Monday, 14 September 2015

A Helpful Review Of @VodafoneUK and @CPWTweets

It's a busy week coming up for Puddlecote Inc and Puddlecoteville in general, so content will be light this week, all the more so due to a clusterfuck of astonishing proportion as a result of my stupidly getting involved with Vodafone (V) and the Carphone Warehouse (CW). Abbreviations necessary for brevity, believe me.

Followers on Twitter would have noticed my utter frustration at V on a number of occasions, so here is just a brief rundown of the extraordinarily piss poor customer service and comical intransigence which led to it.

In what now feels like the long-distant past, Puddlecote Inc was notified that around £100k p.a. of ad hoc work was to walk out the door in November. Not anything to unduly rock the business, but it does make up a significant amount of overtime for around 10 to 12 drivers, so we took on a Business Development Manager (BDM) to replace the work or even increase it. This process doesn't happen overnight - as anyone in sales will tell you - it's something that builds over time, so he needed to get moving quickly.

Stupidly - as I now realise - I went to CW to get a good smartphone to perform as a mobile office because we wanted our new BDM to get on the case straightaway. Sadly, CW aren't able to set up business accounts but, so I was told, I could take out a consumer contract and "easily get it transferred" by ringing V. Ha!

With the phone in our possession, our IT set up the email and I downloaded the transfer forms, filled them out and scanned them back to V. This was seven weeks ago. The phone was finally transferred on Thursday after six or seven phone calls, each one went like this:
DP: Hi, our phone hasn't been transferred yet, what's happening?
V: Oh, it should have been, I'll send a message to the transfer team and find out why.
DP: Will someone ring me?
V: We will get back to you in three to five working days.
Of course, just to get to this stage meant going through push-button menus, queues and 'security questions', meaning each call was a minimum of around 20 minutes.

In the meantime, V sent me a letter saying that the account had been suspended due to non-payment of the monthly charge. I rang to enquire why seeing as they had two different bank accounts and two different direct debit mandates (another 20 minutes on the phone) and was told that it was their mistake; that they were very sorry about it; and that the payments are now proceeding properly. Two payments would be coming out of my bank in the next few days. Here's how that call went:
V: Your direct debit of £25 per month is scheduled for the xth of August, and then another for £29 will come out on the xth of September.
DP: Why is it £29?
V: Because there's a late payment charge on it.
DP: Well you can cancel that right now, why should I pay for your incompetence?
V: Oh yes, I'll cancel that right now Sir.
A few days later they charged me the late payment fee anyway. Not the company, of course, because it still hadn't been transferred. So I rang again, was told the charge would be refunded but I'm still waiting.

By now, curiosity as to how very crap V are was starting to take hold, but that was just an inkling of what was to come. The phone was still inoperable for our BDM and V's phone system had even stopped recognising the phone number even after the account was finally transferred to a business account. So, having "easily transferred" the phone, we were assured it was all hunky-dory ... except the phone didn't work.

"Oh", said V, "it's probably because you need a new SIM card, we'll send you one (you can guess how long can't you) in three to five working days". But that didn't work either. Another phone call, another 30 or 40 minutes. The SIM was activated and "will take about 15 minutes". An hour later it didn't so I called back, only to be told I had to take it to a Vodafone store, the nearest of which is 4 miles away. So - despite my curiosity at the level of V's incompetence - I had spent enough time on it and wasn't prepared to spend anymore so asked for the contract to be cancelled. And that's when the real headfuck started.
V: I'm afraid we can't cancel it Sir, because you bought it from CW.
DP: But it's your contract, you are taking the money, you sent me a letter saying so when you wrongly cut the phone off.
V: Yes, but CW sold it to you, you have to go through them.
So I rang CW:
CW: I don't know why V said that, you have to talk to your service provider, we can't cancel the contract.
Back to V:
V: I can see that we haven't come up to our usual standards of service (that's an understatement! - DP) and we are happy to cancel the contract, but you need to return the phone to CW. Once it is there, we can cancel the contract, no problem.
So I drove to the CW store:
CW: Sorry, it's been longer than 14 days, which is our return policy, you have to talk to V.
Back on the phone to V, and very angry by now:
DP: I'm getting very angry now (because I was - DP) I want this contract cancelled today.
V: Yes, Sir, you've been through a very bad experience, I quite understand. We can cancel the contract if you return the phone to CW. Once I know it is in their possession, I can cancel it straightaway. 
So I drive, once again, to CW, speak to the same guy and say I'm leaving the phone with him then going to ring V.
CW: Well, I'll keep the phone for a couple of days but I can't put it on our system. 
But I'd ditched it and could now get V to ring CW and see that they had the phone.
V: Sorry Sir, you'll have to get CW to do that, we can't act until we get notification from CW that they have the phone. 
Getting bored yet? Imagine 20 or 30 minutes for each of these conversations. So I rang CW, they were very concerned about my experience as a customer!
CW: Unless V tell us in writing that they won't apply charges, we can't return the phone to stock. We'd lose money you see.
This is where I suggested that they just talk to each other on the phone. Because THAT'S THE BUSINESS YOU ARE IN, YOU SURELY HAVE A FEW LYING AROUND! But apparently it was up to me to do.

By this stage, it was clear that trying to cancel a contract through the proper channels was impossible, so the only option was to ring V and make sure their notes were correct and up-to-date. They weren't, of course, but why did I expect any different? So I painstakingly went through it with the guy and made sure it was all down faithfully, then told him the phone was in the CW store, I was cancelling the direct debit and I don't expect to hear from them again.
V: But it's not our phone and you need to return it to the CW store Sir ...
And that's the last I heard before I hung up.

I don't know why I'm jotting all this down, cathartic I suppose. Except it's taught me a lesson which many might be able to learn from. Firstly, don't use Vodafone because they are extraordinarily incompetent. And, secondly, don't buy any phone through Carphone Warehouse either, because if your provider gives you shit service, CW will shrug their shoulders, say "So what? Not our problem" and you're fucked.

I calculated that all this took around 9 or 10 hours of my time including two hours in the morning on Friday and the entire afternoon today when I could be better employed running a business instead of chasing my arse over a business phone which couldn't help our business ... mostly because it couldn't be described as a phone as it didn't work as one.

I spoke to around 15 to 20 different people at Vodafone, went through "security" over and over again, and had to explain the whole saga to every one of them. They made public sector organisations look obliging and red tape-free by comparison. And I'm not optimistic that I won't hear from the clowns again at some point.

I'm going for a lie down in a darkened room and will try to erase Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse from my consciousness. Who knew that trying to do something the right way would be such a house of pain?


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