Up until last month I had spent almost ten years in the customer care industry, working for a company that provided outsourced care services and technologies to mobile operators. In that time I thought I had seen it all. However it’s only been in the last few days – as a normob consumer – that I realise just how broken the customer care industry really is.
Here’s my story.
This month I started a new job. This meant two things. 1) I needed to get a new phone / contract and 2) I needed to travel frequently to San Francisco. Ok – the cost of my phone service would largely be expensed but I wanted to do the right thing and find the most complementary deal, especially one with good US roaming rates.
I picked Vodafone. Its World Traveller offer meant I could use my UK data and call allowance while roaming in the US for just £5 per day. Perfect. I activated the service two days before flying to San Francisco in my new role.
Once I’d arrived, roaming worked perfectly. At least it did for 48 hours.
Two days into a two week trip I received an automated call from Vodafone. I owed them £120 in out of contract usage.
Being in the US and having to deal with a time zone difference meant I had to use Vodafone’s chat support service (when it worked) as the call centres were closed. By the time I had reached an agent the figure was £150.
Something had obviously gone horribly wrong. The World Traveller program was surely not working. I checked my online account. My usage showed activity but at zero cost (ie: it was being taken from my allowance).
It took two hours, several chat sessions and three phone calls before someone at Vodafone admitted that this was a billing error. My bill would be “re-evaluated”. All I wanted to know is whether I could use by phone with confidence. I just wanted assurance that the World Traveller plan was active and that I could use my UK allowance.
Yes, I was told.
Instead, 24 hours later I was cut-off. Deep down, I knew why. Despite the reassurances, Vodafone thought I still owed it money. It had disconnected me.
More time was wasted. More chat sessions were had.
An hour passed and I was told that yes, there was a bar because of non-payment. I was also told that the billing error was recognised, I owed nothing and that the bar would be lifted in two hours.
Seven hours later I was still waiting.
I spoke to someone else. I recounted my story again. I tried to contain my anger.
I was assured that the bar was lifted. I performed soft resets, even hard resets. Nothing.
The agent told me to visit my nearest Vodafone where they would remedy the problem. I reminded her that I was in the US and that the nearest store was probably several thousands miles away.
She told me to wait 24-48 hours and after that all would be well.
The next day there was still no progress.
I started another chat support session. This time I owed £220.
I enquired how this possible when my phone hadn’t been working. He wasn’t able to tell me.
He didn’t have full access to the billing system. For that I would have to call back between 8am – 8pm UK time. Remember I am in the US on Pacific Time so that’s midnight to midday tomorrow.
- None of the agents I speak to are empowered to do anything or they don’t have access to the right systems.
- Vodafone has admitted a billing error, yet I keep incurring charges while my phone lies dormant and unused. No one knows why.
- I have been without service for 2 days. I am on business. I’ve missed meetings. This has cost me. Worse still I have not been able to call home and speak to my family.
- Vodafone is quick to (incorrectly) disconnect me…..but resolving an issue, that’s another issue.
- I chose Vodafone on a month on month rolling contract – expressly to meet my roaming needs. It’s failed and no one seems compelled to fix this.
I’ll try again tomorrow, It’ll be Saturday in San Francisco. I’ll be in my hotel room on a chat session to an agent who I already know is unable to help or provide answers. I simply do it so that I can keep a record / chat transcripts.
Well done Vodafone. Well done.
On the off chance that anyone at Vodafone wants to be proactive and solve this, I’d be delighted to hear from you.