Archive for netTALK

Is netTALK On Its Last Legs? [UPDATED]

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 7, 2018 by itnerd

From the “I can’t believe that I am still writing about them” department comes netTALK and the continued frustration of their customer base. When I last wrote about netTALK, I wrote about the fact that netTALK wasn’t porting numbers out of their service when people wanted to change phone companies. It’s now been brought to my attention that their problems seem to go deeper than that. I’ll start with Twitter. Now this usually the part of the story where I show you some tweets and how the company has chosen to respond. Except that company isn’t responding to tweets at all. And any tweets that they put out are few and far between and are of a marketing nature. The only thing that’s out there are frustrated customers who have taken to trolling netTALK. Here’s an example:

An “F” grade isn’t good to say the least. I managed to track down the rating on the BBB website and found that when it comes to netTALK the BBB has this to say:

  • 223 complaints filed against business
  • Failure to respond to 47 complaints filed against business.
  • 69 complaints filed against business that were not resolved.
  • Business has failed to resolve underlying cause(s) of a pattern of complaints.

That’s a huge red flag and a sure sign that they are likely not the company to deal with if you want phone service.

But there’s more. There’s the Twitter feed of netTALK COO Nick Kyriakides. He spends more time tweeting about space and sports than about his own company by several orders of magnitude. And when customers send tweets his way looking for help or complaining about how they’ve been treated, there’s no response from him. That suggests to me that he’s not interested in dealing with this customer service and public relations disaster that is in progress.

Speaking of public relations, this company doesn’t seem to have any to speak of. I have checked their website and there’s no PR link which would lead you to PR contacts, press releases or anything of any sort. Ditto for investor and financial info. That’s weird, You’d think that they’d want to get some press so that their name gets out there. Especially seeing as they appear to have announced (but not shipped as far as I can tell) a new product called the ezLINQ which is a combination of a WiFi Router with VoIP capabilities. I had no clue this product existed until I tripped over it while researching this story. And further research turned up only handful of news about it that took some effort to find. That too is weird. Due to the lack of a clear path to a PR department within netTALK, I was forced to resort to Twitter to try and get a comment from them of any sort. After launching a series of Tweets at netTALK with the requests being that they help a customer that reached out to me for help and that I be put in contact with someone who can speak to the company’s issues, I got this back:

Hmmmm. Direct message the COO of netTALK? Ok. I sent him a DM with a request for comment and I will update this story if/when I hear back.

Perhaps the final thing that shows me that this company has one foot in the grave is that I just got an email chain from a netTALK customer who I first wrote about in the story that I linked to above who filed an FCC complaint about not being able to port her number is still having issues doing so and it appears that the company is making zero attempt to help her. Now at the same time I pinged netTALK to get a comment, I tried to push her issue at the same time. This was their response:

I am watching that situation and I will update you with the results, or lack thereof.

Another data point: I am still getting emails from customers in a similar situation. Two or three a week. So it’s clear that this woman isn’t an isolated case. And anytime you see a company not responding to customer requests for assistance, that’s usually not a good sign. Thus it is suggests to me that netTALK might be on its last legs. If that’s true, I suspect that those who have done business with them may wake up one morning and find that they have no phone service and no way to get that resolved. Or they may want to take proactive action and port their phone number out of their service and find like many others who have tried that they can’t do so. Or not even get a response. And by the time it’s over, consumers will have lost money, phone numbers which are part of people’s identities will be gone, and a whole lot of frustration will ensue. In other words, it’s not going to be a pretty scene with the consumer being hurt the most by this. Now I hope that this isn’t the case as I don’t like to see companies disappear and people being affected in a negative way as a result of that. But in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I just get the sense that this is the direction that we might be going when it comes to netTALK.

UPDATE: netTALK COO Nick Kyriakides responded to my DM and requested that I email him. I did so with a list of questions and I am awaiting a reply. If/when I get it, I will post it here. 

UPDATE #2: I now have a response netTALK COO Nick Kyriakides that I would like to share with you. I started out by introducing myself and explaining that I’ve have reviewed the DUO and I covered the outage that Canadian netTALK customers had. This was his response: 

Yes, I do recall that. That was definitely a tough time for our customers. Luckily most stuck by us. We’ve made many great improvements since then. The biggest was an end to end upgrade to our entire network. The service is phenomenal now. 

The next question was regarding the fact that people have emailed, tweeted and the like their frustrations with netTALK. Generally around getting to their support group, and specifically with porting their numbers out of their service. I’ll start with the support:

Generally speaking overall customer satisfaction has greatly improved (response times, “first touch” resolutions, and even our self service tools have been great). 

