Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why I Hate Vodaphone

[rant] Today I realised why I hate companies like Vodafone. I have been waiting to upgrade my Sony Ericsson P910 phone to the new P990i since March. Every month I've been into a Vodafone shop asking when it will arrive. "Oh, we're expecting it in a couple of weeks," comes the standard reply. Anyway, I noticed that the Vodafone shop in The Strand had a big poster in the window so they're now available. This morning I trolled off down to Clerkenwell Road Vodafone to get one - new gadgets always put me in a good mood. Sadly the store had run out and so had a nearby one in Chancery Lane. But the good news was that the Upgrade would be free of charge - not bad for a £600 phone. The shop assistant told me that if I rang Vodafone they would send me one out through the post.

So I got back to the office, eventually got through to them and was told that, no, it wouldn't be free of charge, it would cost me £150. 'Er, but why was it nfree of charge in the shop, then?' I asked. 'Because you went to a shop Sir,' came the less than illuminating response. 'And why should that mean you can charge me £150?' I said. 'We operate on a different computer system'. Oh well that's alright then. Another satisfied customer. Not. I was then advised to go back to the shop if I didn't want to pay £150. Er, but they haven't actually got any of the wretched phones, I repeated.

Doesn't this experience illustrate just what is wrong with the customer service attitude of big retail companies. Their entire approach is driven by computer systems, which ignore common sense. If I could be bothered I would happily change - but mobile phone companies are like banks. They're all the same. They've adopted exactly the same approach to customer service as the nationalised industries used to have.

And I STILL WANT MY P990i! [/rant]

53 comments:

beethoven writes said...

God, It's been quite a while since you had a rant, Iain! Aren't you worried that these things fry your brain while you use them? Best to use them as little as possible surely.

Trouserless In Tokyo said...

I have used orange for 10 years never a complaint.Iain you really need to get your phone insured afew quid a month then if you want a new one chuck the old one in the thames

machiavelli said...

Couldn't agree more, Iain - these big corporations have forgotten who the customer is.
The other sad thing is, they treat their employees as badly as they treat their customers.

dr. strabismus said...

Iain - they're almost the same but Vodaphone, in my experience, is particularly bad at customer services. Only when I left them did they make any attempt to keep me. Too little, too late.

I'm now with O2 and a happy, if nerdy, user of an XDA Exec.

TonyH said...

It will be no consolation to hear that I have had an even more irritatingly stupid experience with O2.

Having been with them since they were Cellnet I found myself with an XDA Exec that was virtually useless as a phone because it kept triggering calls in my pocket. My large monthly contract payment (around £50/mth) was going unused and I asked if I could have another handset - any handset - to enable me to make phone calls. No chance, they told me, until my current 12 month contract was up.

I was annoyed but started crossing off the days on my calendar. Then one day my wife went into Carphone Warehouse and came out with a gleeming new handset in return for a 12 month contract with O2 paying just £10 a month after rebates. This seemed to put everything into context.

My final plea to O2 was 10 months into my contract when I could bare it no more. I pointed out I had been with them for years paying literally hundreds of pounds a year for my phone. But still nothing. So I too walked into Carphone Warehouse and got a new contract paying less for more minutes with a posh new handset.

Of course, when I called O2 to cancel the original contract they were prepared to offer me the earth to stay because at that stage of the process I passed to a different team - the retentions team - but it was by then too late.

I just wish I could start a business that I could afford to run so badly without going broke.

Anonymous said...

yeah but Iain, its an ugly phone!

CityBlue said...

Iain - You're turning into Mr Pooter.

Stuart Bruce said...

I dumped Vodafone about six months ago because of 1) Didn't do the handsets I wanted 2) Lousy customer service. I'm now with T-mobile, which actually does give better customer service. And is also cheaper - Vodafone weren't interested in offering a better deal, despite the fact I'd had a contract for about five years.

Anonymous said...

"If I could be bothered I would happily change"

That's precisely the problem - customer inertia breeds complaicency.

You should switch - Vodafone may even try to entice you back with an offer - perhaps a shiney new P990i?

Edward said...

But if you never change you offer them no incentive to improve! If you can you should find a way to differentiate somehow between them and write to explain why you're switching to them.

GlassHouse said...

But it's still "Private good, public bad" right?

Bryan Appleyard said...

Plainly you have not had any experience of Carphone Warehouse, a company that makes Vodaphone look, well, competent. If there were an Olympic contest for worst companies on the planet, CW and Dixons/PC World would be among our brightest medal prospects.

javelin said...

