Open letter to Vodafone

I recently switched my mobile phone from Vodafone (who I’ve foolishly stuck with these last nine years) to O2. I couldn’t resist firing a parting shot off to Vodafone’s CEO’s office, detailing my reasons for leaving:

I am writing to you as somebody who was a Vodafone customer for 9 years, but who has recently switched to O2 to due increasing dissatisfaction with Vodafone. I hope that you will be able to learn from my unhappy experiences, and improve your service to remaining customers.

The final straw which led me to abandon Vodafone was being asked to pay for a new handset which Vodafone offers free to new subscribers, even though it was more than 2 years since my last phone upgrade and 9 months since my fixed monthly contract expired.

I might have been tempted to avoid the hassle of changing operators, had I not just endured the hell of Vodafone’s “customer service” line. I assume that you have never used this “service”, so allow me to talk you through it.

On calling the “customer service” number, the customer is asked to key in their mobile phone number. I can only assume that the person who implemented this procedure has never used a mobile telephone: a mobile telephone is generally a small self-contained unit, with a keypad that is somewhere between the mouthpiece and earpiece. It is usually used by holding the device to the ear. This tends to preclude use of the numeric keypad, except for those lucky few who have fingers growing out of their ears.

Having keyed in one’s telephone number and waited for an indeterminate length of time, one is then put through to an operator. Without fail, this person will then ask the caller to give their mobile telephone number (the same number as was just keyed in using one’s ear-fingers). It is almost inevitable that this person will not be able to assist directly, but will transfer the call to another person, who again requires the caller’s mobile telephone number. Sometimes, before being allowed to speak to this second person, an automated system demands that one first key in one’s mobile telephone number. Often the second person will not be able to deal with the query, and so (after keying in one’s mobile telephone number) the caller will have to tell a third operator what their mobile telephone number is and, hopefully, finally get an answer to their query.

If you ever visit Sheffield, I would like to introduce you to my local minicab office. They have some sort of space-age system in there, I believe it’s called Caller Line Identification or somesuch, which means that as soon as they answer the phone to me they can tell me my telephone number. Talk about rocket science!

Joking aside, a company which claims to be involved in telecoms really ought to have an understanding of CLI. A company that repeatedly asks its customers to first key in and then recite their telephone number is not a telecoms company, it is a fly-by-night cowboy outfit. I would not trust such a company to drive my minicabs, let alone rely on it for my telephony services.

The final reason why I left Vodafone is its clumsy and antidiluvian approach to the Internet. In the days of Vizzavi, Vodafone’s Internet service was a very poorly structured “walled garden”. I assumed that things would get better with Vizzavi’s demise, but they got worse and have continued to go downhill from there. I now find it impossible to use “Vodafone Live”, as it takes me an eternity to navigate past screens full of adverts for ringtones and downloadable pornography. The whole site screams out that this is a company who lost its shirt gambling on 3G licences, and is trying to recoup its investment by fleecing its customers in any way possible. Even the recent deregulation of Internet services on Vodafone was overshadowed by the ridiculously high data tariffs.

As you can gather, I am no longer a fan of Vodafone. I am sorry to leave a company that I have had a relationship with for 9 years, but I am no longer willing to stick around in the hope that things will one day improve. However, I hope that you will take seriously the comments made in this letter, and that perhaps they will help you to improve the lot of Vodafone’s remaining inmates.

Yours Sincerely,

Dan Sumption