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 Feature
11 June 2009 | Dr Jenny Dugmore Blog
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Special Service for a Business Phone
This week Jenny shares with you her customer service experience with Tom, Dick and Harry!...

I’m at the wits end of a saga over my mobile phone.  It started in India when I went out for the ISO standards meeting and has continued back in the UK.  I was in the middle of the final preparations and all the arrangements seemed to be fine, but there was obviously a malevolent spirit intent on making it harder for me. At a time when my phone was essential, (after all, I have a life outside developing standards, and needed to keep in touch with several people), I realised it was giving me problems.  First I noticed I could not reliably make calls, although I could receive them. Just a temporary problem I thought, optimistically.  Too optimistically, as it turned out.  I then discovered I could not pick up voice mail messages – quite a problem when I was in a different time zone to the UK. Having tried the usual, moving to a different place, switching on and off, then re-booting by taking the battery in and out, then finally polishing up the SIM card, I accepted it was still not working properly.

So the next step was to phone my service provider – a very well know player in the telecoms market that I’ve had a contract with for over 12 years. I have a “business phone” that supposedly gives me a better level of service. So there should be no problems getting advice and then getting things sorted out in some way or other. Can you guess?  Yes, total customer dissatisfaction. One event followed another in a long saga. 

First step was to explain to “Tom” (I’ll call him Tom to protect the guilty – it wasn’t his name at all).  I had very little opportunity to explain my problem before Tom leapt into the conversation with “We are not responsible for what happens once the phone leaves the UK”. I then tried to explain that my phone had worked perfectly the day before, in exactly the same place and anyway the symptoms didn’t seem to indicate a network problem was the cause.  Tom’s response was to repeat “We are not responsible for what happens when the phone leaves the UK”. So I tried a new tactic and asked if they could do any kind of checks at their end to help establish what the fault was.  Again “We are not responsible for what happens once the hone leaves the UK”. 

I was beginning to wonder if I was listening to a clever recording and not a silly human, but out of desperate need to get my phone fixed I tried yet again with another question, this time “Can you let me know why I can’t retrieve my voice mail using the normal short code”.  And yet again “We are not responsible…”, but this time I talked louder than Tom did in order to stop him and I managed to silence him for long enough to repeat my question.  I was then at least able to extract the answer that even though I had been told my short code would work in India it was not actually true. So now I knew, but still could not get my messages, because I’d not brought my “long code” because I’d not expected to need it.

Oh and yes, to add insult to injury I was told I was “down as just an ordinary customer, so I wasn’t a business customer so I didn’t get a special service at all”.  At this stage I made a few pointed comments on how “disappointing” this was to me, I then decided to cut my losses and said good bye, as politely as possible under the circumstances. After all, anyone that has rung a call centre of this type (and who has not?) has had both good and bad experiences.  I decided I’d just been unlucky in the Customer Service lottery and I’d better just have another go later to see if next time round would be better. 

So I had another try, still using a borrowed phone with that long wait, being told how important my call was to them, that irritatingly chirpy voice, and the instructions to press such and such a key (and why does the one I need always appear at the end?).

This time I got through to “Dick” (again, not his real name). Dick was much easier to talk to and at least let me explain my problem. He didn’t think he could help me, but the call wasn’t quite so fraught as when I was dealing with Tom.  I was left after this call with a view that my SIM card was defective.  So I went through the sequence of taking the battery out, polishing the SIM card etc.  It still didn’t work, so was obviously something more fundamental. I was also given a   number used to retrieve the long code, but the only one Dick was able to give was one that only worked in the UK. Small problem there, I was still in India and would be for over a week.

So then I tried again and talked to “Harry” – Harry basically refused to do anything whatever I asked.  When I eventually and by now very angrily, asked to speak to a manager Harry said “there were no managers in today”.  After a rather terse debate Harry agreed to find someone for me to talk to.  Then after a short pause, cut me off.

So what now? I bought a new phone in India, they could not have been more helpful and checked it was all working with my supposedly defective SIM card, even before I asked them to.  I spent a while digging about my supplier’s web page and found how to retrieve my long code to get my messages.  I was back able to communicate.

Now I’m back in the UK and following the delights of this level of customer service I’m in the process of breaking my contract. Will breaking my contract make someone care?  I suspect not.

Finally, to add a sting to the sad tale of this appalling customer service I was describing this saga to a friend and her immediate reaction was to confirm that “that’s what they do, I’ve had the same problems, they have cut me off twice when I was trying to complain”. So bad customer service wasn’t just an accident – they have practiced it on others before me and they have become real experts. 

Any feedback and comments are always welcome!


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