June 9 2016
It’s the reason services such as TripAdvisor exist – as long as, of course, you can trust that the reference is genuine.
However, the opposite is also true. Nothing is as bad as being trashed by a disgruntled customer, in conversation or by means of an attack on social media. You might think that your small voice shouting in the consumer wilderness does not really have an impact, but then from that one little snowflake too many an avalanche is born.
The snowflake for me this week was a UK mobile service provider that trapped me in an endless looping nightmare between their help desk bunnies (wherever their call centre warrens are) and the sales staff at a number of their high street stores.
In the end – and I’m not really sure it has ended yet – I feel fortunate to have escaped with my sanity intact and regret for the hair I have pulled from my already fast-balding scalp in frustration.
Initially, I thought that buying a local SIM card for pay-as-you-go service while I visited the UK for a month or so would save me horrendous “roving costs “on my contract in South Africa. But that proved expensive, so I decided to get a local contract instead.
“The best way to do it,” said the extremely friendly sales rep in the high street shop “is to get a local contract. As soon as it’s activated, implement the 30-day cancellation clause via our help desk. This way, you’ll get a month of calls and data, and if you convert to pay-as-you-go, you’ll get to keep the number for your future visits to the UK.”
Convinced by her charm and sales pitch, I signed along the dotted line. Unfortunately, as Julia Roberts said in Pretty Girl, “Big Mistake”.
This nightmare began the night I called the helpline to cancel the contract. The call centre lady, in an act of seriously efficient stupidity, cancelled the contract as we spoke. In mid-sentence, my phone went dead. No Service. No calls, no nothing except what Paul Simon described as, “the sound of silence”.
The next morning, I took a 30-minute bus ride to their shop. “We can’t help you,” said the sales lady. “We only do sales, so you’ll need to phone the help desk.”
“I can’t,” I replied, ” because they killed my connection.”
She pointed to a landline (yes, a landline in a cell phone shop) over in the corner. After a long wait, my plea for help was answered and my service reinstated.
That night, I tried again to cancel the contract. “You can’t do that while on the phone,” said the call centre bunny. “Go to the store.”
So another day and another 30-minute bus journey led me back to the same spot I’d already been in. I was told to call the helpdesk. And so it went on and on and on until I was turned into a ranting lunatic as my call was passed from one shop to another – and one help desk bunny to another as if I was a hand grenade with the pin pulled…which I guess I was in a manner of speaking.
In the end, the problem appears to have been solved, although I’m not quite sure what the deal is: my London mobile works and I can make and receive calls and texts. So I will let sleeping dogs lie – for 30 days that is.
One day, I hope I’ll be able extract myself from this mobile hell and make the right connection with a service provider whose helpdesk can actually help – and a sales staff who can do more than point their complaining customers to a landline in the corner of the shop.
So much for the ads. The company now has one seriously unhappy customer. No ad spend budget or clever marketing campaign will help them win me back as a customer. It’s about service, guys. Cross that hurdle and any product will sell.
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Official Website HWB Communications: www.hwb.co.za
Portrait: Evelyn John Holtzhausen
Photo: Evelyn John Holtzhausen
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