How not to serve customers

Vodafone sim card

Image by Didi Chanoch via Flickr

A couple of weeks ago my son lost/had his mobile ‘phone stolen so I reported it to Vodafone and asked them to block the ‘phone and SIM card and to issue a replacement SIM card. I was told the new card would be with us in 48 hours. 10 days later and we are still waiting! I’m afraid very few of my experiences with Vodafone have been good and there is a whole lot the company can do to improve.

My first problem was to find the number to call to report the ‘phone stolen. Hidden at the bottom of the website is a link to a ‘contact us’ page with a selection of numbers to call based on what type of ‘phone deal you have. I rang the pay monthly number. It’s one of those awful automated systems that starts with a requirement to type in your mobile ‘phone number, all 11 digits! Then you have to listen to a series of options and choose the right one which sends you to another similar message before you get to speak to a person. The first question the person asks is for my mobile ‘phone number. Yes, that’s the one I typed in at the beginning of this process!

So yesterday when the replacement SIM hadn’t arrived I had to ring them again. I suspect my call was routed to Germany judging by the accent of the person I spoke to.  I’m asked to hold whilst he checks what has happened. He was very sorry but the replacement SIM hadn’t been sent! He would send another one but it could take up to three or four days not the 48 hours I had earlier been advised. I’m cross, I’m paying monthly and having to use a ‘pay as you go’ SIM whilst I wait for a replacement card. Oh well as I have no choice I guess I’ll have to accept the continued wait. He asks what ‘phone I need the SIM card for and when I said an i-phone he says ‘you’ll need a mini SIM card then’ and he sets up the delivery and puts me on hold again to see if he can recompense me for my trouble.

Call over I go off to tell Andrew that the replacement mini SIM card is on its way and he’ll have it by early next week. He’s not amused. He’s waited long enough and doesn’t need a mini SIM card, he needs a regular one! Oh no I’ve got to go through the whole dreadful system again. This time I get Jason who was great.

Jason apologised. He asked which i-phone we had and didn’t assume it was the latest version. He sorted out the wrong order and created the right one (I hope). He told me that if the card didn’t arrive promptly I could go to my local store and they would sort me out (if only I’d been told that 10 days ago!). He compensated me for my trouble without putting me on hold and he empathised with my view of the automated telephone system because he has to use it even for internal calls. Thanks Jason.

Sadly this scenario isn’t the first time I’ve had trouble with Vodafone’s customer service. The last time I found myself on a circular tour between the website and their call system. The website told me to call the number, the number told me to visit the website!

There are some lessons in this saga for every business:

  • Make it easy for customers to find the contact details, especially those for an emergency.
  • Don’t ask a customer to repeat information they’ve already supplied; use other questions to check identity or don’t ask for the information in the first place.
  • Ask questions to check what the real problem is or what a customer really needs. Don’t make any assumptions.
  • Train all staff to offer solutions and alternatives.
  • Do what you say you’ll do. Keep your promises.
  • Empower staff to make small gestures of goodwill to recompense customers who have been put out. Set boundaries and recording/audit systems so that this is not abused.
  • Test out your own systems from time to time. Do they work? What does it feel like to be a customer of your business?
  • Smile. Even on the ‘phone the customer will get the impression you want to help

Why not download our free e-book ‘14 ways to show your customers you care‘ for some simple, cost effective ways to build relationships with your customer?


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