As a bona fide geek, I joined the line of people waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge phone last month, and when I saw its metallic beauty in the shops at last, I called Vodafone customer services (191) from my decrepit elderly iPhone in order to upgrade. I’m calling this day, April 14th, Tuesday, Day 0. After pointing out to the Vodafone man at the end of the phone that their packages were more expensive than all other providers put together and I could just go to Carphone Warehouse for a much better deal, I was instantly offered a 25% discount. I ummed and aaaed further as the Vodafone signal at our house is on a par with a cup and piece of string, so there’s a lot to be gained from leaving Vodafone. My umming and aaahing got me a further 5% discount, apparently the maximum he could do, bringing the monthly contract bill for the hottest phone in town to £37.80. I had to pay £9 upfront for the “gold” handset, which is actually way more beautiful than it sounds. Excited beyond belief, I got a text on my phone promising next day delivery with DPD.
Day 1, April 15th, Wednesday, I waited in all day for DPD to bring my shiny new plaything. No phone. No additional text suggesting that it will ever be with me.
Day 2, April 16th, Thursday I call Vodafone, which is a fairly tortuous procedure through menu item 1 (problems with your account) followed by menu item 3 (upgrading) to get through to a random person as there isn’t a menu offering that says “hacked off with not having a Galaxy S6 phone here yet? Press 4”. The next thing you need to do is put your phone number into the system as although they can detect the number you’re calling from, this may not be the account you want to talk to them about. This would be a genius bit of process were it not for the fact that the very first question you get asked by every operator after that is “what is your phone number?” Once you’ve put your number in, at top volume the next thing you hear is “GREAT NEWS! The Galaxy S6 is here!” Irony noted, I finally get through to a real someone who tells me that in fact they don’t have any stock yet, and so it is likely to be Friday or Monday that I will receive my phone. I thank him and wait until Monday, when of course, I do not receive my phone. As the delivery slot runs to 6pm and the Vodafone lines are open until 6pm, it is Tuesday before I can call again.
Day 7, April 21st, Tuesday. I go through the whole menu, phone number inputting, “GREAT NEWS!” message and hold music to get through to a helpful man at Vodafone who gives me £10 credit on my account straight away for the inconvenience of not having my new phone yet. I should have been suspicious that this part of their system works well, but I feel quite amused that now Vodafone have paid me £1 for me to wait for my phone. Helpful Vodafone man also has access to a system that tells him that my phone is in the first batch to be delivered next, which will either be Friday or Monday. I begin to suspect that all Vodafone call centre trainees are told that their customers have goldfish like memories and one good weekend out will wipe their minds of calling 191 and listening to John Newman singing “Know I’ve done wrong, Left your heart torn, Is that what devils do? Took you so low, Where only fools go” for 20 minutes on a loop.
Day 11, April 25th Saturday I get a text to say that my parcel is on its way and I can track it with DPD online. Thrilled to the core, I do just that. At 2:51am it was in a ‘hub’ in Birmingham and is on its way to a depot very near me. Monday, it’s got to be Monday, I’m going to get my phone on Monday.
Day 13, April 27th, Monday, I don’t get my phone. By the time I realise I am definitely not getting my phone today, it is too late to call Vodafone.
Day 14, April 28th, Tuesday. I have to go out first thing for the thrill that is parenting classes and when I return home, my heart sinks to see the little red sheet of paper on the floor of my hall. DPD are “sorry to have missed me”. I am invited to track my parcel online where I can also change my delivery date. Online, my parcel is still “on its way to the nearest depot” and there is no option to change or do anything about that. Then I remind myself – DPD are not in the delivery business. Bear with me, because I’m sure you’re thinking they have white vans, surely one of the D’s in their name must stand for delivery? No. The only thing DPD deliver are little notes to say “sorry we missed you”. The numbers on these do not correspond to your package, so they can try multiple times and all you will get are more little numbers. DPD’s business model is to get you to call them. They do not have a freephone number, but they do have long hold music and cheery people who try to talk to you for ages. They have to do this to a certain extent, because they are also trying to search through their systems to match up a random number generator (the card through your door) with one box in a million in a depot somewhere. Once they’ve tried to do this for me, and failed, they ask me if I am expecting more than one parcel. If so, I need to call the sender and ask them where it is. I point out that if I was expecting a second parcel, I would have tried the tracking number for that parcel, and got a different message online, so clearly I am not. So who exactly should I call about a parcel that I am not expecting? I give up with DPD and call Vodafone. “GREAT NEWS!”……. they suggest I call DPD as they have no information on my parcel other than “it’s on its way”.
Day 15, April 29th, Wednesday. I spend 3 hours dialling 191 10 times, yes, ten times. “Now I’m rising from the ground, Rising up to you, Filled with all the strength I found, There’s nothing I can’t do. I told you once I can’t do this again, do this again, oh no” – John Newman’s ‘Love me Again’ hold music was an apt, if not slightly repetitive, anthem for my afternoon with Vodafone. Part of the 3 hours was spent on hold because I had initially joined their queuing system 3 times and waited for them to call me back. However, even though I was sat in my office less than 2m away from a Vodafone “Sure Signal” box, all I got were voicemail messages saying that Vodafone had tried to call me. I did get through to someone once, they put me on hold to look at the system and half an hour later I was literally losing the will to live and wanted lunch. As there’s no chance of getting a signal outside my office, I hung up and Chose Life. The last person I got through to after another half an hour on hold told me that there was nothing she could to help, and there were no systems she could check as the last person I spoke to “has opened an inquiry” to see where my phone has gone. This can take up to 5 days. She admitted that they had lost my phone, and in fact, that entire shipment. At £700 per phone, that’s quite a loss for a company that appears to be competing on cost rather quality of service. Beyond fed up, I let this woman know that if they haven’t found a metallic Galaxy S6 Edge to deliver to me at the end of the inquiry I will be going to Carphone Warehouse.
