Saturday, November 12, 2011

Vodafone is NOT 'Happy to Help'.

Been a while since my last post, hasn't it? And well, I have felt it too. It has been really long since my last post, and this post, was well overdue. So much so that I had crossed a whole lot of tweets posted, that led to even me losing a record of what all I had tweeted to Vodafone and vice versa. So, let's get on with it..

When the big decision of me moving to Pune for my further studies came by, around mid-August, I had to choose from a range of internet providers which would be good enough for me to run on my laptop. With my admissions and accomodation having finalized around 10th August, and the rest of shopping, packing stuff beginning, I was looking around. Then, I did a lot of research! It was a Tata Photon v/s Reliance NetConnect v/s AirTel USB v/s Vodafone mobile broadband! I compared all the plans and rentals for all of them, and decided to go ahead with Vodafone.

People who know me, have spent some time with me, know how much I talk against Vodafone because I'm an AirTel mobile user (What?! Everyone believes what they use is the best, right?). And thus, the common question from all of them was, "why" Vodafone? Now, I seem to know why. Though, their reasons, though, were different. It was widely because Tata and Reliance have been the pioneers and leaders in this world, and AirTel has heavily marketted itself. Vodafone, has been in the dark, and is even now.

But then why did I choose it? As I said, it offered me a cheaper solution (not considerably cheaper, though) than its competitors, and I went by the image it holds of being an MNC, which made me drop the ball in its court.

Fine till now, right?

I thought so, too.

I needed more information about it, and so, I resorted to my favourite medium to get information instantly, Twitter, with my first tweet about them, ever, on 11th August,
Vodafone Connect 3G USB Stick? Anyone knows anything :S? Help!

And that also, was my first disappointment in them.
Their reply came to me on 12th August,
Please refer to  or DM us ur no. for further assistance.
My replies to them for that tweet, the same day,
I wanted info about the Vodafone Connect 3G USB Stick. Where can I get it online? I checked the website but I have some doubts.
I had already checked this. Just DMed you my number. In case you're calling, after 12 please!

For those who aren't well-versed with Twitter, DM (direct message) is a way to share things with someone in a way that no one else would know. There were quiet a few DMs after that, and the following image is self-explanatory, I assume. The date of every message is at the bottom of each. (Click on it to view a enlarge it.)
DMs between @VodafoneIN and me (@setu4993)

Even after that, I didn't receive any call from them. And that's when I got pissed with them, but, held my calm because I still had some hope and trust in them. My bad.

I just went to a Vodafone Store on 17th August, and got myself a Vodafone USB stick, as a measure to end my shopping before I left for Pune on 21st. Checked it at home and it seemed to work fine for the 2-3 minutes that I checked. Packed it in my bagpack, and off to Pune on 21st.

The first evening in Pune, 21st August. A Sunday. The first thing that I wanted to do, when mom left after helping me unpack and settle down, was to go online and check my mails and tweet (things I did everytime I reached home, and all the time I was at home, too, nothing new). To my disappointment, I couldn't connect. There was some error and I tried disconnecting and reconnecting a few times. Reboot. Still nothing. Called customer care on 121. They talked to me for some 10-12 minutes and then told me they couldn't help me (!) because my registration was of Mumbai and by dialling 121, the Pune service center had been contacted. They asked me to note down the number 9820098200 (or something similar) and told me I would be charged Re.1/minute for talking to them.

Now comes the big deal. I was on a prepaid Vodafone connection. So, I couldn't make any calls from that number, even to the customer care! Good thing, isn't it heavy pun?!

I kept switching my SIM between Vodafone and AirTel.

The Mumbai guy didn't help me much either. He said that I would have to visit a Vodafone gallery, the closest one, so that I could get some help. I asked him what would be the closest one to me, according to a few places around my room, that I knew about. He said he can't help me with the closest, but, told me he would keep listing the places and then I should select which would be closest to me. Well, if it was Mumbai, it would be simpler. But, imagine the state of a customer who goes to a city for some reason, and on the first day, within 7 hours of reaching a new city, he is given a whole list of places where there are their 'Galleries'. Duh! That's customer service? That's serving the customer some trouble, instead!

After that, I asked him the timings of 2-3 Galleries (whose locations I recognized, from the some research I had done in Mumbai, with Google Maps, about the localities). He said he couldn't help me with that, either. And that left me stunned, like never before. Forget the location, not even the timings?!

It was almost 5:45 when I left my room and took local bus transport, in an unknown city, to reach the Vodafone Gallery. I got down at a bus stop, asked at a mobile shop, and was told that it would be closed today, it being a Sunday.


Next day, just after my college orientation, I left again. In search of the Gallery that would get me my internet activated. I went to a Gallery, only to be told that I would have to go to the Vodafone HQ of Pune to get it working or to even get any information about it. I had to take a rickshaw, spend Rs.80 to take me to the Gallery, in the outskirts of the city, for something that should've been done there itself, and face the frustration. More than everything, why did the call center executive then specifically tell me that it'd be done at any Gallery?

Leave my case. Suppose instead of me, there was a business executive travelling to a city for 2 days of business, and he faced the case of internet not working. He would be told to travel the same just to be able to check an important e-mail he was going to receive? REALLY? Sick!

