News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Something rotten at Vodafone

After several years as a Vodafone customer, I have been rather shocked at how bad the company has become lately. Every time I have to contact them, there is a problem. I've finally given in and switched my services to Orange, who I used prior to joining Vodafone, and have been fantastic in comparison. Corissa is with O2, who have also handled the same queries perfectly well. Why is it that Vodafone is out on a limb, in being unable to provide basic services to its customers?

The first problem I encountered arose when I called in to switch my telephone from pay monthly to pay as you talk. I expected that to be straight forward, as it had been when I stopped old Orange numbers, twice. My wife had also been able to call O2, who made all the arrangements over the phone and had everything sorted within a week. Not so Vodafone.

Despite being a phone company, they required me to write a letter outlining my requirements and post it to them. How very 19th century. Anyway, I did so and followd up with a phone call when I didn't hear anything back from them, only to be informed that my letter had not reached them, so I would have to write again, and my one months' notice would not start until they actually received a letter. I pointed out that it was their procedure that had caused the problem, and asked to be transferred to the complaints department. After a few minutes on hold, I was told that they had actually received my letter, but had not processed it correctly so the information was not showing up on the telephone operator's screen. I noted that my one month's notice would take me to 23rd August and went away happier.

I decided to use the suggestion form on Vodafone's website to point out that their procedure left a lot to be desired, and was inferior to their competitors' systems. In response, I received an email in poor English, which informed me that my account had been transferred to PAYT by email effective 29th August.

Before I had time to call them back, I received a retention phone call asking me to reconsider the move. I pointed out that the cancellation should take effect 23rd August, which the operator agreed and corrected on the system. I decided that I would quit while I was ahead.

Subsequently, I discovered that the original acknowledgement of my letter had been posted after all. They had sent it to the Canadian address that I had asked them to use after 12th August, but they had used it on 23rd July anyway. At least I had it and all was reasonably well.

Yesterday, my phone went over to PAYT as planned. My final bill has been paid by direct debit. I was slighly disturbed to find that I could not view my final e-bill, as they cancelled my online access with my pay monthy account. I assume that I will receive something in the post, but won't hold my breath.

So far so good. Until, that is, I wanted to actually use the phone. I had previously discussed my imminent emigration and need to continue to use my phone with their customer service agents. I know people who top up by phone or online, and was reassured that I would be able to use those methods with my UK bank account or credit card, which I have kept open. However, I now discover that they require a UK address for said bank account or credit card. Not terribly useful if you live in Canada.

The customer service rep was keen to explain to me why that was, but at international rates I was not particularly keen to listen. I confirmed with him that I cannot use his company's services from Canada, and told him that I would be switching to Orange, who I can use from abroad. I have now done so, and successfully sent my first text messages using my Orange phone number within minutes.

Well done Vodafone. A global company for a globalised age? A digital company for a digital era? Clearly not. I'm beginning to wonder whether Vodafone internal communication is carried out by carrier pigeon. For a phone company to issue mobile phones that are not trully mobile, and to prefer communication by post than by means of its own services is quite extraordinary. If I was a Vodafone shareholder, I would be very concerned at the direction of the company.

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