Careful Iain any fall in the Vodaphone share price will hit the FTSE and my pension.

Your misery today will be my extra present at Christmas for the grand-kiddies.

call me Dave said...

Dial 191... Tell them you're going to leave the network... that's when they start offering discounts, free handsets etc.. It works every time.

Anonymous said...

Some of you are missing the point of Iain's piece - the difference between public monopolies and private psuedo-monopolies like Vodie is incredibly slim. Nowadays many people find it so traumatic dealing with big "private" companies like BT, Powergen, British Gas, Vodafone, NTL etc (to name some of the worst offenders in customer service) that they end up simply giving up in disgust and in some cases even end up in the courts because they simply could not talk to an intelligent person about their perfectly justified billing complaints.

A combination of outsourcing to India, dumping lavish profits on shareholders and indifference to UK service have rendered this country one of the "sucker zones" beloved of big corporations, where they can come and milk money and do little in return. A Tory govt that promised to tackle this rabble head-on would harvest votes.

They could start with aggressive blocks on exporting call centres (as in numerous US states and other countries) and tough policing of customer relationships with Virtual Monopolies, tougher Of'fies and more thought about breaking up big boys like BT along the lines of the US anti-trust laws. There's nothing pro-capitalist or pro-citizen about huge and unaccountable private monopolies - in fact they are probably worse than public monopolies, at least the latter can be discussed at a govt. level.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

I kind of agree with you on the "they're all teh same" - Ive been with the same company for about 10 years maybe more. When I was in York and got the first phone most of the city had no coverage. They don't reward loyalty and I opted out and went PAYG - and use internet telephony much more.

Geoff said...

What's your point, "glasshouse"? That seems like a very good policy position to me...

Anonymous said...

they quite obviously are taking the piss. You clearly spend *a lot* on your phone bill, otherwise a £600 phone wouldn't be a free upgrade.

So here's what you do:

call up, ask for your PAC code because you want to go to another network - they will check your account, see your spending lots of money, and then you say 'i want this phone.' If they don't give it to you, you leave. They probably will give you a better tarriff to go with it.

Simple.

Don't whine, take action.

Anonymous said...

Actually, this is a good illustration of what is wrong with this country. Period. Overweening bureaucracy with a bit of red tape to wrap it all up nicely and topped if with an insincere smile.

Anonymous said...

Iain: Not sure if you write your own headlines, since you got the spelling right in the body of the "rant". But to all those who keep spelling it "Vodaphone" - remember that there is always an eff in Vodafone. (Got this one into Private Eye a couple of years ago, too.)

Peter

Serf said...

There's nothing pro-capitalist or pro-citizen about huge and unaccountable private monopolies

Since when was Vodaphone a monopoly? In this case, Iain has the chance to dump them for a competitor.

Vlad the Impala said...

After years of being ripped off by Vodafone's billing system, and experiencing murderous feelings towards their billind department (staffed exclusively with individuals with an IQ below room temperature), I finally switched to Orange. Don't want to be pervy about it, but each month when I get my bill now am motivated to light small candle of gratitude and place on self-made altar. Am sure there are probably 89 zillion disastisfied Orange users but am not one myself.

TonyH said...

It will be no consolation to hear that I have had an even more irritatingly stupid experience with O2.

Having been with them since they were Cellnet I found myself with an XDA Exec that was virtually useless as a phone because it kept triggering calls in my pocket. My large monthly contract payment (around £50/mth) was going unused and I asked if I could have another handset - any handset - to enable me to make phone calls. No chance, they told me, until my current 12 month contract was up.

I was annoyed but started crossing off the days on my calendar. Then one day my wife went into Carphone Warehouse and came out with a gleeming new handset in return for a 12 month contract with O2 paying just £10 a month after rebates. This seemed to put everything into context.

My final plea to O2 was 10 months into my contract when I could bare it no more. I pointed out I had been with them for years paying literally hundreds of pounds a year for my phone. But still nothing. So I too walked into Carphone Warehouse and got a new contract paying less for more minutes with a posh new handset.

Of course, when I called O2 to cancel the original contract they were prepared to offer me the earth to stay because at that stage of the process I passed to a different team - the retentions team - but it was by then too late.

I just wish I could start a business that I could afford to run so badly without going broke.

Jon H said...

You should try moving to O2 Iain, they have always been excellent with me and i got my free yearly phone upgrade with no trouble! But maybe i'm the only one...

