I’ve been following this post on SMS Text News about Complaining to the Phones4U CEO Tim Whiting, for some time.
Now and again an irate Phones4U customer clearly does a google search, finds the SMS Text News post and contributes their mindnumbing experience.
I really do feel a little bit strange every time I walk by a Phones4U outlet. They seem to me to be empty flashy-looking warehouses aimed at getting as much cash out of customers as possible. I need to go and speak to some people from there to try and reorient my perspective.
Any company working on the high streets of Britain comes into contact with it’s fair share of complainers — many of the downright ridiculous, demanding money off, stuff for free or complaining at their own stupidity for not reading various clearly displayed terms and conditions.
However, Phones4U seems — by my reckoning — to attract a substantial amount of animosity from wronged customers. They are, I gather, particularly adept at sidestepping issues and passing customers directly to operators and dealing poorly with after sales. It’s a challenging line to walk, I imagine, as once you’ve sold the handset and price plan to the customer, the next steps are nothing to do with you. But if the customer has been promised 20 free texts messages a month — and, when their operator refuses citing the contract signed — all hell breaks loose. Especially when the customer’s memory is a bit patchy (either deliberately or otherwise).
The one thing you can always rely on from Carphone Warehouse, however, is Mr Dunstone. Yes he’s exited to the tune of a rather large number of millions of pounds but he’s still very involved in the company. He’s got a Richard-Branson-style reputation. I, for example, wrote to him years ago to express my gratitude at wicked service from the Baker Street Carphone Warehouse (I bought a Motorola StarTac that I treasured).
Only this afternoon, I was in a meeting with a well known mobile innovator startup who, when I said I was off to meet Carphone Warehouse, immediately launched into a ‘Hmm, I had a problem with them… but when I emailed Mr Dunstone, the problem was miraculously fixed the next morning,’ (Leaving a nice positive memory).
When you talk to the CEO — or his direct underlings, things get fixed, right? There are cracks, there always are — no organisation can offer an entirely positive service first-time. So that’s why you can always trust in the quick recourse to central management.
As long as you’re not a Phones4U customer, that is. Have a read of today’s story-of-woe submitted by SMS Text News reader Neil…
First – the history:
Daughter got a lg100 chocolate on their buy back scheme, this phone broke down and was sent back on th 18 july 07, never received it back, city link lost the phone and told us we had signed for it (wrong) no one would accept responsibility for this. Eventuially after loads of phone calls I was told that they would send out a phone to us, they sent one out and it was rubbish so I sent it back they said they would send out another one no joy so far. Rang them today 24 oct 07 and offered them a resolution. said they would get back to me by close of business today, guess what now 18.30 and still no joy 3 months on and they just dont care. Should have known that any company who advertise with weird mad people should be trouble. Going to try Tim Whiting next then watchdog.
Ok, so that’s from October 24th.
Now, today’s update from Neil:
After my last post I tried emailing Mr Whiting. tim.whiting at phones4u.co.uk guess what it actually worked. The very next morning I received a call from Chris Barker who is apparently quite high up in the organisation. he assured me that a phone would be sent out and that it could take up to 10 working days. Waited 10 days and no phone so contacted them again. Mr Barker apologised profusely and told me that he was having trouble with the royal mail something about a despatch number but would sort it out and the phone requested would be sent asap. Got a phone call half hour later telling me I could not have the phone we agreed on and he offered me 2 other choices (both rubbish) I went absolutely ballistic. I am a happy go lucky bloke with a very long fuse but he got everything, I told him that my daughter and I had been repeatedly fobbed off, lied to and that p4u had been taking the piss for the last 5 months very loudly and at great length. He asked if he could call me back. He rang me back 20 mins later and has now promised me a Nokia N95 brand new top of the range, apparently it will be here monday. I am unfortunately away on holiday but my daughter will be here. Wait and see the next exciting instalment. Dont forget tim.whiting at phones4u.co.uk
Deary me indeed. This clearly isn’t necessarily Mr Barker’s day job. He has, no doubt, got lots of other work to do — eminently understandable. It’s always best to try and solve the problem right-away. A second phone call is sometimes necessary… but deary me, call after call after call, just to sort out an N95.
I considered for a little while whether to countenance Neil’s intent of publishing Tim Whiting’s email in his post. However I reasoned that any sensible person could work that email string out and published Neil’s comments (but I removed the ‘at’ sign so that Tim doesn’t get tons of spam as a result).
I wonder how many emails like Neil’s are arriving in Tim’s Blackberry? How many is he having to forward with a silent curse to one of his team to sort out?
Quick tip, Tim: Setup a Phones4U blogger outreach programme. Establish a single-point-of-contact on a Phones4U blog that upset customers can contact to quickly resolve their problems. Then there’ll be no need for the likes of Neil to email you. The faceless Phones4U site — simply brochureware and an online ordering facility — isn’t helping at all.