Day 21, May 5th, Tuesday. With the Monday being a bank holiday, I would have called Vodafone on this Tuesday, except I was in the middle of the Peak District for a photography day with my mum. We had just had a wonderful lunch seeing a former colleague I haven’t seen for 10 years, hearing about her brilliant work outlined on www.breathingremedies.co.uk and we were all set for a day of beautiful landscapes. As our most knowledgeable and lovely tutor Stephen Elliott turned up, I reached into my pocket to turn my phone off, only to see that Vodafone had chosen that precise moment to call me. The all too familiar terrible, crackly line and Indian accent made me realise I was in for a good 5 minutes of pre-amble before the reason for the call became clear. The caller told me that I should have received my new phone two weeks ago. I told her I knew this. She apologised profusely for losing my phone, and I thanked her. She promised me that I would receive a new phone the next day, she was sorting it out for me NOW, to make sure I did not have to wait any longer. I received a text almost instantaneously to support this claim. The only slight snag in this whole plan was that the next day, I was still in the Peak District a good 4 hours at least from my house. There was no way I could bear to hear the overly loud and cheery “GREAT NEWS!” again, never mind listen to the hold music again, so I simply said “that’s great, I need to go now, thank you.” Manic texting followed to make sure my wonderful neighbour was OK with being available until 3pm and to my husband to put a note on the door to that effect. Finally, phone off, smile in place, I had a great day out and even managed to get a couple of good photos despite the weather.
Day 22, May 6th, Wednesday. Exhausted, I arrived back in Bath in time to sign on in town, with my semi-regular guy. He asked me to use the electronic system and I couldn’t resist asking what benefit this gave over pen and paper. Call me cynical, but I had not seen a great benefit in any electronic system for a good few weeks. I was reassured that not only did the electronic system confirm that my signature was 98% similar to my last one, but it also approved my payment as well. I stopped short of asking how much longer he expected to be sitting on his side of the desk in the face of technology doing 98% of his job. I decided to go home and get my phone instead. So I thought………….. Once again, I realise that my text is only information that a phone is somewhere in limbo between Vodafone and a DPD depot and there’s no confirmation of anticipated delivery. Online tracking tells me that DPD is “experiencing technical difficulties in locating my parcel”. Just for the hell of it I call 191. Apparently, there’s great news: the Galaxy S6 phone is here! Once I get past the ironic announcements, menu items, hold music and an obligatory being cut off and starting all over again, because suspiciously, they no longer seem to have a queuing system whereby they call you back; I am told by a real person that Vodafone have no stock of this phone and they have no idea how or why I was called with a delivery promise.
Day 23, May 7th, Thursday. It’s my birthday and so I decide to celebrate by NOT calling 191. I go out into town and put a note on the door asking any delivery driver to try half the village before leaving a note but no parcel. I have a great day, and decide that I will call Vodafone the next day.
Day 24, May 8th, Friday. “GREAT NEWS!” More hold music, and two hours later I get through to someone. I’m so fed up I ask if I can still cancel my contract as it has been longer than the 14 days cooling off period since I started it. As I haven’t even received my phone, this action is indeed possible. I drive into town, park in Sainsbury’s to get an emergency 6 pints of milk (this lasts ~3 days in our house) and 90 minutes free parking and walk straight to one of the four Carphone Warehouse shops in town. 90 minutes later and £100 extra cost compared to Vodafone over 24 months I have a Galaxy S6 Edge phone in my hand and a contract with EE for £31.99 a month. Better reception in my home town, better service from the Geek Squad and staff in the shop use a computer system that can identify where their stock is, live. I even have a spare phone so that if there is any gap in service as the PAC code migrates, I will have a phone I can be reached on. How did we manage when phone screens were this small?
My life is complete, or will be after just one more task. I call 191 and ask to cancel my contract. I am put on hold. When the person finally returns, she tells me that my phone is on its way, it’s being delivered with DPD, she can see that this has been delayed…………………. I have to stop her and remind her that I called to cancel my contract, not to be told the same thing I have been told for 23 days and could she please do what her customer has asked and cancel my contract. I am told to wait on hold while I am put through to cancellations. Half an hour later I am back with her and she tells me she is putting me through to Ian in cancellations. I am on hold again and another 10 minutes later, I finally talk to Ian. He offers to sort out my phone delivery for me. I stop short of hanging up as this might actually be the last call I have to make to 191 ever and I tell Ian that I do not want anything more from Vodafone at all. Ian offers to drop the monthly contract price. I resist the urge to sing back to him the hold music song Vodafone have been playing at me for days and which is now permanently etched in my brain, “It’s unforgivable, I stole and burnt your soul, Is that what demons do?, They rule the worst of me, Destroy everything, They bring down angels like you, Can you love me again?”
I tell him that I am happy to pay an extra £100 to leave Vodafone and there is nothing he can do to keep me, especially by dropping the monthly cost. I tell him that I value good customer service and promises being kept, and will pay for this even though I am in fact not even earning at the moment. I don’t appreciate companies who compete on cost alone to the point where all value has been removed for both the company and the customer. In the time it takes me to say that (rant), Ian has cancelled my contract and got my PAC code for me. Now totally unsurprised that this bit of Vodafone’s system works well, I pick my kids up from school and play with my new and very lovely phone.