Raggasonic said...

A sign of what's wrong with this country? I think people gettinz jazzed about mobile phones is a bit sad!

I like the way new customers get great deals on mobile phones but they're not available to existing customers - a tax on your loyalty.

The service is an example of the private sector being greedy - but only because the companies have cornered the market. It would be a lot more competitive if there were 6, 7 or eight operators.

Colin D. said...

Iain, go to BT for ALL your com's. They are so wonderful. Well full of wonder anyway. A Nice polite asian beauty with a degree and all that?? Telling you all is A OK, Still no internet for 3 days. The "engineers" are missed [ I fink it is missed]off with the management talking to them like demented kids .happy days will return. Probably on Ch.5. All this to worry about on top of Global warming. Any one out there come across those nice "Warm Front" team from Geordie land. A well known Gov. quango.

Gavin Ayling said...

Regulated industries are similar to nationalised industries in that respect... No wonder you're dissatisfied.

But remember, while Vodafone's poor, it's the least poor of a poor bunch.

Arty Fatbuckle said...

I am inclined to ask, "Does your current phone make and receive calls?"

If it does, I cannot be sure what the fuss is. Do you need it to give you a personal massage or something?

As for the phone companies, yes they are worse than a plague of boils. All of them. Although, having said that, I switched from Orange to BT recently and they have been ten times better than anybody else. I havn't paid for a phone for five years and I have one that does everything I want it to which is to er... phone people (and of course the occasional clandestine upskirt panty shot)

Car Phone Warehouse used to be very good indeed, and now they are the very worst; they are not interested unless you are a 20 year-old youf with £300 and no sense and you get served by an embryo who is still recovering from last night's cut price drugs.

Orange don't give a toss if you want to leave them and have never, ever been good in a crisis. But what caused me to leave Orange was not poor service, which there was, but because they refused to take responsibility for the hundreds of calls purportedly from "Orange Authorised Dealers" for upgrades at silly prices. Utter Tossers.

As for BT, my "hub" packed up and one quick call got me a replacement in 24 hours, no questions. The deal was cheaper than my Orange account and I use it for all calls now because I have more minutes than I need.

Anonymous said...

computer says no!

Bryan Appleyard said...

I think, in fact, it the process of making things cheaper by making the customer do the work. Supermarkets started this - you collect the food yourself. The new technology takes this to extremes. For example. Carphone Warehouse are ferocious about direct debits, a way of making you or your bank do the work. In my case, they then started taking out sums for which they could not account. Our lives have become as much more complex as those of the companies have become simpler.

Gammarama said...

I can see where you are coming from, had a similar experience. If you are a ‘web’ customer you get treated like an alien in the vodafone shop. Tip: when it comes to renewing your contract, always threaten to leave and send a letter stating so, you will get a call from the disconnections department offering you great deals. Have done this the last 3 times my contract has been up, and keep getting an even better contract!! Also, if you want to complain, write a letter, don't even waste your time on the telephone. You can get free credit and things like that.

Ramalamadingdong! said...

Iain, you should wait a few months and (fingers crossed) you'll be able to get a lovely Apple iPhone in January! Rumoured to be initially available on 02, though.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Iain

The only thing you can do with these over blown companies is DUMP THEM

Hey said...

Nice to see the bolshies come out. I'd wager that few if any here have any experience in managing as part of a large (tens or hundreds of thousands of employees.

Constructing a rational pricing and sales strategy is very, very, very hard. There is typically a matrix of conflicting management centers, such as a regional group, a product group, a customer industry group, etc. All of which are continually changing their plans, sales incentives, etc.

Furthermore, you quickly run in to agency problems, i.e. the issue that it is especially hard to control the actions of others, as they have different incentives than a principal would have. This is typically used to analyse the difference of interests between shareholders and management, but it also applies to the gap between group executives and line staff in specific divisions. You see this in the large number of conflicts between the Camero CCHQ, the Parliamentary party, the constituency party, and the committed activists.

Given that, dealing with any large firm is hard, as the first few layers of the retail organization have little control over what they do and have little overall view of the best interests of the firm. The typical low paid retail worker has no interests or incentive to try to understand the best interest of the firm. In fact, they will likely be punished by their immediate manager, who also is unconcerned with the firm's goals rather than his immediate targets. In this, they are much like the typical HR or IT worker that is more concerned with their internal process rather than with the overall goals of the organisation. This causes people making hundreds of thousands of pounds at an investment bank to waste hours on the ill conceived process of useless overhead people, usually for simple power purposes. These roles have a purpose to protect the data of the firm and protect it from lawsuits, but they typically are function focused rather than on the goals of the firm. All in all a bad situation.

