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Friday, July 14, 2006

Carphone Warehouse and customer (dis)service

I'm always wary about recounting my personal experiences in buying/using mobile services, but after this afternoon I feel the need to vent / discuss ..... especially as I feel it reflects on the day-to-day service received by "the average punter", as well as customer psychology.

I've had an account with O2 via Carphone Warehouse for more than 4 years. It's been reasonably OK - couple of glitches with international roaming permissions, another with trying to get a GPRS data "bolt on" which screwed up all my data usage temporarily, a replacement SIM easily obtained after a handset theft, but otherwise unremarkable. The guys in my local CPW store (actually the one where the company started out) are pretty decent blokes & helpful. I've spent quite a bit of money over time.

Given I work in the industry, I haven't been getting handset upgrades/replacements from CPW/O2 - I've usually had "vanilla" phones about to put my SIM into. This time, however, I thought I'd try out a proper, up-to-the-minute, operator-customised 3G phone - and also try & lower my bills at the same time. I had a look around at phones, decided on a SonyEricsson K800i (never played with an S-E for any length of time but hear good things, liked the specs etc, so seems a decent choice). I had a look at the SIM-free price (about £330), so decided to go for a subsidised one, either getting it on my CPW/O2 account, or churning & using number portability to switch to either Orange or Voda. Had a look on the Voda website, and with the (equally friendly) blokes in my local Voda shop as they had a pretty good deal in terms of bundled minutes/SMS.

I phoned up CPW "customer service" (on an inexcusable expensive 0870 national-rate number) and clicked through the IVR to the "customer loyalty" option to see if they'd match the Voda tariff. And sat on hold. Repeatedly over the course of 2 weeks. Tried the "upgrade" IVR option - same deal. Looks like CPW has taken half its phone support staff & cross-trained them to help out with the new & woefully-understaffed Broadband call centre. So I went to the store instead, thinking it would be quicker. If I'd just wanted the K800i, it would have been easy. But to change tariffs, the staff had to dial into the call centre & get me to talk to them. (Phone call made from the store's landline, amusingly....). Cue 30 mins of hold music & occasional "it'll just be a minute" interventions from the first customer service bloke trying to transfer me to the "loyalty" (!!) dept. Getting fed up, I asked the store staff if I could just cancel my contract & get the number portability PAC code from them. No. You need to spend an hour on the phone just to cancel the damned service.

In the end, I had to resort to the blogger's equivalent of "Do you know who I am??" and start throwing my weight around. "Put me through to someone senior who can make decisions". "I want to speak to your boss, your boss's boss, or else Charlie Dunstone's secretary". "I'm not wasting any more of my time on hold. Get someone to say when they will call me about this". "My time's more valuable than yours - this'll cost you £2 per minute - who do I send the invoice to?". "No I won't call back tomorrow, I want to speak to someone now". "Who runs the call centre - O2 or CPW? I want to be sure to criticise the right people".

I nearly got a red card & was threatened with being booted off the call for swearing when I said I "couldn't be arsed" to hold any longer (Arse? Oooh, what a naughty word. There, I said it again. Report me to the police or sue me for being offensive, I dare you).

Finally I stooped to saying "I'll be writing something on my blog about this - exactly what I say depends on how helpful you are". I'm not proud I had to pull a trick like that, but it seemed to work. (I pity Joe Average, though) I don't know whether they Googled my name to realise I wasn't bluffing, but I eventually got through to a customer service manager called Martina who was helpful / efficient / allowed to say something that didn't come up as a script on the screen. She promised I'd get a call back from "one of the best guys" in their loyalty dept in 15mins. And indeed, I got another real person called Matt phone me back quite rapidly. He's obviously one of their guys dedicated to particular troublemakers like me - conciliatory, and empowered to offer me a decent deal, which I accepted. When I say "decent" I suspect that translates as "almost bribe him". Given the handset subsidy, a rebate & the cost of the customer service peoples' time, I estimate that collectively CPW & O2 will make roughly zero gross margin out of me over the next 12 months, if that.

Interestingly both O2 and Voda now seeing to be using big SMS bundles as a "sweetener" - perhaps unsurprising as the internal cost of these is near-zero, and presumably it enables them to fudge the data ARPU percentages (a topic for another post....)

Bottom line? If in doubt......shout.


Ian Wood. Principal Wireless Foundry LLP said...

Dean you think you had problems it has taken me two weeks to get my upgrade out of Orange. I too wanted the SE K800i, which is where the fun started as Orange did not have the stock to match customer expectation.

Then when they did they were for "new customers" not upgrades.

In frustration I decided that my best route was to email one of my clients. Surprise to say one the UK board members PA got on the case I was soon holding a new handset, free of charge and had a number of extras also without charge.

Guess that the people at Orange will need to get back to excellent customer service if they are to make any money from customers. The good news is that after ten hours trying to deal with Premier Care I have lots of experience for the next strategy meeting on how to improve ;-)

Anonymous said...

I can quite sympathise with you over the joys of Carphone Warehouse "Customer Service". I changed banks a year ago, switched my DD no problem. Recently I notice the old DD was still active on my old bank account so I cancelled it. At which point Carphone Warehouse go and cancel the CURRENT DD and charge me £3.50 for the privilege of not having a direct debit. I email them to explain and they won't answer me due to the Data Protection Act. So now I have to sit in a queue on a national rate phone number just to point out to them that they don't know what the hell they are doing.

Anonymous said...

I have just experenced a similar (dis)service experience from O2.

