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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mobile industry customer service encourages churn

The cost of providing mobile voice calls, and mobile data traffic, is falling. Coupled with vicious competition, prices to consumers are falling as well. In theory, mobile bills ought to be falling year on year - or you should perhaps be getting more for the same amount of money.

After a frustrating hour spent on the phone to both T-Mobile and O2/Carphone Warehouse in the UK, it's become increasingly apparent that the only way that consumers can actually benefit from falling prices is if they churn.

O2/CPW negligently failed to inform me of a lower tariff that almost exactly met my requirements, despite my asking. The customer "service" representative repeatedly tried to upsell me to a higher tariff, despite the fact that I clearly don't even use most of the minutes allocation in my current plan. He claimed in fact that I went over each month - when in fact the extra charges are almost solely due to roaming. When I rang back asking to be switched to the lower plan I'd found on their website, I got passed around 3 departments ("oh, that's not an upgrade, we can't do that") and eventually gave up. And given the level of stupidity & poor service I was facing, I decided that trying to mess around with my tariff plan a few days before 3GSM was too much of a risk. I've had CPW arbitrarily turn off international call capability when I switched tariff in the past, and it would really be a pain to fix next week if they screwed up again.

I'll give them one last attempt when I get back from Barcelona - otherwise it's both easier and cheaper for me to churn to someone else & port my number.

The T-Mobile rep wasn't an awful lot better - also trying to upsell me to a substantially higher tariff, albeit with the inclusion of an upgraded device and better data plan. For some reason, they've stopped doing the data-only Web'n'Walk plan - annoying as I don't use my data device for voice at all. They also absolutely refused point-blank to do anything about the ludicrous £7.50 / MB data roaming charge.

Simple solution - stick with the current plan and old phone, but pay £15 to get the handset unlocked, and then just get a local prepaid data SIM when travelling.

Oh, and in both of these cases they tried pitching me an 18 month contract as well - in O2/CPW's case without even telling me before trying to get me to agree to it - pretty close to the legal definition of mis-selling, in my view.

So the bottom line is that despite the fact that I've had relatively OK service from both companies, I've essentially been encouraged by both of them to churn. And despite the fact that I've been out-of-contract for about 6 months on both of them - they appear to be trying to crassly upsell me instead of rewarding my loyalty. And one thing that's become abundantly apparent to me is that the UK's mobile market is horribly overpriced, and in fact much less competitive than the industry tries to make out.


Rick said...

AT&T issued my new cell phone rebate on a $50 credit card. I had to spend over 10 minutes to activate the card. Now I have to somehow use the balance remaining on the stupid thing to get all my rebate. Very sly and counting on many people to forfeit all or some of their rebate.

David C said...

Poor customer service is sadly all too common an experience in the telco industry today. Some of the low cost DSL providers are particularly bad. However, many mobile operators do have properly staffed call centres and profiling tools for evaluating their customers. As a business mobile customer you probably had your call answered very quickly and the staff were working to a script of what they were able to offer you. Your issue isn't with the call centre staff per se - more with the policies dictated by the business/product managers of these telcos.

Regarding the data only roaming - there are now quite a few people who use data only devices and who also want them for roaming. If any operator (anywhere in the world) could come up with a sensible roaming only data tariff, similar to these voice roaming work -anywhere SIM cards I've seen recently - I'm sure this would lapped up by business travellers in droves. Especially if used with data only USB dongles that have become so popular of late. Might need to be prepaid for maximum takeup though - this would compete with WiFi but be soooo much easier to access/logon for those quick email/file download sessions on the go.

It will take a while for the industry to realise they will make more money by offering sensible data roaming tariffs. Some operators have figured this out, whilst others think they are still living in an age of easy money from business travellers.

Tim Deluca-Smith at WIF said...

Mobile operators face a huge 'trust' issue. Factors such as pricing, contract lock-ins etc that often convey the sense that your service provider is trying to get one over on you. Ask someone to make a data connection on their handset and I’d be willing to bet a large percentage of those wouldn’t do it…simply for fear over costs. Mobile services must be one of the few consumer services where clarity of pricing remains an issue and actively discourages users.

I recently blogged about the Trust Issue at

wirelessinformaticsforum said...

sorry - the comment box seemed to have chopped off the URL to the blog and trust post.


Anonymous said...

The roaming charges are outright criminal. Even satellite data is cheaper!