So understand the poor folks at Vodafone, who just have to follow their scripts. What you want to do is to tell them that you want to cancel your subscription. This quickly escalates you to someone whose interests are very well aligned with yours and who are empowered to not lose clients. They tend to go overboard, as they are measured on retainment rather than on customer profitability, but that's a great situation for you.

Hayek's Grandad said...

Calm down dear... I had a similar experience with Vodaphone, I so I left.

If you want to genuinely improve things for everyone (and not just the ones with the time and knowledge and gumption to play the system) then you have to vote with your feet. It's like store oyalty cards, if only people would stop taking them and shop where it's cheaper then they'd take the money off the products instead of making people carry 50 diffreent bits of plastic everywhere.

As for banks, I think they're doing a great job and people who work at banks aren't paid enough.

Anonymous said...

"Hey" sounds credible, but years behind the reality, which is they don't GIVE a damn because another sucker will be along in a minute.

Don't believe me? Go into any phone shop and join the queue.

Adrian Yalland said...

T-Mobile are even worse (and their signal coverage is crap too). They emplooy morons in their shops who lie to get your business! We changed from 02 a year ago because our raoming charges where so high. we took a list of our roaming charges to T-Mobile - and I was told T-mobile was cheaper on them all. Where they hell! I pay about £400 a month on roaming - so much so that I now have Slovenian phone, a Sri Lankan phone and various other pay-as-you go SIMs, just to avopid these sharks ripping me off.

We should start up www.rant.com where people have an opportunity to be nasty about corporates!

I hate all big corporates. They are distant, remote, motivated by profit alone and screw us all for a penny!

Martyn said...

Iain rightly points out here the limitations of privatisation. Far from providing the customer with real choice you get the same old, same old from the big corps. The Halifax Bank have become absolutely abysmal since the switch from mutual status. Customer service is appalling and there is a general level of incompetence that is staggering. A financial advisor of there's told me he'd never heard of the investment product he'd sold me only four years ago recently :-o

If Dave Cameron helps disabuse Tories of their infatuation will all things big business then he will perhaps be getting somewhere.

Still never vote for him mind ;-)

Adrian Yalland said...

Anon 2.03 - I'm with you! This is exactly where the problem lies. 02, voda, T-mobi, 3 and all the others are acting like a cartel and OFCOM is doing sod-bleeding-all about it!

Anonymous said...

This problem is universal - both the public and private sectors have developed computer driven processes which are cheap to operate but do not allow flexibility which increases costs. They then have complaint handling procedures which are more about cost/damage limitation than addressing complaints

The real question is what do you do about it? Alternatives include taking your business elsewhere, but that will cost you. Allow market forces to work so that the worst offenders get driven out of business - doesn't seem to be working at present. Or some form of state intervention - by regulation or naming or shaming. or something else.

This is what real politics should be about - because this sort of rubbish is ruining real peoples lives.

tyger said...

Gavin Ayling

"Regulated industries are similar to nationalised industries in that respect... No wonder you're dissatisfied."

Errrr. How exactly is regulation guilty for Iain’s experience of Vodafone’s bureaucracy?

Ever heard of "X-Efficiency?"

Anonymous said...

This is your fault. You, and millions like you, are so uninterested in customer service that you don't take it into account when you choose a supplier. You can't even be bothered to use a web site to check on other people's experiences before you sign up.

And then, instead of taking responsibility for your choice, you whinge when something goes wrong.

If there were a demand for a mobile phone service with proper customer service at a higher price, the service would be provided: that's free-market economics (cf. full-service bank accounts). Since there isn't the demand, the service isn't provided.

Tony said...

It will be no consolation to hear that I have had an even more irritatingly stupid experience with O2.

Having been with them since they were Cellnet I found myself with an XDA Exec that was virtually useless as a phone because it kept triggering calls in my pocket. My large monthly contract payment (around £50/mth) was going unused and I asked if I could have another handset - any handset - to enable me to make phone calls. No chance, they told me, until my current 12 month contract was up.

I was annoyed but started crossing off the days on my calendar. Then one day my wife went into Carphone Warehouse and came out with a gleeming new handset in return for a 12 month contract with O2 paying just £10 a month after rebates. This seemed to put everything into context.

