Notes & Essays

Converge ICT and the Slow Death of Customer Service

What’s it going to take for big companies to start taking better care of their customers?
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I was stuck in our house in Cavite during the first stretch of strict lockdowns that started in March because of COVID-19. Thankfully, internet service there is stable, which is a godsend considering that I, like many other people, suddenly had to work from home. 

When general community quarantine was declared in Metro Manila and I was finally able to return to my place in Quezon City in mid-June, I decided to apply for internet service. There seemed to be no end in sight as far as this pandemic was concerned, and “work from home” seemed to be the default mode now for me and my colleagues. From something I had only used before for mindless scrolling through social media and the occasional Netflix binge, home internet had suddenly become a professional necessity. 

A casual inquiry from friends on the best internet servce provider yielded a runaway winner. “Get Converge,” they said. “I’m happy with Converge,” they said. “You’ll hardly have any complaints with Converge,” they said.

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Now I kind of wish I had a different set of friends.

I applied for internet with Converge ICT on June 15. It made it so easy. I just went to the site, typed in my information, and I received an almost instant confirmation. Or, at least, that it got my information.

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It took a few days, but the next step was to submit a valid ID and any billing statement with my address. Easy enough, and I accomplished all of it in a jiffy.

Then came the initial downpayment. I was told to deposit P4,000 via any of its accredited payment channels within seven days, or risk forfeiting the application. I made the payment the same day I received the notice: June 25th.

It took about another week until Converge acknowledged receiving my payment (even though I got a text message confirmation just a few minutes after transferring the funds via GCash).

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On July 3, Converge sent me nine versions of the same email, informing me it’ll be contacting me soon to confirm the scheduled date of installation.

“Due to limited mobility brought about by lockdowns in various areas, we are having some difficulty installing as fast as we want to,” the company said. “We are doing our best to serve you at the soonest possible time.”

Understandable, I thought. I’m probably part of the wave of people suddenly wanting to have internet at home because of quarantine restrictions. And yeah sure, that might also make it hard for its field teams to reach some places. I can wait.

On July 7, Converge sent a text message that said essentially the same thing. “Please help us by readying all permits required to reach your house (ex: barangay permits, gate passes, subdivision or bldg permits, etc.).” I didn’t think I could have the permits ready if I didn’t know when exactly they would be arriving, but, okay yeah, sure, I gave the proper authorities the heads up anyway.

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That was about a month ago (and almost two months since I first filed my application). It was the last time I heard from Converge. I have been following up with the company by messaging them through its customer service email (five emails in the last four weeks), but it’s been radio silence from its end. I also tried calling its “hotline number” (02-86670852) multiple times, but I keep getting told the number is not yet in service. 

This week I decided to check out Converge’s social media channels. On both its Twitter and Facebook accounts, one of the latest posts (dated August 4) was a public service announcement and video for people like me wondering about the status of our application. 

 

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But what’s more interesting are the comments and the replies to the tweet. They’re from people not unlike me. Many are also following up their service applications while some are inquiring about the loss of their internet connection. And almost all of them are furious and frustrated. I don’t need to link to any of them; you can view them for yourself if you feel like ruining your day with countless stories of upset and exasperated customers just begging to be heard. 

And that got me thinking. During these days of confusion and uncertainty, the least we can expect from big companies is the knowledge that they’re hearing the concerns of their customers. I get it: These aren’t “normal” times—I can only imagine how overwhelmed Converge probably is with the sheer number of people interested in subscribing to its services these days. No, it can’t be easy responding to thousands of requests and inquiries daily. 

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But what mystifies me is how attentive Converge was during the first part of the application process—sending me periodic updates and reminders—only to turn around and totally ignore me now that I’ve already paid. It wouldn’t bother me this much if it at least acknowledged my attempts at trying to communicate with the company now and replied with the cursory, “Thanks for your email,” or “We hear you!” But no. I tried sending multiple emails, no answer. I sent a message on Facebook messenger, there’s an automated reply suggesting I dial its “hotline number” instead. I dial said number and I get told the number is “not yet in service.”

What's left for me is a generic post on Twitter and Facebook that seems to be the company’s blanket response to everyone else who asks about the status of their application. 

The implication seems to be that Converge is willing to keep advertising its services and attracting would-be clients—but only until they have shelled out the initial downpayment. After that, I guess we’re left to just sit idly, twiddling our fingers until that glorious day when it finally grants us the benefit of an actual, human response. It’s also strange that it keeps promoting its services and inviting even more people to subscribe—even though the company is clearly inundated at this point and can barely keep up with the demand. (Then again, that’s clearly a business decision).

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It's too bad because, outside of these issues, Converge seems to be providing good service when everything's working. Friends who are subscribers and who told me about it in the first place still stand by their word and seem to think it's still superior compared to the other big internet players. When there was an outage in its network, it provided updates to its customers about what it was doing to fix things. Of course, I wouldn't know what that's like given that I haven't experienced it for myself.

At this point, I’m just about ready to give up. Customer service has always been shoddy in this country, and Converge is certainly far from being the only organization that doesn’t give its customers what’s due them. (Just take a peek at the social media accounts of any of the other internet providers and utilities companies). Heck, I might just even let go of that P4,000 and just consider it a loss for trusting a brand that seemed in the beginning to actually revolutionize internet service in this country. Caveat emptor.

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But, as what was previously written here in Esquire, Converge ICT is gearing up for a P34.8 billion initial public offering that may just be the biggest in the Philippine Stock Exchange’s history. So, obviously, it’s in its best interest to clean up its act and hopefully make sure the public is satisfied with its service. 

I would think that’s the barest minimum for a company before taking itself public.

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About The Author
Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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