Having had a number of billing problems I decided I wanted to cancel my account, so I phoned the customer service number. The lady who answered was determined, pushy, aggressive, and completely unwilling to let me actually cancel my contract. She gave me such an extreme hard sell that I eventually agreed to something to do with a PAYG SIM and a PAC code just to end the call. I then rang the complaints number and asked why i wasn't allowed to cancel my contract, and I was finally transferred to someone actually helpful. The end result of all this was I was allowed to know the secret address which you can send a cancellation letter.

If it's helpful for any of your readers, the address is
O2 Disconnections
PO Box 242
Houghton Regis

Why do they not understand that doing business this way simply offends people and ruins their chances of getting future business?

Anonymous said...

Paul Graves, your a god send!

Thanks for your post of the O2 disconnections address, I can't wait to leave the carphone warehouse.

My contract has been a nightmare over the last 12 months, and I used to like these guys as well. In my opinion they've go too big they can't handle their customer services. And as for the call to their offices to ask about disconnection, your right! The hard sell was slightly embarrasing as I was very tempted to tell the man where to stick his damn mobile... Carphone warehouse a clumsy giant who doesn't know its arse from its elbow.

monty1 said...

Carphone Warehouse Dis-service!

Having a nightmare with them at the moment - ordered 3 phones for my business nearly two weeks ago on an O2 deal and I am still not connected despite several daily calls to Carphone Warehouse call centre place n Northern Ireland.

No-one - I have asked for the manager etc, can tell me when I will be switched on - CW blame O2 and say ring O2 - O2, of course, blame CW. They cannot explain why I cannot be switched on apart from saying 'there is a backlog!'
Feel sorry for the guys in the call centre because they don't seem to be able to do anything.

I cannot understand what the problem is and they cannot tell me - I just want the phones switched on so I can use them! doesn't seem too much to ask really?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the O2 Disconnection address, Paul

The customer service from O2 gave me the wrong postcode! LU5 5UUA instead! I've got a feeling he did that on purpose!

Anonymous said...

I would like to let every one know the lousy way I was treated by the car phone warehouse.i phoned up last month to cancel my contract got the disconnection code sent to me. I wrote the letter sent it in with the code but they said that they never received it meaning I have to pay another months line rental what a bloody con. To everyone make sure you send your letter by recorded delivery please

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the address Paul Graves!
I have had the same problem with them. I called Custore "Care" (not a care in the world!!!!) I couldn't get her to close the contract. She wanted to sell me anything in order for me not to leave. It was pathetic!!! She said she did not have the address to write to and that it was on their web site. Such information is impossible to find on their s**t site!!! Thanks to you I will post the letter straight away now

Anonymous said...

A friend who works for CPW O2 loyalty has told me this beauty ... Have some compassion for the loyalty guys at CPW O2, apparently the service level that O2 dictates was way down and CPW started to recruit new staff without having any additional funding to pay for it. Their answer ... manipulate / alter / slash the bonus and commission figures that the loyalty guys get paid on to finance the recruitment drive. Some of these guys have taken a 1000 GBP pay cut !!! Way to go CPW !!!

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe how rubbish the carphonewarehouse customer services really is. I rang up to replace my sim card as i had lost my phone. It took me 5 days of ringing and being passed through different call centres till i finally got my sim card. they told me i had to go in my local store to do this. Due to flooding my local store was shut so i ordered it via post..1 day 2 day 3 day 4 day. I rang up again asking were the hell my sim card is... 5 day 6 day.. I rang again at 4.45 and was put on hold.. until i finally spoke to someone at turned 5 and was cut off. appantly the lines close at this time! i travelled 15 miles to my nearest store and charged me yet another 15 quid!! i am so ashamed of carphonewarehouse!

Could someone tell me if i can cancel my contract and how?? Thanksxx

臻文 said...

I got a disconnection address from a carphone warehouse store, but which is different from the one Paul provide. Does anyone know which address should be correct? Paul, have you disconnected your contract successfully?

The address I got is:
O2 Disconnection
1006 Carphone Warehouse
PO Box 4316

Unknown said...

I got a different address to send it to:
Unit 19
PO BOX 345
S035 2NR

Sending it by recorded delivery!

Anonymous said...

I received a slightly different address which was:

O2 Disconnections
PO Box 242
Houghton Regis

Notice the second part of the post code! I even asked her to confirm the post code since I know the second part must start with a number! So blatantly they are giving out incorrect addresses on purpose!

Anonymous said...

Unit 19
PO BOX 345
S035 2NR

This is the correcet address, I've managed to disconnect finally

Anonymous said...

two years later it is no better ...I would say worse. I think it would be in the interest of National Health if there was a complete boycott of all things to do with CPW, Talk Talk and their absolutely disgraced broadband service

A.R.Glasgow said...

I work for the company that provides CPW (recently) with the background processes for disconnections. The address to send to is definately;

REF:as given
PO BOX:345
S030 2NR

We now provide the background systems that process these disconnections.

Anonymous said...

What should i write in the letter to disconnect? Can someone pls write here an example how does the letter look like? Thanks

Anonymous said...

This is what ive wrote:

full name and address.
To Whom It May Concern:

Please can you cancel my mobile contract and any direct debits on account, effective 30 days from when you receive this letter. Please disconnect the following number: .........

I would appreciate confirmation in writing within 30 days that the cancellation has gone into effect.

Thank you for your assistance.

Yours faithfully

*name and signature

hope this helps.

By the way o2 customer service isnt bad at all iv recieved good service from them, its just the cpw o2 customer service.

Anonymous said...

I have just spoken to some guy at customer services loyalty team to get my PAC code - he said - have you got a pen its a big number - only to give me a postal address instead, then as I was saying good bye he imitated my voice - like a little school boy.

I am so glad I am moving direct to O2, and I will be recommending all my friends who are on Carphone Warehouse to do the same.