Whatley’s N95 saga: What happened next?

I posted a quick summary of James Whatley’s Vodafone experience just a few moments ago — just as this update arrived in my inbox… Over to James…

– – –
First up, if you missed the rant
on Friday
, then you should go catch up or else none the following will make much sense.


Up to speed? Good.

Next up – I’m still with Vodafone.


Well. You’ll see.

Thing is, this whole episode has really got me thinking about a LOT of stuff. So there’s a lot to cover with this follow up post, it might turn into another long one… So once again, thanks for reading.

First up – let’s pick up from where we left off.

The early hours of Friday morning:

01:30 – I email my rant over to Ewan

01:45 – He hits publish

01:46 – I post on Jaiku

04:52 – Nokia Geek re-posts the story on
his blog

07:40 – The story re-appears over on the blog by iFelix

08:57 – An SMS arrives from a friend within the walls of VF:

‘Would you like me to try and escalate your N95 problem internally? Or would you prefer the vanilla experience?”

I choose the latter, (thank you though for your kind offer – you know who you are).

09:30 – Steve Litchfield links back to the story over at All
About Symbian

Then, at 09:39, the phone rings:

‘Hello, James Whatley…”

‘Hello there Mr Whatley, my name’s Amy and I’m calling from Vodafone. I hope you don’t mind me getting in contact like this, I’ve just been reading your blog…”

[Note from Ewan: We’re speculating that ‘Amy’ is indeed Amy Rose as covered before on SMS Text News]

‘I see…”

‘Yes, I searched for your name on our system and then cross referenced the notes on the accounts that I found with your written version of events to see which James Whatley it could be and.. well I found you!”

‘Right you are.”

‘Mr Whatley, I’m dreadfully sorry for everything’s that happened regarding your N95. We’ve investigated it as much as we can this end and it seems the insurers have rather a lot hoops to jump through to process these claims, something we’re trying to rectify. And you see it’s basically a lot of red tape that we can’t really do much about…”


‘However, I’ve been in touch with them and sorted everything out and we should be able to get a replacement phone out to you as soon as possible. Now this normally happens on the next working day, but I’m going to make a few calls and see if we can’t get it out to you today.”

‘Oh well, thank you very much…”

‘Only thing is Mr Whatley, we don’t actually stock the silver N95 anymore. We only have the 8GB version, is that going to be ok?”

‘Well, er… I actually prefer the silver one if I’m perfectly honest, but I can’t knock it I guess. It’s very kind of you to reach out like this. Yes. Ok. I’ll take it. Cheers.”

‘Right then, I’ll sort things out with the insurance company. You will still have to pay the £25 excess charge for claiming but I can just pop that onto your next bill. I’ll give you a call back in a bit to confirm delivery.”

Brilliant. Fantastic. Wonderful.
Or is it?

We’ll come back to this one. Moving on.

09:50 – I get an email from Colin over at Nokia WOMWorld:

‘Hi James

Your two week trial period for the N82 has finished, therefore we need to organise the return of the device…

Just kidding! Read about your “kaput” N95, so out of the goodness of our hearts we will extend the N82 trial period. How about I send out a bluetooth headset too, make it easier for you to call/pester/complain to Vodafone whilst on the move?”

I very nearly spat my latte out laughing… This did make me smile. A lot. Cheers guys.

10:00 – Steve over at S60Blogger made sure he
mentioned it too
– which, incidentally, then got picked up a few more times on some insurance aggregation sites

10:10 – Paul Sweeney of VoiceSage talks about the Expectations
of GREAT Customer Service

11:29 – I come back to my desk and I have a missed call plus one new SMS:

Hi James, it’s Amy calling from Vodafone. Just calling you back as promised earlier. Got good news the phone is gonna be delivered to you today. Should be with you around 2:30. I will give you a call back, I’ll try you again in a little while just so that I can have another chance to chat to you. Thank you. Bye. – Spoken through SpinVox

14:30 you say? Not bad at all.

Lunch time rolls around and the department head out for a colleague’s birthday lunch.

13:25 – The phone rings:

‘Hi, is that James Whatley?”

‘Yes mate.”

‘Alright, I’m just on Marlow High Street, looking for Wethered House (SpinVox HQ), can you direct us?”

‘Actually mate, I’m just on the High Street myself. In Chez Gerard…”

‘Oh I can see that, I’ll come meet you.”

13:30 – Yours truly takes delivery of a brand new, never-been-opened Nokia N95 8GB.

Just shy of 12hrs since the original article went live.

So – What have we learnt?

First thing: Vodafone have some kind of ‘Forum Intervention Team’ who are happy to step up to the plate whenever things need fixing, (but we knew this already).

