MIR: The N95 Saga: What happened next?

First up, if you missed the rant on Friday, then you should go catch up or else none the following will make much sense.

HOLD MUSIC – BA BADADA BA BA BA DADA – BA BADADA BA BA BA DADA

Up to speed? Good.

Next up – I’m still with Vodafone.

Why?

Well. You’ll see.

Thing is, this whole episode has really got me thinking about a LOT of stuff. So there’s a lot to cover with this follow up post, it might turn into another long one. So once again, thanks for reading.

First up – let’s pick up from where we left off.

The early hours of Friday morning:

01:30 – I email my rant over to Ewan

01:45 – He hits publish

01:46 – I post on Jaiku

04:52 – Nokia Geek re-posts the story on
his blog

07:40 – The story re-appears over on the blog by iFelix

08:57 – An SMS arrives from a friend within the walls of VF:

“Would you like me to try and escalate your N95 problem internally? Or would you prefer the vanilla experience?”

I choose the latter, (thank you though for your kind offer – you know who you are).

09:30 – Steve Litchfield links back to the story over at All
About Symbian

Then, at 09:39, the phone rings:

“Hello, James Whatley?”

“Hello there Mr Whatley, my name’s Amy and I’m calling from Vodafone. I hope you don’t mind me getting in contact like this, I’ve just been reading your blog.”

[Note from Ewan: We’re speculating that ‘Amy’ is indeed Amy Rose as covered before on SMS Text News]

“I see.”

“Yes, I searched for your name on our system and then cross referenced the notes on the accounts that I found with your written version of events to see which James Whatley it could be and.. well I found you!”

“Right you are.”

“Mr Whatley, I’m dreadfully sorry for everything’s that happened regarding your N95. We’ve investigated it as much as we can this end and it seems the insurers have rather a lot hoops to jump through to process these claims, something we’re trying to rectify. And you see it’s basically a lot of red tape that we can’t really do much about.”

“Ok.”

“However, I’ve been in touch with them and sorted everything out and we should be able to get a replacement phone out to you as soon as possible. Now this normally happens on the next working day, but I’m going to make a few calls and see if we can’t get it out to you today.”

“Oh well, thank you very much.”

“Only thing is Mr Whatley, we don’t actually stock the silver N95 anymore. We only have the 8GB version, is that going to be ok?”

“Well, er… I actually prefer the silver one if I’m perfectly honest, but I can’t knock it I guess. It’s very kind of you to reach out like this. Yes. Ok. I’ll take it. Cheers.”

“Right then, I’ll sort things out with the insurance company. You will still have to pay the £25 excess charge for claiming but I can just pop that onto your next bill. I’ll give you a call back in a bit to confirm delivery.”

Brilliant. Fantastic. Wonderful.
Or is it?

We’ll come back to this one. Moving on.

09:50 – I get an email from Colin over at Nokia WOMWorld:

“Hi James

Your two week trial period for the N82 has finished, therefore we need to organise the return of the device.”

Just kidding! Read about your ‘kaput’ N95, so out of the goodness of our hearts we will extend the N82 trial period. How about I send out a bluetooth headset too, make it easier for you to call/pester/complain to Vodafone whilst on the move?”

I very nearly spat my latte out laughing! This did make me smile. A lot. Cheers guys.

10:00 – Steve over at S60Blogger made sure he
mentioned it too
– which, incidentally, then got picked up a few more times on some insurance aggregation sites

10:10 – Paul Sweeney of VoiceSage talks about the Expectations
of GREAT Customer Service

11:29 – I come back to my desk and I have a missed call plus one new SMS:

Hi James, it’s Amy calling from Vodafone. Just calling you back as promised earlier. Got good news the phone is gonna be delivered to you today. Should be with you around 2:30. I will give you a call back, I’ll try you again in a little while just so that I can have another chance to chat to you. Thank you. Bye. – Spoken through SpinVox

14:30 you say? Not bad at all.

Lunch time rolls around and the department head out for a colleague’s birthday lunch.

13:25 – The phone rings:

“Hi, is that James Whatley?”

“Yes mate.”

“Alright, I’m just on Marlow High Street, looking for Wethered House (SpinVox HQ), can you direct us?”

“Actually mate, I’m just on the High Street myself. In Chez Gerard.”

“Oh I can see that, I’ll come meet you.”

13:30 – Yours truly takes delivery of a brand new, never-been-opened Nokia N95 8GB.

