A tale of two websites

Two cell phones by Ben Schumin via Zach Vega Wikipedia

Vodafone just lost thousands by refusing a £10 refund.

I estimate that I’d spend around £2,000 in 10 years – assuming 3% inflation – on mobile phone costs if I stuck with my current habit of topping up £10 each month and buying an £80 handset every two years (I hope my maths is right). I’m returning to work after maternity leave next month, during which I hardly used my phone, so it was a surprise when I couldn’t top up online. I’d done so many times before, but after updating my credit card details following a routine expiry, it suddenly didn’t work any more.  This was Friday.

I got this Saturday:

Hello [Princess],
Thank you for writing to Vodafone Customer Services in regards to top up.
To help us assist you with your query, please write back to us with the account related details:
–          SIM Number
–          Last top up amount and date
–          Activation date
–          Balance on the account
We will look forward to assist you.

I found this rather annoying to start with, because I then had to pull my phone apart trying to find the SIM card number, searching online for information on which particular number I should be looking for, as well as sifting through old emails trying to find the last top up amount. I don’t know how long I spent retrieving all the information – maybe an hour? I sent the information back, and, the following day (so 48 hours after I’d reported the problem, I got this:

(Sunday)

Hello [Princess],
Thank you for contacting Vodafone Customer Services.
I do understand your concern regarding top up online.
I would request you to please get back to us with the following details so that we can escalate it to our online escalation team.
URL
Error Message
Web browser
Once we will get the above details we will escalate it to our online escalation team.

This was starting to get seriously annoying, since now – 48 hours later – was the first time I was actually being asked questions relevant to the situation.
I responded immediately with the requested information.

(Monday)

Hello [Princess],
I would like to inform you that you will not be able to top up your account if you are not using UK registered card. The details on your account and card should match.
Also as I can see that there is only one card registered on your account, kindly write back to us with confirmation, we will remove the card details. So that you can re register the card.
Kindly follow the steps to register your new card details online, please follow the instructions given below:
– Click on My Personal Profile
– Click on PAYT Online services.
– Click on Register debit/credit card.
– Enter the card details and select a 4 digit PIN of your choice
Please make a note of your 4 digit PIN which you choose, as you will require this when every time you top up.
You can also call 08700776655, 2345 or 191 to register credit card. The card will get registered within 24 hrs.

Meanwhile, you can click the link below to know ways to top up:
http://www.vodafone.co.uk/personal/price-plans/pay-as-you-go/how-to-top-up/index.htm

If you are still facing issues to top up using online account.
·         the affected URL  –
·         Web browser used and  –
·         the operating system you are using  –
·         snap shot of the error you get –

So that, we can escalate this issue on your behalf to our technical team.
If you wish, you can call our technical team 08454420304 (Calling window is 10am-5pm) or at 191(option 2 and 2) from your Vodafone mobile.
Hope the above information is useful.

Two problems with calling the technical team: 1, I have no credit on my phone because I’m unable to top up; 2, given the standard of English used in the written communications, I can only guess what an unfettered joy dealing with them on the telephone would be.

Among the hideous pile of BS above, we will remove the card details. So that you can re register the card didn’t happen – the details were still there each time I checked. Since there was no way to remove the old card, I couldn’t input the new card details which were exactly the same as the old card. It was another muddled failure by their customer services department. This was three days later, remember, and I had already previously supplied the information they’d requested.

Any decent customer services department would have looked up my account, seen the card details in front of them, removed the card info themselves and re-entered it themselves, thereby solving the issue without any further input from me. They would have done this at the first stage, i.e. within 24 hours, because they would have known what the problem was because I explained it to them in my original message.

My response was rather terse.

(Tuesday)

Hello [Princess],

I’m sorry to learn that you are unable to top up online.

I have checked our system and can confirm that we do not have any reported faults on our system.

As you are experiencing issues when attempting to top up online, you can top up using your credit/debit card, over the phone, by calling 2345.

Alternatively, you can call our online technical team on 191 (which will be charged @ 25p) from your phone or 08700 77 66 55 (which will be charged at national rate) from any landline number any day between 7:00 a.m. and 12:00 midnight and one of my colleagues will be glad to help you.

You can also top up using any of the methods given below:
– by Top Up voucher.
– by e-swipe card which you can obtain from your local supermarket or Vodafone retail store
– by ATM (cash machine).

