The BillingViews Customer Disservice Records (CDRs) – The pre Awards Season Awards

Written by on February 11, 2014 in BillingViews, News with 2 Comments

It is only fitting that before the season warms up to all those Awards ceremonies – the ones that we believe reflect the opinions of our peers (not) – that we present our own unbiased Awards for Appalling Customer Service. The Customer Disservice Records (CDRs).

So, without further ado:

 Highly Commended:

 1) Collecting a TV License Fee – please connect your television to the sane channel.

A BillingViews’ friend spends most of her in the city. At the weekends she heads for her cottage in the middle of nowhere for a little peace and quiet. The TV Licensing People sent her a note at the cottage saying that she needed to pay her TV License. She ignored it. They sent another. She sent a letter back explaining why she did not need a TV License. They sent her a letter saying she needed to pay her TV License. She sent a letter back explaining why she did not need a TV License. They sent another, she responded. They got cross. They threatened court action. She responded. Again and again. Eventually she stopped responding. Bring it on, she thought. Only when she went online and filled in a form did a message flash up which said they would not bother her again.

The reason for not having a TV License? She did not have a TV.

2) Council Tax – cash with estimate?

Council tax is the local tax in the UK. A BillingViews operative used to live in a house in the middle of nowhere. He moved to the city. He negotiated discounts on the tax he would have to pay on the house in the middle of nowhere, which he still owned. Discount agreed. Then came the statements, all inaccurate. Each arrived with a letter from a Collections Agency threatening Court Action and a criminal record for non payment. Each was corrected after long conversations. No apologies were offered.

The judges have awarded a special prize for the Most Aggressive Council in the UK.

3) Longest time on hold. Ever.

This utility company also gets a Highly Commended for the Worst Music On Hold Anywhere, Ever. The longest time on hold, interspersed with messages that an operative would be with you in a minute – 55 minutes. And the problem could not be solved.

The Most Undermanned, Underplanned Call Centre Ever.

Short Listed for the Winner of the Customer Disservice Record:

4) The curious incident of car insurance for a daytime.

A BillingViews operative wanted to sell his car, as reported here. He needed short term car insurance. He was transferred from his usual insurer to the ‘short term insurance department.’ It took 20 minutes to get the quote, then 20 to get the quote down from the ridiculous to merely a good, honest rip off. Then the insurance operative ‘was obliged’ to repeat, in script form, all the details that the operative had just provided. After 50 minutes or more on the phone, his credit card was refused. His credit card, we hasten to add, had successfully filled his car up with fuel not an hour before – two hours by that time, obviously. He was advised he would need to check with his bank. It was Saturday, so he had to wait til Monday. He waited til Monday. His bank had agreed the transactions but the company’s system had thrown them out. He rang back. The process was repeated, even though they promised it would not be. After 50 minutes, his credit card was rejected. His case was escalated. High level Management were now on the case. They would call him back. This was serious. They never did. He went to another site, which used a central driver’s database to check the details and in less than five minutes was covered for a week.

5) Broadband in the City – not sexy.

A quad player in the UK stands head and shoulders above other providers in not being able to provide stable broadband in the middle of a capital city. Quite fast, it is. But deeply unstable. Cut you off in the middle of doing, well, anything. Multiple calls to Call Centres, multiple attempts to get the BillingViews operative to do exactly the same thing as yesterday. Have you got your Ethernet cable there? Nothing, no difference. BT men came and went and declared the line fine, nothing to do with us. The BillingViews operative escalated the issue. His friend who is Head of Billing and All That at the company immediately sent a message to the CEO’s office, saying ‘sort it out.’ Absolutely nothing happened. More calls, more escalation, another message to the CEO’s office, triggering an automatic, ‘we will call you within 24 hours.’ And the continuation of absolutely nothing happening.

Current situation – exactly the same except BT has been doing some work on the exchange recently, so the cut….outs….are…less…….

6) Playing PAC Man with a Mobile.

The now exhausted BillingViews operative was faced with the need to take someone off his V Shaped mobile account. He rang the V Shaped company and discussed the options. He was – at the third attempt – sent a form of stultifying, boondoggling complexity. Civil Servants would give this form Awards for Instilling Confusion in the Electorate – a clearly stated goal of Civil Servants – see Form B.1.32/B for more information. He tried to read it on three separate occasions but on each occasion his brain tried to escape by crawling through his left ear.

He rang the V Shaped company again. He said, ‘why don’t you give me a PAC code, then this person can simply get a new contract with a new phone and the same number.’ Apparently they had not thought of this. This all happened, and said person rang the company to get said new phone. She was given a different phone number. Or nearly. More escalation, more frustration, and only a result in the nick of time and dead of night.

Apparently you cannot issue a PAC code if you are staying with the same company. Unbelievable. #joinedupthinking

7) Crossed channels and a banking crisis.

A friend of BillingViews was buying a car. As he was paying, the bank system crashed  – a frequent and regular occurrence in the UK – and so he was unable to complete the transaction. He tried again. The system did not recognize him. He thought he had been hacked. He tried calling. The phone rang twice then cut him off. Eventually he turned to Twitter, where the bank Twitter operatives were busy discussing recipes with a client in Somerset. After some minutes the Twitter feed went silent. Presumably the client in Somerset was not happy. After some more, presumably rather frantic, minutes a message popped up saying that there was a problem and sorry for any inconvenience.

By that time, the customers knew.

And the Winner of the Customer Disservice Records (CDRs) is:

8) Self service flights – would sir like a seat with that.

Senior BillingViews operatives were on their way to Nice last year for the annual TM Forum gathering. Conscious of cost, one senior operative found a deal online that would, it said, take him to Nice and back again for a mere £29.99. Excellent.

– Except, not on the dates he wanted.

– And that did not include a seat. And he could not stand during the flight.

– Or luggage.

– Or check in.

And there was a credit card surcharge.

But the confirmation email was free. So that made it all OK – at a mere £249.99.

The moral of these tales is that we still live in a world where customer service is basically not about customers and certainly not about service. Of course, there are exceptions. A primary reason for all of these customer disservice stories is that the systems that support the business are not joined up.



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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. Alex Leslie says:

    This is a letter to a major Auction House – they did not sell this gentleman’s picture, they lost it for six months, they wasted a lot of time – but they get Gold Star reviews for customer care!

  2. A.N. Ominous says:

    You understate the rapacious of the UK’s TV Licensing Authority. I purchased an empty, newly-built apartment whilst living outside of the UK. During the time between the purchase and when I first stepped inside, the TVLA had sent five letters to that address, two of them threatening imminent court action.

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