I think you should see a reduction in the amount of customers reaching out to you. As of last week, we re-organized and greatly reduced the amount of clicks to get to support (over the years, our sites grew and the customer path to Support became overly-complicated). Customers can now send us a message directly from support.nettalk.com (self help and message us directly from the messenger), message us from their account when signed into the CONNECT portal, from our app, and email us at support@nettalk.com – they can interact with us from any of those mediums (including email) and the entire history stays in sync. I spend a considerable amount of the day speaking to customers in these channels and can attest to this. 

If you’re a customer of netTALK and you need help, I would try what he suggests above to see if they can resolve your issue. I’d also like feedback, positive, negative, or otherwise, on your experience as I think it’s important to close the loop on this.

Then when it came porting numbers out of their service:

In terms of port-outs on the VoIP side, as long as all the customer information matches, the winning carrier can always assume the number no matter what. Everything needs to match exactly, or else Neustar or the losing carrier (whether it is netTALK or one of our resellers) will have to reject it. It is just the way telecom works but it is a good thing bc you don’t want someone else stealing your number (more on that below). 

In terms of port-outs on the Wireless side, same concept applies but T-Mobile (our underlying carrier) places additional safeguards due to the fact there are bad actors which actively highjack cellular numbers to get access to bank accounts, etc. (more info here: Forbes article). Until the industry as a whole, gets together with a common and streamlined solution, some customers may face delays. That being said we have grown this product significantly over the past year, and this is generally not an issue. (If I had to guess, I would say less than 5% face delays)

Finally, he ended with this statement:

We continue to grow our business and improve our services. We have new mobile apps launching soon and have had an overwhelming response with our ezLINQ pre-orders. I can send you a sample as soon as it is available. We also have some pretty big announcements coming out shortly.

I’ll be replying with a request for a sample of their ezLINQ product and I’ll be watching for those announcements. But I’ll also be watching to see how netTALK moves forward and if the packet storm of emails and tweets that I get about this company subsides over time.

I am also trying to work with Mr. Kyriakides in terms of the woman who can’t port her number out. She’s really frustrated and I’d really like to help her if I can. So if I can broker something that leads to a resolution of this issue, I am willing to do that. Stay tuned for updates. 

UPDATE #3: netTALK COO Nick Kyriakides provided me with a second response in regards to the BBB: 

Also, regarding the BBB, we are not a paying member of the BBB. It is more effective and efficient to go through us: http://support.nettalk.com/duo-terms-and-policies/better-business-bureau-bbb

And:

I also checked the BBB and the 223 complaints. That is a running tally from the year 2009. We have had a couple million users cycle through since then. But I do wish it was zero. 

Finally two other things:

  1. I originally listed Nick Kyriakides as CEO. He’s actually the COO. #Fail. I’ve corrected that. 
  2. The netTALK customer care team will reach out to the customer who is having trouble porting her number to see if they can resolve that issue. I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE #4: The woman who had issues with netTALK that I wrote about in this story has had her issues with netTALK resolved. Though I can tell you from the emails that she sent me, she was left with a very bitter taste in her mouth. And I have to admit that it shouldn’t take the involvement of someone like me writing a story like this for a company to resolve a customer issue. By the time that happens, something is seriously wrong with the universe. Regardless, I want to thank Nick Kyriakides for working with me to resolve this issue. 

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netTALK Appears To Be Refusing To Port Phone Numbers Out Of Their Service

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 12, 2018 by itnerd

Over the last year and a half or so, I’ve been tracking an issue where netTALK seems unable or unwilling to release phone numbers to be ported to another service. Over the weekend, I had someone by the name of Laura Vogel reach out to me on Twitter:

I reached out to her and she sent over some communications between her and netTALK. I have to admit that I’ve seen some bad and brutal customer service, but this is the worst that I have ever seen. Based on the emails that I read, netTALK goes long periods of time without responding to queries. And it seems that she had to complain to the FCC to get any response.

The problem is that she seems not to be alone. A quick perusal of Twitter shows that this problem has existed for at least a year a half. Here are some examples:

Now why would they be basically holding phone numbers hostage? Well, I think that this highlights something that I said here. netTALK has never, ever made money. Thus you could make an argument that they’re trying to lock their customers into their service by holding their numbers hostage. After all, your phone number is often part of your identity. So if you can’t port your number off their service, you keep paying them. If that’s true, that’s pretty cynical. There may be other reasons behind this as well, but when I reached out to netTALK on Twitter to find out what their side of the story is, they chose not to respond. I think that tells you all you need to know about netTALK.