To know more about the top up methods please click here

Trust the above information helps you to top up on your account

I’m so glad that when they checked the system there were no reported faults on their system, because I’m pretty sure that I had spent the last four days reporting to them that there was a fault on their system. To see just how moronic and unhelpful their advice is, you have to understand a few things about where I live (and yes, they know where I live)

  1. Vodafone’s coverage is so pisspoor that I have to stand in the garden to get a signal. Topping up from my phone is not an option. The phone is only good for texting, because I get a signal for a few minutes per hour – just long enough to send/receive texts, though they often have to sit in a pending queue waiting for that signal before they go out.
  2. I am not going to pay to call them from a landline – especially given the “service” I can expect the other end.
  3. It is nearly two miles’ walk to the nearest ATM (not sure if that does top-ups) or a four-mile bus ride to the nearest supermarket from where I could buy a voucher. It would cost me nearly £6 in bus fares to buy a £10 top-up voucher.

After explaining this, I told them I would let the matter drop if they credited my phone £10 for the inconvenience of spending four days arguing with them.

(Wednesday)

Hello Ms. [Stomper],
I’m sorry to learn that you are unable to top up online.

As you are experiencing issues when attempting to top up online, you can top up using your credit/debit card, over the phone, by calling 2345. I am sorry to inform you that we will not be able to credit any amount to your account for the same.

Alternatively, you can call our online technical team on 191 (which will be charged @ 25p) from your phone or 08700 77 66 55 (which will be charged at national rate) from any landline number any day between 7:00 a.m. and 12:00 midnight and one of my colleagues will be glad to help you.

You can also top up using any of the methods given below:
– by Top Up voucher.
– by e-swipe card which you can obtain from your local supermarket or Vodafone retail store
– by ATM (cash machine).

To know more about the top up methods please click here

Trust the above information helps you to top up on your account

My response:

Since you have obviously not understood my previous emails, allow me to use simpler language:

You (Vodafone) are fired.

.

Tomorrow, I will indeed be taking that £5.70-return bus journey to the nearest supermarket where I can purchase a top up voucher – but the supermarket, Tesco, is one of only two mobile phone providers that Which? actively recommend (the other is O2). Forcing me to go to the store forces me to spend time looking at a department I usually walk past, and I see that Tesco call rates are cheaper, their network coverage (via O2) is considerably better, and that £12.50 per month would buy me a Samsung Galaxy Ace with 250 mins, 5000 texts and 500MB data.

I’ve got a lot of options and I won’t rush into making a decision on a new provider, but I do think it’s absurd that I was given such a rude brush-off (and it is rude to simply reiterate your previous suggestion when the customer has explained why it’s unsuitable) and that they failed to acknowledge any flaw in their software. It’s twice as ridiculous that they refused to credit me £10 at a cost to them of thousands over time. Maybe we’ll be using a new technology in 10 years, but I’m sure O2, etc. will still be around and eager to take my money – the lifetime spend of one customer could be astronomical. Then think about word of mouth: if just two people reading this happen to be phone shopping and decide to select another provider, that’s £6,000 gone – assuming they’re low-end users like me. If they’re iPhone users on a £66-per-month unlimited data contract, that’s £792 gone in a single year. Two people, 10 years, that’s nearly £16,000 without even factoring in inflation.

So I’m not a “valued customer”, but it adds up.

This is Which? magazine’s recent survey.

Which? magazine mobile phone network comparison chart (detail)

.

Which? has 1.2 million subscribers.

.

By contrast:

I had ordered numerous small items from Boots.com, some of which arrived broken and one part was missing. The cost was low, but I then had a box of broken glass to contend with, so I was a little annoyed. I got this back the next day.

.

Hi [Princess]

Thank you for contacting us about the recent error with your order.  I am sorry to hear that your order arrived with broken items and a missing item.  I understand that this is certainly not keeping with the standard we set for ourselves and I have let the Warehouse Manager and courier know so we can ensure this does not happen again.

I have requested the Warehouse send you a replacement for the [missing and broken items].  You will receive a separate email detailing the delivery of these items.

I have also awarded you [some] Advantage Card points which you can redeem straight away.  I hope this helps.

Thanks again for contacting us. If you require any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us on [number] quoting reference number [ref].

Best Regards

Aaron Kirkland
Boots Customer Care

.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to keep a customer.

.

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