Just shy of 12hrs since the original article went live.

So – What have we learnt?

First thing: Vodafone have some kind of ‘Forum Intervention Team’ who are happy to step up to the plate whenever things need fixing, (but we knew this already).

This I must say is a HUGE step forward for any operator/network and is something the rest of the industry can learn from.

To have a team in place monitoring the blogosphere for anything of this nature is a great string to Vodafone UK’s bow.
And it’s the exact same thing I used to do 18mths ago for Refresh Mobile, (way back in their Mobizines days).

So kudos to you Red; you came through and you delivered. Nice work.

BUT.

And this is a big BUT that was repeated to me over email, IM, Jaiku, Twitter, SMS and even over the phone from my friends and colleagues alike:

“BUT JAMES?! Well done and everything – But what about the average user? If this happened to your Mum she wouldn’t sit down and write two thousand words on how annoyed she was nor would she know the right platform/channels to use to air said grievances! So, what about your Normobs?!”

Well. There’s a few ways you can look at this.

Ewan bet me £5 that I could’ve got a replacement handset from in-store over the weekend and he was probably right. So did I get preferential treatment? Yes. You could say I did. If I was your average every day customer without access to a reasonably well-read wireless news site, would I have got my replacement handset on the same day? Doubtful, (don’t forget though, I still had to pay the £25 excess, just like anyone else – all VF saved me was time).

This however does not necessarily make Vodafone bad. Later that day I was contacted by another friend of mine, again within the walls of Vodafone. He told me about the Forum Intervention Team and how (in his opinion) they do a good job. Not least because they fix what they can online but because every problem they solve gets put back into the system to try and ensure that the same doesn’t happen again. My contact also told me that Vodafone has a ‘Voice of the Customer’ forum. Everyone within Voda has the ability to raise issues to VOC so they can be investigated.

They don’t take this kind of thing lightly.

The good thing (I’m told) is that this whole episode has highlighted the ‘outsourced insurers’ problem to the VOC which will hopefully mean that the end user experience will improve in the long run.

This is great news.

Short term?

If you are a normob (or if you know one) then the best advice I could give you would be to never give up. Keep calling back, keep kicking up a fuss and keep on keeping on until you get the level of service you think you deserve.

Now in closing; let’s address some of the questions raised in the the comments of Friday’s piece::

Quite a few of you mentioned that I should’ve taken the insurance girl’s hints and just told them what they wanted to hear. You’re probably right. But you’re gonna have to excuse my naivety on this one chaps; the thought didn’t even cross my mind. I’ve never had to claim on insurance before and well – I didn’t know the game was played as such. I’ll know for future reference, that aside – it’s still a sorry state of affairs if this kind of behaviour is ‘the norm’.

Hands0n had a cheeky dig at the state of my N95. What can I say? I USE my handset! I don’t care for fancy covers or belt clips. My phone is purely functional. Admittedly I use every function available but that doesn’t mean I should keep it wrapped up in cotton wool. I love the battle scars on my N95. It shows how much I’ve really got out of it, y’know?

Maybe I should send it off to some kind of mobile phone war museum? Hehe.

Joking aside, this whole episode has taught us a LOT about Vodafone.

Yes, their CS sometimes falters but it’s clear they do care about their customers.

Yes, they gave me preferential treatment, but it’s only through people venting their anger (online or otherwise) at poor levels of service that any big company has any chance of learning/changing anything.

And the less said about the N95 4GB variant the better…

My faith has been tested…

…in what?
In the level of customer service from Vodafone UK.

(bit of a rant this one – bear with me)

Now… You may have your own opinions on VF (and their services) but for me personally, over the past ten years; having used Orange, o2 and 3 (never went near T-Mobile), I can honestly say that the level of customer service I’ve received from their agents has been second to none.

Customer service is something I believe in. It is paramount to any company which has any kind of customer-facing aspect. This through personal opinion but also from spending a good few years in the CS industry myself…

So. As you know my N95 died recently. The screen was kaput. No matter how much I took it apart and put it back together again…

…it was, for want of a better term, knackered.

What now? Well… Now I call Vodafone Customer Services…

(before I carry on – you guys need to understand that in the past whenever I’ve had any problem my handset VF have ensured that I have a replacement by the next working day. Good? Damn goo)d.