Here’s the bottom line. There’s a reason why netTALK is one of two companies that I pulled my recommendation of their products in the history of this blog. In short, this company doesn’t pass the smell test. The fact that they aren’t letting people port their numbers off their service should be a major red flag for anyone thinking of doing business with them. Now, if you’re one of the people that are in this situation, I would recommend filing an FCC complaint if you’re in the US, or a complaint with the CRTC if you are in Canada. Why go this route? It’s simple. netTALK doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and deserves to have a very uncomfortable light shown on their behavior.

I will continue to follow this story and report on any developments.

netTALK Does Things A Bit Better, But Still Serves Up A #Fail

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 5, 2017 by itnerd

You might recall that just before New Years, I was helping a customer with a defective netTALK unit, and the interaction with their customer service was….. less than optimal. Well, I knew that I would have to go back and finish the job once the customer’s replacement unit arrived. And I will give netTALK credit for this: They shipped it on the 29th of December which was the next day. It arrived on January 4th via post. That’s pretty good. While overnight is better, I can find little fault in how it was shipped.

However, they promptly went back into the bad category by having a note like this inside the box:

IMG_0071.JPG

So that to me means that I should be able to plug this in, have it connect to the customer’s network and it should work. Well, it did connect to the network, but you couldn’t call the netTALK unit using the customer’s phone number. Not only that, the customer’s voice mail was gone as well.

#Fail

So seeing as they didn’t deliver on that front, I had to contact them via their chat window. The one that was infuriating to deal with the last time I had to use it. But this time, when I reached out to them, they responded within a minute and their responses were timely. Since I was dealing with the same person from whatever contact center in the Philippines that netTALK uses, I can only assume that he had been spoken to because it is highly likely that netTALK read my last post. He asked for my phone number and the MAC addresses of the old and new devices. Within 5 minutes, the customer was up and running. The voice mail had to be re-recorded, but other than that it was working.

Not that’s the interaction that should have happened in the first place.

But let’s circle back to the note in the box. It’s quite frankly stupid to put a note in the box saying that the account transfer had been done when it clearly hadn’t been done. Which then forces a customer to hop through an additional hoop to get things working. This didn’t go unnoticed by the customer, who is now leaning towards Ooma when they switch their VoIP phone service away from netTALK. That will likely happen in the next few months as they get closer to the renewal date of their netTALK service.

Net result: While netTALK did improve in some areas. They failed in one important one. And as a result they are still going to lose a customer.

Too bad netTALK.

 

netTALK Is Back…. And Serves Up A Customer Service #Fail

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 29, 2016 by itnerd

One of the stories that dominated space on this blog this year was netTALK. Not only did they get into a dispute with a company called Iristel and in the process deprive thousands of their Canadian customers of phone service for almost a week, it became clear that they were a company to avoid on two fronts. First, they were non-compliant with the CCTS. And strangely the CCTS nor the CRTC did anything about it. And second, netTALK is bleeding money. That made many people in Canada ditch them as their home phone provider.

But last night I got a call from a customer of mine who was still using them as a phone provider. Now in her case, this was a phone that she used to phone long distance cheaply as this was a cheaper option than phone with her main provider of home phone service. She said that there was a constant blinking orange light on her netTALK device. Thanks to Google, I was able to determine that the device was trying to connect to the network and couldn’t. What was weird was the fact that this was connected via Ethernet. Thus it should connect almost instantly to her network. Since she was 15 minutes away, I drove over to have a look. After doing some troubleshooting, I figured out why it couldn’t get onto the network. It was not getting a local network address from her router. In fact, she had a second router lying around which I used to prove that it was not the router that was causing the issue. Rather, it was the netTALK device. Resetting the device didn’t help things. Thus we both concluded it was dead and netTALK would have to replace it.

This is where the “fun” begins.

Now netTALK does not have any means to phone them. You have to use a chat window to access their support. And at the time of day we were using the chat window, it went to the Philippines. Now I have nothing against the Philippines, but this is clearly a cost saving move by netTALK as when I reviewed their product, they had phone support which I gave them points for having at the time. Now I never used their phone support before. But this Philippine based chat window left a lot to be desired. I started the chat by giving a description of the problem and detailed steps of what I did to troubleshoot it. I also related the fact that nothing had been changed on the network prior to the failure of the netTALK device.

Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Twenty five minutes later I got a response. The person at the other end asked me for the MAC address of the device which I provided. Then he asked me to go through some troubleshooting steps. The problem was that 80% were steps that I told him up front that I did.

#Fail.

I pointed that out to him and after waiting 10 minutes, he came back with a list of ports that he wanted me to open. The only problem with that question was that it had been working previously and no changes had been made to the network. I pointed that out to him and after waiting another 15 minutes, I got a response asking for my external IP. Now I have to admit that part of me was suspicious of this request. But I provided it anyway as the other part of me suspected that netTALK keeps track of this info. The person on the other end then asked for the model of the router. At this point my “Spidey Sense” was going off as I thought that was being hustled. I gave a router make and model that the customer didn’t own, and then forcefully pointed out that everything had been working fine with no changes to the network. Plus the device could not get a local network address from her router, and I had confirmed that it was the netTALK device by trying it on a second router. After a 30 minute wait, he finally conceded that the device had to be replaced.

But strangely, we were not finished with this fun yet.

The person at the other end of the chat window tried to sell me a brand new netTALK device that was further down the food chain from the one that she had. You read that right. My customer had a broken device. But they tried to sell her a new one. I blew that off and insisted for a like for like replacement for free. After five minutes, he agreed and responded with a request for a shipping address and a phone number. I provided both on behalf of the customer. I also asked for a time frame for when the new device would be delivered and a case number (hint: ALWAYS get a case number when you deal with any contact center for any reason). I got the response that it would take 3 to 7 days to get the new device instantly. But he blew off my request for a case number. So I insisted and insisted again. After 15 minutes, he gave me a case number. For all I know, he made up a bunch of numbers to get me off the chat window. But I guess I will find out as I have to contact them again when the new device arrives so that service can be resumed using the new device.

Total time: 100 minutes. This is a process that should of taken 10 minutes or less. Thus proving that their chat window doesn’t work and their attempt to outsource their technical support may save them money. But it doesn’t help their customers.

Speaking of customers, my customer was so stunned by this that she gave me a task to do. Which was to find a VoIP provider for her to switch to that had way better customer service than what she saw on display. In my mind, there were two. Vonage, and Oooma. But I will do my due diligence to see if there are any others who could be on that list. Another thing that she wanted was to port the number that she had associated with her netTALK device to whatever VoIP service that she decides to go with. I did confirm that the number can be ported. Thus that part may be easy. I say may because I have heard stories of netTALK making this process difficult. And I warned her of that.

The net result is that netTALK is on its way to losing a customer because of this display of customer service. Frankly, this was shambolic and is likely indicative of how netTALK treats their customers. So on top of everything else that I mentioned at the start of this story, customer service, or the lack of quality customer service is one more reason to avoid netTALK.

 

 

CRTC Fails Miserably To Address Compliance Issues With netTALK

Posted in Commentary with tags , on October 25, 2016 by itnerd

The last time I wrote about netTALK, the VoIP provider who in a dispute with a company called Iristel, and as a side effect to that, they took the phone service of thousands of Canadians offline for several days. In my last story on this topic, Jeremy Cooperstock wrote a letter to the CRTC in regards to netTALK being a non-compliant provider according to the CRTC and CCTS, and the fact that netTALK failed to deliver on their promise of one year of free service. Mr Cooperstock got a reply from the CRTC via Patrick Desjardins who is the Information Officer of the CRTC. Here it is: 

Dear Mr. Cooperstock:

As discussed on Friday over the phone, the issue in question is not within the CRTC’s purview. Should you wish to pursue the matter, we would advise you to seek legal representation.

So… At this point you have to ask what good is the CRTC? After all, thousands of Canadians had their phone service offline for days. And it’s not like the fact that netTALK is a non-compliant telco is a new discoveryThere’s no way that should be acceptable to the CRTC, but clearly it is. And that quite frankly an #EpicFail. Canadians deserve better from their telco regulators. One wonders if better will ever come.

Now when it comes to netTALK, my advice remains the same. They are a non-compliant member of the CCTS. From what I can tell, they have never made a penny. Plus they don’t follow through on their promises. Avoid them at all costs as they are a telco that won’t be around in the long term. That will only hurt you in the end.

