I phoned Vodafone this evening to terminate two of the lines that I’m not using. Whilst it was a nice swift experience getting through to a customer services adviser, I was astounded when he explained that I needed to send Vodafone an email. You can’t, it seems, actually talk to Vodafone about closing a line. You have to email.
This is rather stupid, given I’d used up my flipping valuable time calling them.
I duly sent an email with instructions. I marked it low priority.
So my expectations weren’t met. But this was good enough.
I then remembered I wanted to change the price plan on my car phone SIM. This is the SIM that sits in the Range Rover. We hardly ever use it. I saw that it was on a £28/month tariff that offered 900 minutes — useful for when I was driving a lot. I’m not doing that any more, so this can come down. Way down.
I had a quick look through the various 30-day SIM-only deals. There were plenty worth a look. The entry level is £10.50 and that includes 50 minutes a month. Job done.
I was about to pick up the phone and call again when a chatter message popped up on my screen.
“Would you like to talk to an adviser?” the message asked.
“Why yes,” I thought and clicked the button.
Almost 27 minutes later (26 minutes, 44 seconds) I’d succeeded in changing my price plan.
You’d think this is pretty easy. Alas no.
Here’s the transcript:
info: Welcome to Vodafone! You are about to be connected to a online customer service representative for Vodafone UK. Your approximate wait time is 0 minute(s) and 49 seconds. We thank you for your patience and look forward to chatting with you.
info: You are now connected with Vikas.
Vikas: Hello, you’re chatting with Vikas, one of Vodafone’s online customer service specialists. May I take your full name and mobile number please?
You: Hi Vikas I’m Ewan MacLeod and the number is [removed]
Vikas: Hi Ewan!
Vikas: How are you doing today?
You: I’m ok thank you!
Vikas: How may I assist you today?
You: I’d like to make a price plan change with one of my numbers, please
Vikas: I will certainly assist you with this
Vikas: For security reasons, may I confirm the 3rd and 4th digit of your PIN
You: X and X
Vikas: Thank you for the details
Vikas: Please give me a couple of minutes to get it checked for you
Vikas: Thank you for waiting
Vikas: Please confirm the number you wish to change the Price Plan.
Vikas: Thank you
Vikas: Please confirm the price plan you are looking for?
You: on a sim-only deal
Vikas: Please stay connected, let me check this for you
Vikas: Please stay connected, I am looking into it
Vikas: Be assured, I will try my best to give you the best deals available.
Vikas: Please stay connected
Vikas: I appreciate your patience.
You: no problem
Vikas: Thank you for waiting
Vikas: Please help me with the allowances as per your requirements. As such the allowances varies price plan to price plan.
You: just the lowest is fine — £10 per month
Vikas: Please give me a moment. I will check this for you
Vikas: The above link will explain the sim only deals which we currently offer
You: the £10.50 30-day option is fine
Vikas: okay, is that the same with the allowances 50 minutes, 100MB internet, Unlimited texts?
Vikas: Usually, we do not transfer the price plan to a lower amount on the same number and if transferred, there happens to be a charge. However, we see that you have been a great customer with us and we have followed the process to migrate you to the mentioned plan
Vikas: and it has been successfully migrated
Vikas: The new plan would be effective from today midnight
You: thank you
Vikas: The next bill would include both the price plan on a pro rata basis
Vikas: the earlier plan would be charged till today
Vikas: and the currently applied plan would be charged from today till the billing date
Vikas: no worries
Vikas: It has been my pleasure to assist you today. Is there anything else for which I can be of any assistance?
You: no that’s fine, thank you very much
Vikas: Thank you for chatting with me today. Please click on “End Chat” button on the top right corner to answer few questions about your experience today. Have a great evening ahead Ewan
[I was pretty annoyed at the "charge" for swapping the line to a lower price plan given it's been out of commitment for, I dunno, at least a year. A charge? Utter rubbish. And as for being a "great customer"? Nice of you to say, but this line was totally out of commitment. It'll go on whatever price plan I *want*.]
Anyway, continuing… I found it astonishing that this whole transaction took 27 minutes.
It’s a bit of a shame there are no timestamps so you can actually see the MINUTES I was waiting in between.
It felt like poor Vikas — who, I felt, was trying to do his best — was actually trying to get through to somebody on Vodafone’s Customer Service team on my behalf.
Either that or he was managing a billion other customer enquiries at the same time.
I have a problem with the circumstances that required me to sit and stare at the flipping screen for the best part of almost half an hour.
My expectations in this regard have been confounded by the rather beautiful experience with O2 last week where I managed to cancel both my lines via online chat. I just looked up that transcript and the total connection time was just 15 minutes. To actually CANCEL two lines.
Vodafone made me write them a flipping email. Then kept me waiting 27 minutes to make a silly price plan change.
In the cold light of day in a rather boring meeting room in Newbury, this post might look like I’ve got ridiculously mismatched service level expectations. But I was chucking £250-300 a month at Vodafone. In aggregate, you expect … I dunno. Something a bit better than “send us an email” and shoddy chat services.
On the way home this evening whilst I thought about this experience, I think I’ve reached an impasse. I think I’m done over-paying for mobile operator services.
For a long time I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I viewed expenditure with a mobile operator as something akin to status. I quite liked being on the top £75/month tariff. I liked having 7 lines on my Vodafone account. I didn’t mind — at the peak — regularly blowing £500 a month on Vodafone services. [To be clear, this segment isn't aimed only at Vodafone, I had lots of accounts on other networks too.]
I suppose I was labouring under the expectation of phenomenal service. And I think once or twice I’ve benefitted from this. Largely, though, spending a lot and having lots of lines with an operator doesn’t mean anything. It’s all about contract commitment. If you scream long enough and loud enough, you might get a tenner off your next handset if you’re spending thousands a year with them. If you’re spending thousands a month, well, perhaps your account manager might have some leeway.
What’s the point? The whole experience is being reduced to commodity. Telling the difference between the different networks is getting incredibly difficult.
What’s worse, telling the difference between spending £20 and £500 with Vodafone is really, REALLY difficult.
What is the point?
There’s no pull.
It’s not as if I get any benefit for spending more, beyond the basic price plan offerings.
I’m not using much voice any more. Data’s fine. Apart from when I go abroad, I’m not really using much in the way of operator services. When I’m at work, I’m on WiFi permanently. I make a few calls. Get a few calls. Rarely text. I’m iMessaging lots. Email and then OTT services are working nicely.
Walking home this evening I recognised that I’d hit the spot. Just give me the commodity service, please.
I recognise that there’s limited additional value in using Vodafone for voice — their current network frequency seems to be rather useful for sustaining a call on a train doing 25 mph. (Beyond that, no operator seems to work, so it’s academic). So I can see a reason to retain Vodafone.
I’m rather surprised at how I’m *not* feeling, though. The last thing you need is for your customer to stop feeling. That’s me and Vodafone. I’ve gone stone cold.
It’s been building for a while — and after buying the ‘new iPad’ outright last week (the 32GB “4G” version), I was already heading down this track, perhaps unknowingly. Previously I’d have never dreamed of taking a 3G iPad without buying it via Vodafone.
That’s me at that commodity stage now though. Just give me the commodity service and the cheapest price whereby I can expect a decent service level.
No contracts. What’s the flipping point? I don’t want your financing or your 24-month commitments for technology that’s updated within 12.
And you know what, I really don’t mind if it’s O2 delivering my services. Or anybody, actually.
That’s me and the mobile operator done: I shall now be known henceforth as Commodity MacLeod.