Neil’s Vodafone experience highlights the problem of inflexible operator logistics

Inflexible logistics are the kiss of death for mobile operators.

In today’s always-on, right-FLIPPING-now world, winding up your customers unnecessarily is bad news. Very bad news.

Poor Neil Robertson, mobile PR supremo and long time reader has written a blog of his recent experience trying to get hold of an HTC One on Vodafone’s much fabled (emphasis currently on the fable) 4G price plans. If you haven’t caught up on the news, by the way, Vodafone has already launched 4G-ready price plans. There’s no 4G as yet, but it’s due to be turned on soon.

So Neil decided to get ahead of the pack and sign-up now to another contract.

For the juicy, mind-bending and high frustrating experience, check out the full rant.

The quick summary? Vodafone’s utterly fast and reliable logistics system failed spectacularly. It’s a little bit like booking a reservation for your hotel online via a live booking service, getting to the hotel, finding they’ve sold your room, because your order was received via fax… and the fax was out of paper.

He wanted the HTC One. He expected it to arrive next day. After days and days or messing around he still hasn’t got one. At a particularly point last week Neil was in a Vodafone store staring at an HTC One… but the chap wasn’t allowed to hand it over. Because there was one with Neil’s name on it, in some nameless warehouse somewhere.

A procession of concerned Vodafone employees were powerless to assist because (I assume) they were all worrying about handing Neil over an HTC One in store, only to have the logistics system ship him out another one a few days later, once the kinks had been worked out.

The smart thing would have been to just sort it, there and then, to let him walk out the shop with the phone and, hey, if indeed he got another HTC in the post later on, look the other way. Just like Amazon does.

Amazon realises that it’s not worth the flipping bother.

It really isn’t.

Not in today’s world. Not when you can take your money elsewhere at a moment’s notice.

Not when Neil is sitting wondering whether to bother blowing over a grand on his Vodafone contract. At a minimum of £47/month, he must come out at about £80 a month — at least — once all his add-ons have been accounted for. He’s a valuable customer. But the Vodafone employees have unwittingly conspired, unfortunately, to do anything.

Any Vodafone executive reading will be shaking their head.

I can think of any number of ‘customer-delight’ scenarios that would have worked. How shit does the area manager for Covent Garden feel right now? Yeah. You let a customer come INTO your store whilst your employee did their best to follow the stupid rules, whilst the customer sat getting more and more annoyed. You’d have thought one call from the store assistant to the area manager would have sorted it.

Or a call to the area manager, forwarded to the regional manager, under the subject “customer delight — permission required?” would have fixed things. It would have taken all of 20 seconds for the regional manager to reply with “give him the phone” and all would have been well.

I’ve seen this sort of thing happen many times in companies. You need your employees to be able to ask, though. They need to be content that if they’re putting the customer first, they’re not going to get shot.

Any serious executive will be able to process reality. Authorise a £500 handset (including contract) to be dispensed there-and-then… and run the risk of your logistics being so rubbish that you actually send another one to the guy later on… but calculate that keeping the guy happy is worth more…

But only it isn’t.

This is the harsh reality Neil is facing right now.

Vodafone don’t need his business.

If they did, they’d have configured themselves to have fixed this on the first (or worst case, second) time this issue popped on to the radars of any customer facing individual.

Now Neil is left wondering whether to bother with renewing his contract.

The real problem Neil has is facing and dealing with the stark reality: That his operator is nigh on irrelevant.

Neil, like most readers, is accustomed to avoiding the lump-sum pain of a top of the range handset through a service agreement. It’s a careful game we’ve all played. Normally we all look the other way and provided handsets arrive quickly (or are in stock), we typically sign the contract and boom — we get the instant gratification.

It’s a different world nowadays.

Indeed Neil, signal issues aside, I think you should take a look at another operator.

If you really want 4G, you should get EE. It’s flying at the moment for me. And I’ve had the benefit of super fast service for almost a year, whilst you’ve been stuck on your GPRS-like speeds whilst Vodafone get a grip on reality.

Let’s assume, Neil, that you can’t face swapping from Vodafone. Not just yet. Let’s assume you just can’t face the number swap process to another network.

I don’t blame you.

So here’s my solution for you: Treat Vodafone like the pipe they are. Or should be.

Get yourself on to and purchase the silver HTC One (£499.00 — in stock right now) and then take advantage of their “Take 3” offer which allows you to pay £166 per month for three months for the phone. That, my dear Mr Roberston, is the cost of an MWC roaming bill. Take the short term pain now on a credit card with Very. And move your Vodafone account to a service only plan — one of the Red ones that gives you tons of minutes, data and so on. Just don’t ever, ever give them your logistics business ever again.

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I should point out that I’ve no affiliation with I’ve just been really, really liking their payment terms and good selection of technology.

What do you reckon Neil?

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