Was this experience with EE the most frustrating ever?

Written by on November 20, 2017 in Opinion with 2 Comments

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When you set up a new business there are no real roles, and when it comes to ordering stuff, unpacking the stationery order or washing up the coffee mugs, you just get on and do it. This particular new business is to be a shop, in South West Scotland, selling Art and Antiques, and the building doesn’t have broadband.

Well, it does, in theory, but even the BT operative was a bit embarrassed by the speed – or lack – of it.

So we needed to order some grown up 4G based kit. 4G speeds in South West Scotland are surprisingly good. It so happened that a passing IT consultant was on 02, one of the removal operatives was on EE, and I was on Vodafone.

We did a speed test. 02 and Vodafone got decent results, around 20-25 mbps. EE, on the other hand screeched towards 38 mbps both download and up.

Right, said the passing IT consultant, EE it is.

He gave us a shopping list and told us to order the ‘broad’band from BT in any case (by the way, the premises is less than half a mile from a major road to the capital).

It fell to me to place the order.

On to Amazon I went (other online emporia are available – just). With about four clicks and editing a delivery address, it was fixed and we were the proud owners of £500 of black boxes, which would soon be blinking quietly to themselves and delivering – for rural Scotland – lightning fast data.

I turned to the EE link the passing IT consultant had provider, to buy the £20 sim card, which would go in a box with a lot of antennae. No contract, no lock in, easy I thought.

As I went through the process of buying the £20 sim, I began to wonder where I was. I had to put in the company’s bank details. An Equifax logo flashed past as I scrolled down the page. A ‘we just need to do a credit check’ box stopped me proceeding with this multi pound purchase, so I ticked it. This was taking far longer than it should, to buy a sim card.

I clicked ‘buy’ at the end of the process, and I saw an email flash past with an order number.

Shaking my head at the ridiculous process, I headed for the coffee machine.

About an hour later I got an email from EE. It said they had a couple of extra questions before they could release the obviously gold plated sim card.

I rang and went through the pantomime that is modern customer service. Who was I, why was I ringing, can I ask some security questions. It turns out that people are less than amused when you reply ‘but you sent me the email’. It is worse when Sky calls you on your mobile and want to ask you security questions, and you say ‘but you called me’ and they say ‘well I can’t continue this conversation’ and you say ‘I don’t know what you wanted to talk to me about’ and they say ‘about some great offers on films’ and you say ‘that’s a pity then’ and when they hang up you feel an odd mixture of cruel and that you have somehow won a contest of wills.

The next 35 minutes were extraordinary.

The very nice lady on the other end of the phone explained that they had run the credit check but I had been given a very low score – by Equifax, so that is OK then – and that they were not able to provide me with the sim card I wanted, for £20. I could, if I wished, have one with some voice and texts and a small amount of data.

No, I need the data.

After 10 minutes of not getting annoyed (although it was a very close thing) we thought it must be because the card I used online was the brand shiny new card that we had got for the business. My credit score, when matched with the brand shiny new card had obviously thrown Equifax into a turmoil of worry and indecision and they had defaulted to ‘only just a human being’ status.

Ah, I said, so why don’t we try a personal card?

Great, said the nice lady.

I gave her the card details, but of course it was a different system, so I also had to give her all my details again as well.

I’ll put through a transaction of £2, she said.

OK, I said, feeling a shadow creep across the room towards me.

Sorry, she said, your bank has blocked the transaction.

I paused.

We tried another card with a different bank. More card details, more personal details, more building frustration.

Again the £2 transaction was blocked.

Can we, I said, try a larger amount? You do know that the first thing a fraudster does when he steals a credit card is try a small transaction to see if the owner has noticed. So the banks, clever as they are, block almost all small transactions, because they are almost always fraudulent.

Um, said the nice lady.

Sorry, said the nice lady, the system won’t allow me to put through larger transactions, it was designed like this (more slapped together than designed, I thought).

Ah, I said. I know, I said, Why don’t I just buy the sim with one of my personal cards? That would solve all the problems.
Sorry, said the nice lady, we are not allowed to do that.

Not allowed to sell stuff, I thought. Really, EE, this is 2017, and your systems are still in the 1990s.

So, I said, I am sorry, I cannot do business with you, as much as I would like to.

I thought I heard the nice lady sob as I hung up.

I can only hope that they actually did record the call for training purposes.

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Alex Leslie

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. Bob Machin says:

    I bet she was a nice lady too.
    I had a similarly convoluted experience with BT recently, trying to get a fibre connection to our rural hideaway – coincidentally, I was planning to blog the fun I had later this week. In terms of customer experience, while I was talking to a living breathing human, it couldn’t have been better – helpful, informed, empathetic… it was only when the conversation stopped and the machines (and in particular the dimwit auto-scheduler and the hyperactive text-bot) stepped up to take over that it all went to hell… Automation – it’s such a great idea in theory. Obviously this will all be sorted by AI…
    We got our fibre in the end. I look forward to hearing how your story will conclude, Alex…

  2. Jouko Ahvenainen Jouko Ahvenainen says:

    I could say much more and share some experiences, but I just say that I don’t think this is the most frustrating experience with EE, there is many many other cases to compete with this and they make their best to create these experiences more all the time 🙂

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