You know, I do go on about Vodafone, but..

I was just having a look through the Vodafone eForum. It’s a tremendous resource for customers and, I think it’s fair to say, one of Vodafone’s best additions to their customer service offering, ever.

The eForum is a pretty harrowing read if you’re someone like me. I’m fixated by what operators should be doing. I’m looking at the sharp end, usually — the future, the innovation, the front-end bits. Not the BAU (“business as usual”) stuff.

Vodafone tends to get a lot of mentions in my writing, primarily because they’re how I tend to experience ‘mobile’ in the first instance. I have accounts on all UK networks and I try and use them all regularly. But it’s the Vodafone handset that gets switched on first when I arrive abroad. And I’m highly likely to write about that experience (“135p per minute? Thanks for nothing, Vodafone“, “My Vodafone-free trip to Miami“).

Browsing through the eForum, I am reminded of the enormity of what the company has to deal with. Every single day. Some of it must be mindnumbing.

I clicked about and eventually landed on a post titled, “FRUSTRATED NEW CUSTOMER!”

All caps? It can’t be good.

I had a look. It begins, thus:

As per the Ts+Cs I will try my best to keep this polite even though I am an extremely unhappy customer wanting to end the contract after less than 3weeks!

Ok let’s get into the gubbins:

This I took a 24month contract with the White iPhone 4, 1200mins,unlimited texts and 750mb of data. I had a lot of issues to start with as i have now used OVER 1.2GB of data in under 3weeks( and I do not use Youtube, Twitter etc.) Friends and family are astonished as they all have iphones and use roughly the same kind of apps. This is just 1issue but not what has really wound me up over the last few days. not a good start, eh?

Oookay now then, what the hell were you doing with 1.2GB in three weeks? That’s an average of 57mb a day. Not even I use that much.

If you don’t use Youtube, Twitter or the like, you must be receiving a billion emails an hour or something crazy like that. You’re obviously doing something to USE IT UP. This is not Vodafone’s problem.

Still.

As the frustrated new customer points out, this isn’t the key issue. The main one is about payment.

I won’t bore you with the life story (the customer gives the equivalent) except to point out this basic chronology:

1. Customer buys phone, sets up direct debit, receives confirmation all good
2. Unfortunately the billing period ends before the direct debit has time to be integrated into Vodafone’s system
3. The customer’s account is suspended due to non-payment, even though Vodafone didn’t actually take the payment
4. The customer goes ballistic

I’ve had this happen before. It’s utterly annoying, but it’s just one-of-those-things. Once the direct debit kicks in, you’re rocking.

The customer has obviously phoned up Vodafone to sort it out.

I suspect the call centre will have explained that all that’s needed is a balancing payment, temporarily, and then next month’s payment will go through just fine. If you’re a regular mobile user and you’ve swapped about networks a few times, you’ll probably have experienced this. You just need to pay the cash over the phone and you’re done.

If the customer had done this, service would have been restored within minutes.

But the customer chose not to. Here’s why:

I REFUSE to pay over the telephone by card (I DONT TRUST YOU TO HAVE MY CARD DETAILS AFTER NOT BEING ABLE TO TAKE A DIRECT DEBIT) and it goes completely against the reason of setting up a DD in the first place.

The customer appears to be verging on apoplectic — but is kind enough to remind us that the email has been typed politely:

This email has been typed as politely as I can manage at this moment, I expect Vodafone to turn my services BACK ON and take the money from MY BANK as AGREED WHEN I TOOK OUT THE CONTRACT! This will not continue for another 23months as it is not how I conduct business.

So you’re a new customer, you fell through the crack. This does happen. All you need to do is make the balancing payment to fix it.

If you can rectify this situation ASAP then I look forward to hearing from you

I find it very difficult to understand how Vodafone will be able to rectify this situation, given that 28th June 2011 was a few weeks ago. How precisely should they rectify it, without some kind of time travel technology?

Surely it’s you, dear customer, who can rectify it by making a payment? Yes Vodafone’s billing system didn’t kick in — but they’ve other ways of making payment right-away. It’s not Vodafone’s fault now. You’re the one delaying problem resolution.

I daresay that it’s conceivably that Vodafone can take double the payment (last month plus this month) at the end of July. But don’t expect your service to be reactivated until then since you haven’t paid?

And if you can’t help, Vodafone:

If not then expect a copy of this to be posted on every forum I can find on the internet to enlighten others of Vodafones business practices!

This note was posted at 12:59pm on the 5th of July. The customer came back 18 minutes later with this qualification:

Oh and PLEASE whatever you do, DO NO TRY and come back to me with the same responses I have heard from the useless customer services this morning. This is a problem caused by yourselves, I will not be ‘put out’ or have ‘to do’ or waste any more of my day, this is a problem you guys need to rectify, no further discussions are required
Many thanks

Ooooh dear.

Martin from Vodafone bit the bullet and replied. The thrust of his text was:

I do know that if for any reason the direct debit is not taken on the requested date, the request can’t go through again to ask for the payment, and a manual payment will need to be made.

Nicely worded Martin.

Thankyou for getting back to me Martin. I have replied to your email, WITHOUT sending all my private security information to you.

Well that’s fair enough. What else?

As I stated in my first post, I SHALL NOT BE DOING ANYTHING to rectify this problem, ie – wasting my day speaking to customer services just to be told the same information that is irrelevant. This is a problem your end, if you can fix it it would be much appreciated.

The problem was indeed at Vodafone’s end. The billing system didn’t kick-in the direct debit.

This is a fail.

It happens. You know what, perhaps you could request a bit of credit as compensation. I dunno, a tenner? It’s annoying but it’s entirely within your gift to fix it, dear customer:

Move on.

Or…

If not il send an email to Vittorio Colao’s department and CC in a few other people with authority and see how i get on with those guys ‘upstairs’.
Many thanks

And thus ends the saga.

Oh, there is a follow-up reply from James at Vodafone — and I can only assume that it’s been taken offline on to email.

Goodness me.

There you go.

This is one small random example of what the Vodafone team (and the operator industry as a whole) has to deal with on a daily basis.

It’s a sober reminder of just how … patient … you need to be when dealing with the public. Not for nothing is Vodafone one of the UK’s customer service leaders. They need to be.

To the Vodafone eForum team: You have the patience of demigods. Super work.

You only have to peak into the forums to see that every question — no matter how crazy — gets a cordial and prompt answer. What’s really exciting is seeing how many questions are answered by other customers, a) saving Vodafone’s resources, b) helping out the customer and c) creating a useful SEO-able thread for anyone else searching for the solution.

I know that o2 has an active customer forum too.

Do you know of any other operators running anything similar to Vodafone’s eForums?

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  • Anonymous

    Please see the Forum section of Vodafone Italy’s Lab: 
    http://lab.vodafone.it/forum/

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Nice one, thank you!

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