Customer service woes

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

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Francois at Emergence Marketing partly prompted by my post about Orange and partly by his own recent experiences, asks, “why do companies spend so little attention to the quality of their service department? He wonders if we basically default to staying with companies until they screw up.

My guess is that Orange has probably invested a lot of effort into their customer service department to make it efficient. From my recent experience, the signs of this are in the jargon of their people eg “customer-facing” and “escalation procedures”. What seems to be missing is a bit of humanity and flexibility. For example, they seem to have a very rigid attitude that their billing department simply never makes a mistake; perhaps they were speaking ex cathedra on matters of doctrine but I have to say it really pushes a button for me.

And what about this “escalation” procedure? I was told that I could talk to a supervisor, but that person would only tell me the same thing. I said I was going to write them a letter and was told there was no point, it would only go to the same people I was already talking to. This seems a fairly silly system to me, one that basically attempts to make the complainant feel powerless.

And making customers feel powerless strikes me as… well let’s call it a high-risk strategy these days. It basically turned this satisfied customer into a very upset one, very quickly.

I went to their website. I looked at the sitemap: no sign anywhere of a disputes procedure. I tried the site search for “dispute” and “complaint” and it came up blank. There seems to be a sort of denial of reality about this.

I went to the industry regulator, Ofcom, and quickly found that telecoms companies are required by law to offer customers a disputes procedure. The customer service people at Orange failed to tell me about this; I’ve written to them (call me old-fashioned) asking them to tell me which one they use.

I’ll spare you the obvious line about the irony of Orange being in the communications business.

UPDATE: I notice that according to the Ofcom website Orange are only “working towards” having their metering and billing system approved under the Ofcom Metering and Billing Direction. In contrast, I see that all the other main mobile brands – O2, Vodaphone. Virgin and T-Mobile – are actually approved. Further evidence that Orange’s arrogance about its infallibility seems questionable.

UPDATE Sept 16th: I’ve now made progress with Orange – see this post.

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