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Opinion: The dying art of customer service

My Vodafone plan expires soon so I thought I’d call regarding my options. I was keen to explore fibre plans.

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It started well enough. Through one of its “ninjas”, a decent package was offered in theory, including the inevitable step of ditching the landline, taking up Vodafone TV (even though we stream a lot as a family), and fibre.

I was advised the next step was a Chorus technician visiting to look at my fibre delivery options. As we’re a back section, a changeover date would also be scheduled.

It was all sounding logical.

Next day our landline was disconnected. Premature, but of all the services that could have been cut off early this was the one we could live without. We’re a family of mobiles, our VDSL was still running (supporting my children’s growing dependency) and Sky TV through Vodafone was also OK.

Technician inspection day arrived. I’d organised to work from home so I would be there for the anticipated phone call saying are you home now?

Late morning and I’d heard nothing. I called Vodafone. My ninja was not rostered to work but, after waiting for 20 minutes while someone else checked our order, I was advised Chorus tried to call but the landline was disconnected. I was shocked but managed “you mean the landline you guys prematurely disconnected” ... Silence ... “Oh right I see the problem, leave it with me.”

Sigh.

A Chorus technician called my 2degrees mobile saying he tried phoning the day before about an inspection time but the phone was disconnected. I apologised for Vodafone’s incompetence. He kindly agreed to see me at 4pm. This turned into a Saturday morning visit at which time it was determined our property would be an overhead connection needing consent from neighbours, meaning a delay of 2 to 3 months.

Hmm.

Four business days later, our VDSL internet connection was disconnected. There were 2 options: either this was another unexpected outage or, as I suspected, the next stage in Vodafone’s fibre connection process gone feral.

It was the latter.

Back on the mobile I asked Vodafone how things were going: “Scott, your inspection is being processed but it will take some time as Chorus is getting paperwork ready for neighbour consent.” “Ok sure, and my current connection is down, could that be anything to do with this?” ... Silence. “Oh you’ve been disconnected, why has that happened?” (Ah good, we’re all on the same page then). “Yes,” I said, “that’s interesting isn’t it, can I leave it with you?”

Next, a text saying sorry and you’ll be reconnected tomorrow! OK, now I’m annoyed. I typically work a bit at home and didn’t feel Vodafone was bending over backwards to sort this issue. Surely there was an “on” setting in the system somewhere.

I called again and spoke to Ardie.

I name Ardie because, through all the bumbling incompetence, Ardie was sympathetic, clearly embarrassed by the unfolding story and tried to move this deadline forward. He had to tell me later actually it was worse than I’d been told. Chorus had received a disconnection order because Vodafone’s processes hadn’t been followed. When the fibre inspection was deemed to be a longer process Chorus should have cancelled the order to disconnect the VDSL service.

“How long to be reconnected by Chorus, Ardie?” “It could be 3 or 4 days, I’m so sorry.” I held my rage. Ardie and I agreed he’ll call me after he’s looked at this today. In the meantime, I’m pleased to have data to tether to on my 2degrees mobile.

As for Vodafone, this is one of several service issues I’ve experienced and we’re not finished yet. I really have to question, once I get my VDSL running again, whether I go ahead with new services with it or look elsewhere.

The dying art of customer service is evident at Vodafone. Except Ardie – you should be in charge.

Scott Feehan is Consumer NZ’s GM Information Services.