Even there, there were just 2 executives dealing with around 10 people, sequentially. (The Mumbai Gallery I bought it from, had 5 people at a given moment!) I waited there for 45 minutes and was finally told that my SIM card hadn't been activated itself. Wow. For knowing that I had to wait more than 24 hours, call them multiple times, travel to random places in a completely new city... For that?

Even after that, things didn't change. It was already a week and nothing changed. Tried connecting it, many a times, nothing. Dad went to the Gallery I had bought it from, they said they couldn't do anything till I came back to Mumbai.

Luckily, I happened to come back to Mumbai that weekend. And it was majorly to get this Vodafone USB working.

I went to the Gallery from where I had bought it. Talked to 3 levels of Vodafone 'Care' guys there. And then came back being promised that it'd work fine now. I spent around 90 minutes there. They took 20 minutes to get me a new SIM card. Why? Because the guy who was sitting at the counter was lazy and stood up, after I explained him the issue and went ahead with just roaming around the Gallery. The next guy, told me that I'd be charged for those lost 10 days of internet too, which was the result of a fault in the SIM card they had given me! I requested to be able to talk to the manager of the gallery. I waited for 15 minutes. When he still didn't come down (they have a first floor in the Malad, Mumbai Gallery which is I don't know what), I freaked out and asked the guy how much more time would it take. He came down within the next 5 minutes, luckily. Even then, there was this executive named Premal (name changed), who was busy flirting with another colleague, in front of the branch manager, who was just watching them both and smiling and giggling, which delayed me by other 10 minutes. Even after that, I was told that there was no way I could get a 10-day extension for a fault on their side. Though, they said they'll 'try' to add 10 days to my next month. All-in-all, great service!

I came back to Pune, and then tried to connect. I got connected in 1 in 100 attempts, disconnected again within seconds, and no page loaded correctly until I refreshed it like a zillion times! I was pissed at their services, terribly. And whenever I was online, I used to tweet about their poor service, even if that meant a dozen of retries before a tweet got posted (in laymen terms, equivalent to an email got sent).

I received a few replies from them too, asking me to tell them their problems and give them my contact details. I had given them the contact details the first time I tweet to them on 12th August! And my problems, well, they were very well-evident from my tweets.

There's this tweet sequence, in particular that I want you all to have a look at:
1st tweet of the sequence, their reply, 7th September.
2nd tweet of the sequence, my reply, 7th September.
3rd tweet of the sequence, their reply, 10th September.

What should I say more? Even after telling them not to call me at any random time, even after sharing the specific time and requesting them to confirm before calling, they have the same complain? That's customer service?

I called them up again after a day or two. Got transferred to the 'Technical Department' with whom I was on phone for 95 minutes (getting charged at Re.1/minute) and even that did no good.

This was when I had decided that I would be switching from Vodafone to Reliance for my internet requirements. And that's the very reason I can write this blog right now!

I got calls from them, multiple times (even after telling them not to call me), after I made this public announcement on Twitter. I lashed out at everyone of them for poor service and bad customer satisfaction.

Yes, I was set back by Rs. 1699, the cost of the USB stick and one month's rental as Rs. 700, unamounted stress, trouble and disappointment, bad customer service, and what not! But, I learnt a whole lot of things too...

And this is not just Vodafone. I have gone through similar with Idea Cellular Ltd. I know friends who have gone through similar troubles with AirTel, Loop Mobile, Tata Docomo, and Reliance too.
Someone always told me,
When you open a company, make it so big that there has to be a call center and people who call you for service, end up talking to them, only.
I always took it as a joke, but, realized that it's real in this scenario.That does mean that the customer, a consumer is taken for granted and is made to go around a 'ringa rose garden' more number of times than a kindergarten student would, just to get his work done. That does mean that the private sector companies are no better than the public sector companies. I think, they're worse.

You hope that they'd be better and they land you at the same level. Whereas, you know the public sector, Government owned will be such and thus you don't have high expectations which would shatter!

If customer service really meant that much, we wouldn't be running behind services companies to help us sort our problems and port out of their services. If it really meant that much, I would be compensated for my USB device which I'm ready to return even now, and with some better plan and offer, free of cost. If it really did, the Blackberry users who were affected by the Asian outage of RIM services, for 3 days, would be compensated by a 3-day extension at no additional charge. If it really did, no company would start unwanted services for users and then ask them to cough up the amount. If it really did, no service provider would charge an old user the same amount for every call and text that he/she was 3 years ago, and would inform them of better, similar, cheaper plans. But, it's all 'IF' it really did...

And it's evident through just all these last few examples that it doesn't. Not one bit.

I know what I don't want to do to 'my' customers, when later in life I own a company... Till then, here's a lesson learnt...

I know I didn't have to add all the screenshots that I did. I know that those who read me reguarly, trust me blindly about what I would post. But, this is for all those who are not regular readers, and to prove the authenticity. I'm an 18-year-old student, not a forger involved in spoiling the reputation of an MNC bribed to do so by its competitor. I'm a citizen, a customer who expects good service, who thinks getting a decent service is something he deserves. I'm someone.

Until the next post, remember, it's true, Vodafone, is NOT 'Happy to Help'.

P. S.: Here's an Excel file of the 41 tweets I had sent to them and only the 11-odd replies I received, for reference or cross checking, in different Excel sheets.

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