What price customer service?

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or haven’t blocked me on your Facebook Newsfeed because I talk too much will know that I recently decided to transfer my phone back from O2 to Vodafone.

The main reason is that my O2 Sim-Only contract conveniently came to an end two days after my phone died, and when I got in touch with them to discuss an upgrade they were completely uncompetitive.  I pointed out that Vodafone and Three could both offer me much better deals, but I was told that O2 “don’t try and compete on price” because they “have the best network.”  I would question this, not least because their network apparently lacks the technology for me to receive SMS delivery reports on my Nokia.

However, to be fair to O2, they do apparently offer a better warranty on handsets and on the few occasions that I have needed to call their customer service team I have not had much hassle.  This last point is important because my reason for leaving Vodafone after many years with them is because their customer service team was so terrible.  Although it had once been very good, my last year with them was punctuated by billing errors, including a few months when I didn’t even have sight of a bill at all.  Their call centre staff were inconsistent and their email helpline was staffed by people abroad who seemed to be trained in nothing but copying and pasting paragraphs from a script.  If I was lucky their replies to me were coherent or relevant, but I don’t think they were ever both at the same time.

We all know that I am a fan of customer service, and do place a value on it.  After all, I fly BA not RyanAir and shop in Waitrose not Tesco.  But when I got a call from my dad on Saturday saying that Vodafone could offer us both a joint deal, the price undercut O2 by so much that I just couldn’t refuse it.  And surely, I thought, in the last year, someone at Vodafone must have found a dictionary and looked up “Customer Service.”

Sadly, one sometimes pays a price for misguided optimism.  As I write this, Vodafone have delivered my dad’s phone, but not mine.  They won’t speak to me to arrange redelivery and he is having to negotiate with them on my behalf.  Although they took my PAC code yesterday, the last I heard is that my dad may need to re-register a whole new deal for me.  Which means that my number may be lost in cyberspace.  At this rate I’ll go from having a number and no phone to having a phone and no number.

So it’s a big black mark for Vodafone.  I currently don’t know what the outcome will be, but the thought of having a few days longer without a phone to shop around is potentially more appealing than being locked in to two years with this bunch of monkeys.

I’m not sure that O2 can rest on their laurels though.  Being proud of customer service is one thing, especially when it is justified.  But to lose an existing customer by refusing to be at all competitive on price is just arrogant.


O2 said…
Hi JP, great post.

First of all, I’d like to say we’re really sorry that you’ve decided to leave us.

I can appreciate why you feel that the reasons we gave for not offering price-matching were conceited and arrogant. They’re also incorrect and that’s not what you should have been told – we’re sorry. Don’t get me wrong – we’re proud of our network’s many strengths and of the awards that we’ve recently won as a result of those strengths. But we’re certainly not resting on our laurels. We’re aware that, as with any network, coverage isn’t ubiquitous and so we’re investing over £1 million per day, every day, in enhancing our network. Either way "we’ve got the best network so we don’t need to" isn’t the reason why we don’t offer price-matching, not at all.

We don’t match competitors’ pricing for a number of different reasons, the main one of those being precisely what you’ve blogged about today – customer service. We pride ourselves on the quality of our customer service and always aim for a ‘one call resolution’ whenever that’s possible. Some of our competitors have chosen to outsource their customer service call centres internationally but we don’t – all of our call centres are here in the UK. As you’ve mentioned in your post, you make brand choices which are determined by your opinion of the brand and the level of service it offers, instead of basing decisions purely around price. Paying the lowest price doesn’t always mean you’re getting the best value.

Some of our competitors’ pricing strategies are focused purely on increasing customer numbers. That’s not at the top of our list. Don’t get me wrong – we’ll always welcome new customers with open arms, but our priority is to ensure that our existing customers feel valued. For a long time now, we’ve had our Fair Deal policy, which means that our existing customers will always get the best offers – you’ll never see a ‘new customers only’ promotion. We have 12-month contracts exclusively for existing customers. We have O2 Rewards which offer everything from High Street vouchers and 48-hour advance ticket sales on thousands of gigs at the UK’s biggest venues, to 6-month early upgrades and 6 months’ free home broadband. All of this can be seen at http://o2.co.uk/you. And it doesn’t stop there. We’ve got some exciting plans afoot for our customers.

Every now and again, we’ll do something to make customers feel extra special. Take Katie, for example. A normal O2 customer. She’s a big fan of Tinie Tempah. We’re a big fan of hers. So we made something happen for her – see http://www.thinkingofkatie.co.uk for the full story. We sent our Faun and Hemingway the squirrel out on a barge with an O2 Guru, where they made individual videos for customers who tweeted us with questions about their mobile – like this one: http://bit.ly/pluo07

Of course, we’d love for you to come back to O2 and we hope you’ll consider it one day. In the meantime, if you need any help in ensuring that your number isn’t lost in the ether, just tweet us @O2 and we’ll do whatever we can to help.

O2 Social Media Team

P.S: To get a delivery report for a text on O2, key *0# at the beginning of your message :)

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