Vodafone and customer service. They go together like chewing gum and hair.

I took my iPhone into the Vodafone store this morning. I’ve had it for three months, and it’s taken to freezing, and staying frozen for a couple of hours at a stretch. It’s done it twice in the last two days. So I figured that having it looked at would be wise.  Hence my visit to the Vodafone store from which I bought the phone (and paid for the extra warranty/insurance offer).

I explained the problem.

The person behind the counter asked if I’d been making sure the software was up-to-date.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say he posed the question in an accusatory fashion, but I did recognise the very specific tone that my wife adopts when I suggest that something’s not where I left it.

I explained that when a software update was indicated it was installed.

He suggested that the best plan would be for him to send the phone away to be looked at and that this would take about three/four days.

I asked what I should do for a phone in the meantime.

He asked me whether I had a spare one.

I explained that given I had bought the phone specifically so that I could access my email so would need a replacement phone that would allow me to access email.

He told me that wasn’t possible because they only had phone phones.

I suggested that this was exactly what a warranty was for – so that if what I had bought stopped working, I would be given something else that did the same job.

He told me that wasn’t possible because they only had phone phones.

I suggested that this didn’t quite meet the definition of a warranty.

He didn’t look very happy. He went away. Then he came back. He still didn’t look very happy.  He offered to lend me a Blackberry, but explained that this wouldn’t actually work because it would need to be completely reconfigured so I probably wouldn’t be able to get email anyway.

I explained this didn’t really help me very much.

He told me that if I had a car that was under warranty and stopped working I would be given another car but that it wouldn’t be exactly the same (in brackets ‘you’re being completely unreasonable and I’m not sure what you expect me to do’).  He looked quite pleased with himself.

I pointed out that if I had a car that stopped working and was given another car, I would at least have something that served the same purpose – I would still have a car in which I could get where I needed to go.  But if I had a device that’s core purpose was to allow me to get email and he replaced with a device that didn’t allow me to get email, the parallel didn’t really stack up.  If I had a car that stopped working and it was replaced with a chair then the parallel would be more accurate – it would approximate one function of the car, but not the one that mattered.

He looked a bit confused. Then he looked a bit annoyed. Then he explained that a three or four day turnaround was actually very good. Apparently it would probably take ten days if I had a Nokia that wasn’t working.

I looked a bit bemused because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to make of this.  You’re not able to solve my problem, but at least I’m better off than if I’d bought an different product from you that would have meant I’d spend longer not having my problem solved?

He suggested it would be quicker if I took the phone to the repairer myself.  In convenient Mt Wellington.  Which by the time I take it there, wait for it to be diagnosed, possibly fixed, and then venture back probably means a three-hour trip.

His manager arrived to reinforce that I was lucky to be an Apple owner because it would be a lot worse if I had a Nokia, that the best plan would be for me to take it to get it fixed myself, and that it would be too difficult to have replacement phones sitting around in case something went wrong with one owned (and under warranty) by a Vodafone customer.

Realising that continuing the discussion would get me nowhere I went back to the office. At which point I found that my phone had no SIM card in it because the Vodafone person had removed it and, obviously, not put it back.

Back to the Vodafone store I went to collect my SIM. (To be fair, at least the guy was apologetic.)

So after my experience I still have a phone that doesn’t work reliably. I face the prospect of a three-hour trip to Mt Wellington to get it fixed. And I have an overwhelming desire to discourage everyone I know from dealing with Vodafone.

And at a basic level I have the same frustration that customers have had forever.  The start point for Vodafone seemed to be that they were right.  That it was very likely my fault that the product wasn’t working. That the fact that they were prepared to fix the phone was enough. And that I wasn’t listening and appreciating the reasonableness of their position.

The issue is nothing more complicated than expecting to feel that Vodafone wanted to understand my problem.  It’s not the old cliché of the customer always being right.  But it’s a new cliché of the customer at least always being the focus.

Which unfortunately must be the trap that so many businesses fall into when they grow.  They start out being customer-centric. And in the case of Vodafone they start out not being Telecom.  But as they grow they inevitably become more about themselves, and their processes, and their rules and their restrictions and their view of the world.  Which is what they wanted to talk about.

So even though I was the customer and the one with the problem, it just wasn’t a conversation about me.  It was a conversation about Vodafone.

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Vodafone and customer service. They go together like chewing gum and hair.

4 thoughts on “Vodafone and customer service. They go together like chewing gum and hair.

  1. Ian Howarth says:

    Move your iPhone to our fine client Telecom. I can’t make any promises, but at least they’re from around here. You can even keep the same number.

  2. adam says:

    if you take it to Apple, the first thing they’ll ask is have you done a “restore” – it’s in iTunes on the iPhone page.

    i’ve found this works wonders when my one gets grumpy…

  3. Kees says:

    I have also found Vodafone a little wanting in the support department. When I left my last vocation, I wanted to take my cell number with me. I thought it would be easy… Apparently not… Many forms, discussions and wrongfully billed charged later I finally have my number. Which comes with a new three year contract that will cost me my children’s education to get out of it. I wonder if there is an ombudsman out there happy to rally for my cause?

  4. Pip says:

    I changed to Telstra due to the same unhelpful Vodafone customer service. I had a number from an AUS tele-marketing company that I wanted blocked…. after many very painful & lengthy repetitive conversations (not unlike the above). The short story is NZ Vodafone couldn’t block it as it was originating out of AUS. AUS Vodafone couldn’t block it because I was a NZ customer. Apparently it would be easier if I just changed my phone number. To which I replied “what then would be my incentive to stay with Vodafone?” So as it transpired there wasn’t a reason… bye bye Vodafone, hello Telstra. And yay I have mobile coverage at home now (and took my ph number with me). How many customers do they lose this way I wonder?

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