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The company customers love to hate


Ofcom’s investigation found that Vodafone’s customer agents had not been trained in what constituted a complaint, while other issues included phantom debts, non-existent service following migration from other providers, an inability to cancel contracts, despite a complete lack of service in some cases, and included a complaint that terminal illness was not deemed as a sufficient reason by Vodafone to cancel one particular customer’s contract.

Issues with number portability were blamed by Vodafone on the introduction of a new system, but while the operator’s IT team tried to fix the ‘teething problems’ it caused, the company’s customer services continued to ‘fob off’ customers, sometimes for weeks and months at a time, without allowing them to cancel contracts.

Vodafone described these as ‘isolated’ problems, but in reality the new system caused havoc with the fundamental process of portability, and annoyed thousands of customers, who were not give the full picture.

Customers were also left ‘outraged’ as they were unable to cancel contracts, despite not receiving the service they were paying for. Since the Ofcom investigation, the regulator’s consumer protection team has put in place a six-month monitoring and enforcement programme to help customers escape unusable contracts with Vodafone.

But the rest of the industry did not get off scot-free, with Ofcom noting: “We receive a large number of complaints about the problems of trying to exit a contract. Taken together, these suggest providers are systematically making it difficult for customers. We consider this allegation to be extremely serious.”

As we discussed, it only takes one mistake to destroy a company’s reputation in the eyes of the customer. Unfortunately for Vodafone, it made multiple mistakes, and must now work extremely hard in order to win back customers’ trust and loyalty… if it ever can. We reiterate our stance from the original blog: “Perhaps the day will come when we see telcos being recognised for their leadership in customer experience, but it doesn’t appear to be likely for the time being. There is clearly a lot to learn.”