.

The customer comes into town a few days later and calls me to ask why none of his TVs are working. Hmmm. I call my guys and they say they were for sure working when they left. We set up another service call to the house and call the ISP.

This new tech says you CAN’T put the ISP’s router in bridge mode with the IPTV system and whoever told us that was wrong.

“Can we just get rid of this stupid IPTV and go to a regular cable box that we know works with all of our gear and our distributed wiring?” I ask.

No, we have switched to IPTV and you have to use it. And you HAVE to use our router and the IPTV boxes must be connected (to port 1). He configures things on his end, and now TVs are back to working, but there is no internet passing through to our router. Call back. Looks like the ISP router has failed and they need to set up a service call to have a technician swap it out.

Tech comes out and can’t figure out why it isn’t working. He installs a new modem and router just to be on the safe side. I explain that we want to use our router/Wi-Fi and just use their system as a modem, but with the IPTV we’ve been running into problems. He logs in, changes some things, asks me to check our systems, and we have internet and TV. Great.

He bails and I keep plugging along working. Now that internet is back I can go in and configure our NVR and set up the port forwarding settings to enable remote access to see the cameras. My ports are all forwarded correctly but I have no connection. Go to canyouseeme.org and check the ports—blocked.

Call back and get a new tech and explain which ports we need open for our access to work. “Sorry, we aren’t allowed to forward ports on the ISP’s router; why don’t we just put the router in bridge mode?”

“We were told that couldn’t be done,” I said.

“Who told you that? They’re wrong. I’m going to put it into bridge mode.”

I check my systems and everything seems to be working. I see our cameras, my ports are open, I have the internet, and TV is working. Great.

I go to show the customer how to use his system. Internet crashes, cameras fail to connect.

DAMMIT!

By this time, the customer has watched me spend literally HOURS back and forth on the phone with the ISP, back and forth to the panel to boot and reboot, back and forth changing my router’s settings on my laptop. Find out what has failed and call back, wait in the service queue and get a new tech.

He looks at me and says, “Boy, I really didn’t want a complicated system. This just doesn’t seem like it is very reliable, and I sure hope I don’t keep having all these problems going forward…”

Literally before he even used the new system for the first time, his faith was already shaken in the system we designed and installed. And none of the problems we were experiencing had anything to do with our equipment or integration. BLARG!

I spend another hour at the house with the tech on the phone and it appears that everything is finally working. Spectacular. Unfortunately the homeowner had to leave for an appointment so I can’t show him. I leave and call my business partner and tell him it’s all working.

Nope. I just tried checking the cameras—no connection.

I hang up and try. No connection.

I call the HTC tech back. He logs in and says he can see his router but it isn’t showing anything is connected to it. This is weird. I’ve never seen anything like this. What we did shouldn’t be causing these problems.

I agree.

While we ultimately got it working—after another house call from an ISP tech who texted me, “So if I just switch from IPTV to RF and just put our modem in bridge mode that should work for you and these problems will be avoided?”—I worry that after all this, my customer is going to have his faith deeply shaken in the system and any little hiccup is going to be seen as another of some design flaw on our end. :(

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