As a small boy I loved Kenneth Grahame’s marvellous Wind in the Willows. I was particularly enchanted by the opening passage where Mole, after his winter hibernation, scrabbles up to the surface to enjoy the warm spring sunlight. I feel just like Mole having emerged blinking into the bright sunlight after my Kafkaesque nightmare of dealing with Vodafone.
It all began innocently enough three weeks ago. I have been a Vodafone customer since 1991, really ever since mobile phones were generally available. In those days they were the size of a house brick and had a battery life of around an hour or so – that is if you didn’t need to make a call or someone had had the audacity to call you. The phone came with a spare battery which I carried around in a backpack. Anyway, I have had my last handset for about 6 years – a steadfastly single function machine which just allows me to make and receive calls and send texts – and it is starting to show its age and malfunction. I thought it was about time I upgraded the handset and investigate the brave new world of smartphones.
I looked out my latest Vodafone bill – just over £70, thank you very much for the privilege of using it for a month – and dialled the number on it for customer enquiries. The number was out of use and, helpfully, the recorded message had no forwarding number to call. The e-mail address on the invoice was also no longer in use – my e-mail just bounced back. Great!
Going on to the Vodafone website I found a number to call and this is where my nightmare began. After, finally, getting through and quoting my mobile number and account number I was informed that my account couldn’t be found on the system. Despite my protestations that they had no trouble in extracting said £70 per month from my bank account which kind of suggested I was a customer of theirs and that I had a phone with constant access to their network, I was informed they couldn’t help me. A good 45 minutes wasted.
The next day I tried again – same story – but at least someone at the other hand had the wit to listen to my story and recognise that I might be an old (in my vocabulary, loyal) customer and that my records might be on an old system. I was eventually transferred to the small business team to be informed that yes they could locate my account but that I was on a Pay as You Talk plan, an invoice had just been issued and was outstanding and so, until it was paid, they couldn’t help me.
I left my next encounter with the byzantine Vodafone machine until I was pretty certain my monthly direct debit had been paid. My invoice clearly states that I am on an Anytime contract – I have never had to top up my account. Eventually I got through to the right department – same response – but I eventually got them to investigate my account further and it seems that a flag on the system had been incorrectly set to Pay as You Talk. This was rectified – progress of sorts.
I was then able to upgrade my phone – to a Samsung Galaxy S3 – and to change my plan.
The phone duly arrived – two days later than promised and minus a SIM card.
Foolishly, I thought I could go into my local Vodafone shop – for the rudest and most unsatisfactory customer service experience I would recommend a visit to the Vodafone retail outlet in Camberley – get a SIM card, change my number over from my old handset and off I would go to experience the brave new world of smart phone telephony. Not a bit of it. “Can’t find your number on the system. Your account number is too short”. I retell my story. “Can’t help you – you are not a Vodafone retail customer”, although they did give me a SIM card. So I – not they – have to spend the next 90 minutes on the phone trying to get some resolution to my problem – no joy.
Back on the phone yesterday – this time for 45 minutes – round the Wrekin, as we say in Shropshire, several times until I get put through to Carly who was able to see what the problem was and effected the activation of my SIM card and the change to a more cost-effective plan. So three weeks in I have now effected what I thought was a fairly simple request – an upgrade of a phone and a change of account.
My experience beggars belief. It seems that Vodafone is set up purely to deal with customer churn – people joining and leaving their benighted network with regularity – rather than customers who are happy to stay where they are.
To cap it all I now keep being bombarded with text messages asking me to rate my Vodafone experience – even Schiller might have been hard-pressed to come up with an appropriate aphorism.
(This post was not sent from a Samsung Galaxy S3 handset).