Monday, August 18, 2014

Panchtantra was right! Amazing ingenuity of animals...

So a monkey stole our bottle of water at Nandi Hills. Over the next minute and a half, it proceeded to open it and figure out a way to drink from it -- before wiping his mouth on the steps, and scooting away. 


Monday, July 23, 2012

BSNL new customer care and billing portal

BSNL keeps re-inventing the wheel when it comes to customer care portals. Often, they are more complicated than needed and as a result, creak and crash under their own weight after a few weeks. The best was having IP address based portals, instead of DNS-resolved URLs, that could only be accessed from a BSNL broadband connection. Most useless because they ended up returning a 404 error when the IP address changed while the static links were never updated.

In April-May 2012, BSNL introduced the call data record (CDR) billing system, along with a new portal. Most customers got a new customer ID as a result of this migration, and it appears that the records are now nation-wide rather than per telecom circle. While this portal is far from perfect and much streamlining is required, it is better than earlier efforts. Go beyond the tacky user-interface, and the service options are, in fact, quite good and worth a look.

I was guided to the correct (and latest) CDR self-care portal by a helpful lady operating the 1500 helpline at 10PM! Until then, I was still accessing the older portals, because that is what search engines showed when looking for help on BSNL. There are multiple such portals and while they continue to authenticate users, and some even show latest billing details, the records are mostly incomplete or inaccurate.

Here's a quick primer on how to use the new portal, hopefully it will save others the trouble.

New CDR Billing System in BSNL

The CDR self-care portal can be accessed here

The HOME screen is quite useless. It does show the account details, but none of the links are actionable. The real action is hidden within the SERVICE tab, accessible from the top right corner.

BSNL Self-Care Options

Within the service tab, you will find a host of self-care options. The most useful (to me) are Check Your Bills, Check Your Complaints Status, and Check Your Unbilled Broadband Usage.

One can also Submit a Complaint, or Submit an Address-Change or Plan-Change request here. I have not used these services online, and prefer to call 1500. In the past, my connection was down for a month after placing a plan-change request online. My experience with 1500 is that it is very efficient and they usually have very knowledgeable and helpful operators, quite unlike the robots manning Airtel helplines. The complaint I registered  10 minutes ago on 1500 was already showing up with status in the online portal.

How to Check BSNL Broadband Usage

Here's a sample of the unbilled broadband usage page. Shows the total volume (in MB) on top, with detailed sessions below it (generally no need to scroll through these 200 pages of detail). Chargeable volume, if the free data limit has been exceeded, will be marked separately. This is again quite useful to keep track of "unlimited" data plans that have a fair-use limit.

Similarly, archived bills can be downloaded in PDF format from the "Check Your Bills" page. The bills show broadband use by volume and duration, and itemized call details. Click on the customer ID to access the bills.

Customer Portal - New User Registration

Finally, a note on the registration process. It is quite simple. Follow the EXISTING USER registration link from the home page, and provide the account details such as Customer ID and phone number. You can create your own username and password. Users of Dataone broadband will get instant access to the portal. Others will get a confirmation call from BSNL to activate their login.

This seems like a pretty good initiative from BSNL and will make it easier for their broadband services to reach the under-served Indian market. A centralized and transparent system is always good for efficiency. It is encouraging to see BSNL go the self-care route for customer care as well, that reduces dependency on ignorant or bored lines-men that struggle to resolve broadband related issues.

Now if only they'd stop throttling Youtube to 250Kbps on my (allegedly) 4Mbps line, life would be perfect...