This I must say is a HUGE step forward for any operator/network and is something the rest of the industry can learn from.

To have a team in place monitoring the blogosphere for anything of this nature is a great string to Vodafone UK’s bow.
And it’s the exact same thing I used to do 18mths ago for Refresh Mobile, (way back in their Mobizines days).

So kudos to you Red; you came through and you delivered. Nice work.


And this is a big BUT that was repeated to me over email, IM, Jaiku, Twitter, SMS and even over the phone from my friends and colleagues alike:

‘BUT JAMES?! Well done and everything – But what about the average user? If this happened to your Mum she wouldn’t sit down and write two thousand words on how annoyed she was nor would she know the right platform/channels to use to air said grievances! So, what about your Normobs?!”

Well. There’s a few ways you can look at this.

Ewan bet me £5 that I could’ve got a replacement handset from in-store over the weekend and he was probably right. So did I get preferential treatment? Yes. You could say I did. If I was your average every day customer without access to a reasonably well-read wireless news site, would I have got my replacement handset on the same day? Doubtful, (don’t forget though, I still had to pay the £25 excess, just like anyone else – all VF saved me was time).

This however does not necessarily make Vodafone bad. Later that day I was contacted by another friend of mine, again within the walls of Vodafone. He told me about the Forum Intervention Team and how (in his opinion) they do a good job. Not least because they fix what they can online but because every problem they solve gets put back into the system to try and ensure that the same doesn’t happen again. My contact also told me that Vodafone has a ‘Voice of the Customer’ forum. Everyone within Voda has the ability to raise issues to VOC so they can be investigated.

They don’t take this kind of thing lightly.

The good thing (I’m told) is that this whole episode has highlighted the ‘outsourced insurers’ problem to the VOC which will hopefully mean that the end user experience will improve in the long run.

This is great news.

Short term?

If you’re a normob (or if you know one) then the best advice I could give you would be to never give up. Keep calling back, keep kicking up a fuss and keep on keeping on until you get the level of service you think you deserve.

Now in closing; let’s address some of the questions raised in the the
comments of Friday’s piece:

Quite a few of you mentioned that I should’ve taken the insurance girl’s hints and just told them what they wanted to hear. You’re probably right. But you’re gonna have to excuse my naivety on this one chaps; the thought didn’t even cross my mind. I’ve never had to claim on insurance before and well – I didn’t know the game was played as such. I’ll know for future reference… that aside – it’s still a sorry state of affairs if this kind of behaviour is ‘the norm’.

Hands0n had a cheeky dig at the state of my N95. What can I say? I USE my handset! I don’t care for fancy covers or belt clips. My phone is purely functional. Admittedly I use every function available but that doesn’t mean I should keep it wrapped up in cotton wool. I love the battle scars on my N95. It shows how much I’ve really got out of it, y’know?

Maybe I should send it off to some kind of mobile phone war museum… Hehe.

Joking aside, this whole episode has taught us a LOT about Vodafone.

Yes, their CS sometimes falters but it’s clear they do care about their customers.

Yes, they gave me preferential treatment, but it’s only through people venting their anger (online or otherwise) at poor levels of service that any big company has any chance of learning/changing anything.

And the less said about the N95 4GB variant the better…

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

14 replies on “Whatley’s N95 saga: What happened next?”

Hi Ewan. I’m really glad that things have worked out for you. It’s also nice to see a carrier taking such a personal approach to handling problems like this. I wish the carriers in my country would also employ an “Amy Rose”.

So what’s the lesson here? Carriers: don’t piss off a guy that blogs about mobiles for a living. 😉

Skyre’s last blog post..WordPress on Your S60 Device!

Morning James,like you I hate having my phone in a case or bag, mine lives in my pocket and gets battered during use, all my phones look like they’ve been through the wars by the time I replace them. I call it ‘character’. However, I hate having a scratched screen. Recently I bought a set of screen protectors from Martin Fields which have been excellent, you really wouldn’t notice that they’re in place. Comes with protectors for the screen, flash, camera and front camera. Well worth the £9 they cost, and they’re clearer than any other screen protector I’ve used. Might be the sort of thing that would be worth putting on your new 8Gb.



I’m not sure that makes sense. If they were only so responsive because of the publicity, surely the only thing it demonstrates is that Vodafone have a good PR department, and they care a lot about their image. (Which isn’t really a bad thing…)

I think the customer service is a better indicator of customer care, and it’s clear that they let you down in this case. If they pledge to learn and improve as a result – thats real caring.

