Bad customer service – why don’t we learn?

Written by on November 18, 2014 in BillingViews, News with 1 Comment

The exciting news is that the BillingViews’ HQ is awash with iPhone 6 pluses. What might amuse is that, as usual, the customer experience was extremely painful. Almost, but not quite, funny.

How may I frustrate youThe first attempt at placing an order went smoothly, or so we thought. When it was pointed out minutes ‘post order’ that an iPhone 6 is not ‘the big one’ a second phone call was placed. After, therefore, the second chase round the company’s broken IVR system for 10 minutes or so, we discovered that, amazingly, the company was still extremely busy and were placed on hold. They have been extremely busy for about six months now. This, by some strange coincidence seems to be about the length of time that their IVR system has been broken. You can press ‘2’ if your call is about an existing order several times before something other than the same message is the next thing you hear. Note – pressing buttons harder, or stabbing at them does not make things work better or faster.

Finally through to a human being, we discovered that the first human being had ordered one iPhone 6 and one iPhone 6 plus. It took the second human being 10 minutes (seven spent listening to truly awful on-hold music) to sort the problem, place the order and ask if there was anything else he could help us with today.

The iPhones arrived, SIMs were inserted. WiFi networks were used to set up the devices, syncing took place and much excitement was the order of the hour.

After 24 hours we phoned the company again, went through the interminable and broken IVR system, spent another 20 minutes listening to how amazingly busy they were and got through to a human being. Who proceeded to tell us that the SIMs had not been activated because we had not phoned them up. Bearing in mind that they were new SIMs in new phones and they were delivered 48 hours previously, and that nowhere does it say ‘phone us to activate your SIMs’, it was a little harsh to blame us, the customer. He activated the SIMs.

Or so we thought.

One phone worked. Not the one that was quite important (elderly mothers, business to run etc).

Another 24 hours and we took a deep breath. And phoned the company. And struggled through the broken IVR system and learned that they were still amazingly busy and discovered that the grumpy guy had activated the same SIM twice. And we had the wrong SIM in the phone. So, after some more wretched on-hold music, while the actually very nice and even quite apologetic lady went off to find out how to fix it, she said sorry and she would have to send us a new SIM. And when we received it we should phone them to activate it. We nearly churned there and then at the thought of having to navigate the broken maze of the IVR system and being told that we are not that important to them (sorry, that they are amazingly busy), and listening to more bad music.

We received the SIM. We, cunningly we thought, waited until Sunday morning to phone, believing misguidedly that that….but no, the IVR system still spun us round and round, they were still amazingly busy, but we got through and asked to activate the SIM. 18 security questions later we were asked for the SIM number. And then the IMEI number.

We pointed out that this was the first time we had been asked for the IMEI number, and it took several minutes to persuade this lady that it was not needed to activate the SIM card.

We hung up, exhausted and several minutes we had in our possession two iPhone 6 handsets, both working.

It is extraordinary that after so much has been written about customer service and so many presentations have, apparently, fallen on deaf ears, that customer service in the communications industry remains so completely inept and unfit for purpose.

A recent incident actually made us laugh. The BillingViews’ broadband provider (who we are currently waiting for to come and, er, provide broadband) introduced a clever twist to their IVR system. If you would like to keep your place in the queue, and receive a call back to solve your problem, you can press ‘1.’ Knowing how amazingly busy these guys were, we pressed ‘1’.

At the beginning of the same IVR nightmare, we were asked to press ‘1’ if we were prepared to take a short survey about our experience with the company. As you know, we are always happy to share our experiences in the realm of customer service, so we had duly pressed ‘1’.

When the automated survey robot rang back to ask about our experience with the company before a human being rang back to try to solve the problem, we could only laugh. It was, frankly, the only realistic option.

The other one was to cry.


About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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  1. Jonathan Jensen says:

    I always buy my iPhones from Apple and source my SIMs from giffgaff. I keep control and avoid mobile operator call centres. No handset or contract lock-ins either and roughly cost neutral. And if you do need to activate a new SIM you do it yourself!

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