My final plea to O2 was 10 months into my contract when I could bare it no more. I pointed out I had been with them for years paying literally hundreds of pounds a year for my phone. But still nothing. So I too walked into Carphone Warehouse and got a new contract paying less for more minutes with a posh new handset.

Of course, when I called O2 to cancel the original contract they were prepared to offer me the earth to stay because at that stage of the process I passed to a different team - the retentions team - but it was by then too late.

I just wish I could start a business that I could afford to run so badly without going broke.

f0ul said...

Doh, Anonymong beat me to the point I was going to make

Free Markets only work when people make choices - actually free markets work even when people don't make choices - as you have here!

If you lot really wanted the latest bestest you need to pay for it - either up front or through quality of service and obviously qos isn't an issue for the general public!

garypowell said...

Anonymous thanks for saying what I was going to say.

Do you lot think that if the government had had anything to do with running the mobile phone industry you would even have a mobile phone at all? They might work OK but only MI5 and the prime minister would own one.

Dont like to show my age to much but when I started my first business back in 1979 it took me 9 months just to have my first land line installed.

Vienna Woods said...

I have the same problem with Amazon. My dearly beloved wanted a particular sports watch which they listed in their on-line catalogue. Tried to order it and up comes the reply "cannot ship to the designated address". I sent an email to them and back comes the reply that the watch is offered by a 3rd party who will not deliver to Austria. I wanted to tell them that they were wrong and tried replying to their email...NOT POSSIBLE! Would you believe that Amazon have a one way mail box so that if you have a complaint there is no way that a series correspondence can be tied together! Each time you write it must be over their internet domain and dealt with by a different pillock each time. Maybe that's the intention...

Beachhutman said...

They're all the same. Orange wouldn't give me an upgrade to a PDA phone on my six year old contract, (unless I paid then £270) but if I stopped the contract and took out a NEW one, why, I could have the phone for nothing! Utter cretins.

Floreat Aula said...

Dude - just tell them what you want and that if they make you pay you'll change network.

And then if they don't give it you change network - where they'll give you the phone as a 'hello please join us'.

Jeez - no need for a rant.

S

Shotgun said...

Sorry Iain, but they are right, and they do go on what the computer system says in front of them. They are also structured as two separate business' O2 is the same.

The problem is that they employ morons that have no choice but to follow a set of questions and answers they have on a screen, and they cannot diverge from this without speaking to a supervisor, which they are informed are not available.

This is the problem with Indian call centres especially because they work under more stringent guidelines and set patterns.

It stinks and it's shite.

Mind you...things are changing. Churchill Insurance has made a big play recently of having call centres in the UK, as have some banks, and it has worked as their customer base has grown.

Anonymous said...

>Doesn't this experience illustrate just what is wrong with the customer service attitude of big retail companies. Their entire approach is driven by computer systems

No.

Actually thats the answer of the CS drone who doesn't know what decisions are being taken at a higher level.

A computer system does not dictate a pricing structure. The data held on those systems does.

That data gets there by the business deciding what goes on.

This is something you tories can partially be blamed for - turning everything into a moneymaker for the big companies whilst screwing us consumers.

Its what you call "choice". Something you wanted to do to the NHS IIRC.

Never mind Ian, we still like your blog!

Carl

newmania said...

Whilst dealing with vodaphone can be frustrating they are the very soul of administrative efficiency by comparison with the Police. Shouldn’t this be the other way round ?

wonkotsane said...

How can I put this politely? ... Vodafone suck ass.

I used to work for an independent mobile phone dealer and we wouldn't touch Vodafone with a barge pole as a rule. When the other networks were paying dealers £100+ to upgrade mobiles for their customers (the cost of the phone is deducted from this payment) Vodafone would pay as little as £40 which wouldn't cover even the manufacturing costs of the most basic of phones.

Iain, the best thing you can do is ditch Vodafone and go for someone else. The cost of a new phone is high and the best way to get one for free is by taking a new contract out with someone else. Orange have some very good deals but they might not do that phone. The only down side is that they're French and some of their call centre staff are in India.

Anonymous said...

The "new customers only" policy is the most frustrating. Unfortunately, it's also the free market economics of market segmentation. Only give the good deals to those who are willing to accept the hassle of complaining or switching service providers, as they are the most price sensitive customers. The rest can be milked for all that they're worth.

It's not just the mobile phone companies who work that way and there's little that you can do about it, unless you fancy living in North Korea.