I suspect that James just got a faster service — I reckon it would have been possible to have got a replacement handset sent out next day if you’d been direct enough with Vodafone.

Umm… Didn’t I say that already?

“Ewan bet me £5 that I could’ve got a replacement handset from in-store over the weekend and he was probably right. So did I get preferential treatment? Yes. You could say I did. If I was your average every day customer without access to a reasonably well-read wireless news site, would I have got my replacement handset on the same day? Doubtful, (don’t forget though, I still had to pay the £25 excess, just like anyone else – all VF saved me was time”


I applaud Voda – seriously – they made an unhappy customer, happy.

Just trying to keep things in perspective is all.

James Whatley’s last blog post..Friday Fun – Chinposin

Good afternoon.

Thought I’d drop a quick note in response to some of the comments on the blog, mainly to give a good representative of what I do.

I work for Vodafone and run an online team who are centred around forums, blogs and social media. As well as supporting our own customer forum – we also trawl the internet looking for Vodafone customers that have posted on an external sites looking for help.

I have a mixed team of people working for me all from Customer Management background.

I’d like to think that my team and I provide the same level of service for all customers we find, and that James’ experience is not a unique one. It’s a shame that people do have to revert to forums and blogs looking for help, and in the ideal world all queries would be resolved on 1st contact. In reality, we know that doesn’t always happen so my team has a 2nd chance of delivering a great experience and restoring some faith.

With blogs, we do rely of Google content searches picking up on the key word ‘Vodafone’ so that we’re alerted of the new blog that has been written. This is how we came across James’ blog so promptly.

I was pleased to be able to help James, and I’m hoping to see that my team continue with the same approach moving forward.

All the best


Cor, thoughts a buzzin in my head on this one. I am feeling a mixture of smug satisfaction that our Mr Whatley has had the same quality of experience I have generally had with Vodafone. But also one of intense irritation at the insurance company that started all of this off.

Truly, Vodafone for me has been a success story – if not a pricey one, although they seem to be catching on with how to compete with the opposition. But don’t get me going, I’ll only start swearing as I get to Data and other “premium” tariffs.

I have had to use Vodafone’s insurer earlier this year and it was not an unpleasant experience. Very typical insurer I’d say. A lot of silly questions (my daughter had dropped her mobile in the toilet, it got wet, it no longer worked ……!!) such as “Was you there when it happened?” – little amusement when I answered that I no longer needed to take my 17-year old daughter to the loo, she could manage quite well by herself. You could hear a pin drop in the silence that followed. I broke the ice … “Anyway ……..”.

I do think that Amy’s intervention team did a good job at restoring the situation. That they even have to exist is a shame, but at least Vodafone have got them in place. Something that a lot of other companies (not only MNOs) could learn from. Their effectiveness is clear, and I have been witness to them operating across other forums and blogs.

But James’ point is totally valid – had he not been a blogger, or even known how to publish he would have probably experienced a much less satisfactory outcome, and Vodafone would have no doubt lost a customer.

I do like to see it when a supplier makes good and retrieves a situation like this with such a quality outcome. So well done Amy, and well done Vodafone. The less said about the insurers the better.

So that little bit extra we all moan about paying to Vodafone, some of it’s going towards Amy and her teams wages. Maybe it’s worth it? I think it might be, but we’ll see what my roaming bill’s like at the end of the month.. I may change my tune when my bank account’s empty 🙂

I wonder if Amy’s team actively tries to improve the 1st contact for the nor-mobs though, in response to what they see happening online…

After a little reflection, I see Vodafone’s Forum Intervention Team as a potential leap forward in pro-active customer support:
“[…]I’ll put aside my scepticism for now and give full credit to VF for opening this up — damn, that’s the second time I’ve praised VF this week!
An extended outreach for the net? I hope it takes off!”

Good luck, Amy!

HeavyLight’s last blog post..Whatleydude’s N95 saga: VF comes out shining!

My experience (with T-Mob UK) couldn’t have been more different. The screen on my N95 phone went dark, 11 months into my contract. T-Mob insisted I had to send it off for repair, which would take a week minimum. All they could/would offer me was a basic phone as a loaner. No good to me as phone calls are the last functionality I use on the N95!

I pleaded, badgered, harrased for two days to no effect. It would have to be sent off for repair. I visited the local Nokia Service Repair place. Same story – leave it with us for a week. This is under warranty, don’t forget.

I then visited my local independent shop to ask if they could fix it. £10 minimum charge to look at it. Ok. They tried two replacement ribbon cables, with no joy, finally diagnosing that the LCD had gone kaput. An additional £35 and it was solved, all within about 10 minutes.

Thanks for nothing T-Mob!!

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