Smartphone woes

I had some problems with my XDA Orbit which meant it needed to be sent back to O2. Straightforward enough, but my experience has certainly made me feel that O2 customer service was well and truly broken..

I decided to send the phone back via our courier from work, as I believed this would be the most secure way to get it back to the O2 returns department. Not so. O2 had no record of receiving it.

I phoned up (actually one of our secretaries, Beverley phoned) and we were told to fax through a proof of postage and they would ship me a replacement. All very straightforward. But Bev spent over 40 minutes on the phone with O2 trying to fax the paperwork through and they claimed they were not receiving it. It transpired the fax machine had been out of paper for the last three hours.


Okay, so O2 received the paperwork – now all the returns staff had to do was ship out a new one. Again this is not a difficult task. Yet, somehow O2 managed to screw it up. I was going away for a few days so I didn’t bother calling the support desk. I expected the phone to arrive by the time I returned, or at least an attempted delivery notice. Nothing. So I phoned the call centre again. I was told the phone was being shipped that day. Great. I was given a delivery service tracking number and told I should have received an email with all the details. But the delivery service web site showed it had been shipped out to me a week earlier and since I was not around to receive it, it was being returned to O2.

So I phone O2 again and I was assured the phone was being sent to me that day and I should stay in to receive it. I naively thought nothing of this until at 3pm, when I check the tracking number, I found that the phone had indeed been delivered – back to O2.

Back on the phone, this time to O2 Complaints. “Oh, we are very sorry, one will be with you by Satuarday, but we can’t guarantee when it will be delivered,” said the girl at the contact centre. No way was I going to stay indoors all day for a bloody phone, no matter how smart it was. I gave her the work address, and she assured me it would arrive at the office on Friday.

Well, nothing came on Friday. The replacement finally arrived today. I’m not the only person who has had a bad customer experience with a call centre. Customer service only works if there is visibility, honesty, transparency, seamless transitions between differnet departments and a genuine willingness to help the customer.Now O2 is not the worst customer service I’ve experienced. But world class customer service involves huge organisational and technical challenges and it certainly cannot be done on teh cheap or entrusted to the cheapest outsourcer.

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How desperately sad that O2, an organisation that get so many things right, manages to mess up that part of its operation that really matters. As Cliff says, it is not the worst customer service - but that shouldn't be used by O2 management as their excuse. To what extent do they see that they are letting themselves down? How does one make it clear that it is the personal responsibility of those in positions of authority to be accountable for the service their organisations deliver?

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