Troubled telco Vodafone are treading carefully after what has been a catastrophic period in customer relations. So much so that it is now categorising customers “handle with care” or “service recovery” on their user database.
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As I awaited my new plan sign on in a Sydney retail outlet yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the new labels appear on the screen as a staff member talked me through the process.
The ‘handle with care’ label appears to speak for itself, while ‘service recovery’ is a bit more vague.
The chosen plan, a $35 SIM only deal, will see this Vodafone customer kiss goodbye to pre pay for now. Why?
Because a BlackBerry smartphone is about as useful as a broken kettle unless you sign on to a contract deal, unable to use any of the apps, Facebook, Twitter or additional features.
The only benefit of having a BlackBerry on prepay over a bog standard $59 Nokia handset would be the fast web browsing. Hence, the huge use by business customers, I guess.
But in fairness to Voda, their service was pretty clean, although various staff seemed to have a different answer to exactly the same question. (The existence of Skype app for BlackBerry Bold 9780 still requires a definite answer).
However, three separate people I have talked to in the last week alone have had only bad things to say about the red telco, who recently took over 3 mobile stores completely.
One disgruntled customer, having travelled over to New Zealand for a four day rugby trip arrived home to be slapped with a bill for a heart stopping AU$500.
The shocked user cancelled the direct debit and is demanding a full run down of charges, claiming the phone was “barely used” while away.
Although international roaming (even over the ditch) is never cheap, who would have thought it would be that extortionate.
Another ticked off Voda user claimed, she was overcharged by $90 on a bill, which appeared to be the telco charging her for her 1.5GB data usage rather than treating it as an allowance, as per her plan.
“It can just be me, the same thing could be happening to hundreds of other, they just don’t know about it,” the angry customer said. The telco also failed to offer any compensation, which also caused further outrage.
But this straw pole of Voda customers appear not to be on their own. Recent figures show 375,000 fled the network in the first six months of the year, which has been besieged with poor service coverage and bad customer service, to its rivals, losing $78.2m.
So, why stay with Voda? Because when most of your contemporaries are on it, it makes sense to stay put for the sake of lighter phone bills.
It’s hard not to be sceptical but if Voda succeeds in making up for past sins, and it is currently in the middle of a network upgrade, replacing out dated towers with Huawei technology, introduced Infinite and All Time plans in a bid to keep angry customers sweet, it may even manage to reclaim some of its lost business.
By the end of the year, it expects upped coverage to extend to 1,000 new sites and upgrade a further 4,000 mobile base stations.
“VHA has moved quickly to fix the network issues and improve its customer service performance and we are confident that this will support VHA’s return to profitable growth,” the new customer friendly telco said in June.