Ok… Are you sitting comfortably?
Then I’ll begin…
____________________________

06:04 – Our hero awakes to discover the screen on his N95 is flickering…

06:15 – N95 screen goes dead

06:201st Call to VF CS

“Hi there…”

The Dude explains the problem…

“Not a problem Mr Whatley, you are a highly valued customer, call back after 8am to speak to the right dept and we will get a replacement handset out to you first thing tomorrow…”
“Perfect, thank you very very much. VF CS are the best.”

All good….

…or so we thought!

08:342nd Call to VF CS

“Hello there!”

The Dude recounts the previous conversation…

“I’m dreadully sorry sir but we do not have any N95s in stock. We can either send you an envelope for you to send the phone back in for repair or you can take into a VF store who will send it off for you..

(after much to-ing and fro-ing)

“…Err, No. Thank you. I’d much rather wait until you have some in stock. The repair process takes weeks. I need a phone asap..”

Our hero ponders his predicament some more… what if he calls again?

08:573rd Call to VF CS

“Good morning!”

El Duderino once again explains the situation he has found himself in…

“I’m sorry Mr Whatley, we are unable to offer you a replacement handset as the N95 is not covered by our exchange policy..


“Pardon?!”


“I’m sorry Mr Whatley, we are unable to offer you a replacement handset as the N95 is not covered by our exchange policy..


“That’s not good enough, that’s completely different to everything else I’ve been told so far and I do need a phone sooner rather than later.


“Sorry Sir, you were misinformed. Your nearest store is in Slough…”


“Well, I am deeply disappointed with the level of service I have received today. Good bye.”

Surely this cannot be the end for the Dude of Whatley?! Surely he must be united with his phone soon?!

09:244th Call to VF CS

“Hello there, would you be able to put me through to your store in Slough please?”

“Of course Mr Whatley, just looking that up for you now. While I’m looking Sir, is there anything else I can assist you with today?”

“Ah yes, now that you mention it… How would I go about escalating a customer complaint? I’m slightly perturbed about the level of customer service I’ve received from you.. well.. not from You personally, but from the previous agents I’ve spoken with..”


“Well.. er.. yes. Of course sir, I am very sorry to hear that.. would you mind telling me the problem? I’ll make a note and make sure it gets passed to the relevant managers…

…the Dude does so, with gusto… ending with..

“…and of course I understand that none of this is your fault. I’m not screaming and shouting and I’m not a nasty customer. I’m just a nice man, who is a true evangelist of Vodafone, and ultimately VF’s CS, who needs a phone for his personal and professional life.”

“Well I’ll make sure that gets passed on Sir.. and if you hold the line for a second.. I’ll just speak to my manager…”

Holdeth the Dude.

“…Hello there Mr Whatley, we can get a replacement N95 out to you tomorrow.. is that ok with you Sir?”

_______________________________

Now. I MUST point out that CS agents Numbers 1 & 4 were both friendly and really helpful. The 4th one actually could not do enough for me… The 3rd one was my least favourite; she had made her mind up and was not about to try and help any more. Whereas the 2nd one just didn’t really know her stuff… Not her fault, just poor training/consistency.

THIS is the thing that annoys me the most. Yes all the CS staff have the same (if not then extremely similar) training and Yes there are rules and regulations that they must follow…
BUT I cannot help thinking that no matter what – when you get through – you are at the mercy of that particular agent…
i.e.: If that agent has had a shitty day, there’s a reasonably high chance that they’re not going to help you as much as they could.

I mentioned earlier that I have a history in the CS industry… the one thing that I learned from that was that if you scream and if you shout you will very rarely get what you want.
Be polite. State the facts. Do not blame the person who happens to have answered the call. It’s (probably) not their fault…
Which is exactly what I did come call 4. And, because of this, Call 4 delivered what I actually wanted from Call 1.
Another question I have to ask: “How many VF customers would’ve given up after Call 2?”

*shrug*

Anywhoo – as much as this demonstrates the holes that are within the VF CS staff it also demonstrates that you should persevere in the face of adversity! You are the customer and your money is valuable to the network operator.
As soon as they start taking your money for granted then you lose…

J.

PS – Incidentally – again, restoring my faith in VF – I posted the conversation part of this post on a mobile forum that I contribute to – within 24hrs a VF CS agent had logged into the forum and requested that I email the details into him so that it could be investigated further…. Even though the problem, as far as I was concerned, had been solved.

THAT demonstrates a keenness that I admire and as I said – has helped to restore my faith in the VF’s CS.
(which is the one thing that I shout about the most whenever I recommend a network to my friends)