I will continue to monitor this for any new developments from either the CRTC or netTALK.

netTALK Back In The News For All The Wrong Reasons

Posted in Commentary with tags , on October 1, 2016 by itnerd

It’s been a few months since I wrote anything about VoIP provider netTALK who last made the news because they got into a dispute with a company called Iristel, and as a side effect to that, they took the phone service of thousands of Canadians offline for several days. One of the things that I discovered that the CRTC threatened netTALK with “enforcement action” back in 2013 because they didn’t join the CCTS which is something that netTALK has to do. But here we are in 2016 and no “enforcement action” appears to have been taken to date. 

Well, one person wants to know why. I was alerted to a letter written by Jeremy Cooperstock to Patrick Desjardins who is the Information Officer of the CRTC. Among other things, Mr. Copperstock mentions this: 

As we discussed on Friday, I understand from the CCTS that netTALK is a non-compliant provider whom they referred to the CRTC in April for enforcement action. When I asked the CCTS “But do [netTALK’s] customers still have no recourse for the broken promises?”, I was referred to the June 8 letter from the CRTC and directed to contact you.

If you click on the first link, you will see that there is clear evidence that netTALK continues to be a non-compliant provider and nothing has been done about it by the CRTC or CCTS. If you click the second link, you will notice that the CRTC has decided to do nothing about the fact that thousands of Canadians had their phone service taken offline for days. That further highlights the fact that there needs to be a telecommunications regulator in Canada who is prepared to hold telcos accountable for the actions.

There’s one other thing that I need to point out in this letter:

As for my own situation, after complaining on September 24 that the service renewal letter I received did not include any compensation for being deprived of telephone service for five days in January of this year, I was only offered, in response, a single month of free service (a value of approximately $4).

And:

Needless to say, this is a clear breach of the earlier offer of one year of free service as compensation for the outage that deprived approximately 27,000 Canadians of their telephone service.

It is one thing for netTALK and Iristel to engage in mudslinging during a commercial dispute, but quite another when netTALK issues a written commitment to its customers and then reneges on this undertaking.

What he’s referring to is the fact that during this dispute, netTALK promised a year of free service, then appeared to backtrack on that once service was restored to affected customers. That left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. And this is one among many reasons why netTALK needs to be avoided at all costs.

I will monitor this to see where this goes as clearly this story is far from over and it will be interesting to see if the CRTC and CCTS do the right thing and do some sort of “enforcement action” against netTALK. If they don’t, it tells you all you need to know about both of those regulatory bodies. As in, they don’t work for the interests of Canadians.

netTALK Appears To Go Back On Their Promise Of 1 Year Of Free Service [UPDATED x3]

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 22, 2016 by itnerd

It seems that the netTALK outage saga won’t die. You’ll recall from this story that netTALK was sending out Tweets like this during the outage that cost 75,000 Canadians their phone service for 5 days or so:

But in the same story, they sent me a statement that said this:

In the meantime, Canadian Customers will be offered an additional number and six months of free service.

The tweet came on the 18th of January, the statement was sent to me on the next day. Clearly there was a disconnect there. Now this disconnect is getting worse. Check out this exchange on Twitter:

So it appears that the information, or rather mis-information seeing as I have three different statements from the same company on display above, was not an isolated incident. It seems that netTALK is backing away from from the free year that they promised Canadian customers during the outage. I am reaching out to the user that posted this on Twitter to get their side of the story. But I’d be interested in hearing what netTALK has to say as well. But I have to say that the optics of this situation suck for netTALK. And keep in mind that this is not a company that can not afford to have any PR fails going forward if they wish to survive.

More info as it comes.

UPDATE: The reaction from the Twitterverse has been quick:

This is sure to come back to haunt netTALK:

And from the person who started it all:

I have not seen any reaction from netTALK as of yet though. But this is not going well for them.

UPDATE #2: A Twitter user sent me a screen shot of an e-mail from Anastasios “Takis” Kyriakides who is the CEO of netTALK which shows the promise 1 year of free service.

Over to you netTALK. This seems pretty clear cut to me.

UPDATE #3: It seems that the deal has been altered. A Twitter user has forwarded me this screenshot:

So it looks like the length of the free service depends on what you do with your phone number. None of them are the year that they originally promised. I’ve reached out to other Canadian netTALK customers and they are seeing similar offers in their netTALK account management portal. And it is clear that they want you to move to a new number. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. A number change for most people is a non-starter. Oh yeah, you need to make a choice by February 1st. Charming.

While this deal fits what they sent me in the statement from the 19th of January, it contradicts the tweets from the day before and the e-mail sent by netTALK’s CEO. None of this really inspires confidence in netTALK at this point and the optics truly suck for them.