This guest article was submitted by Andreas Ødegård.
In Norway, where I live, prices have always been too high and then some, with wireless data plans proving that point very well. So far an unlimited plan has been about 500 NOK, which is roughly $70 USD with current rates and $100 USD by last year's average exchange rate. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when NetCom, the smallest of the two major cell phone companies here, suddenly cut the prices in half. The competitor, Telenor, is still at full price but on the other hand their coverage is a lot better.
Up until now, I've been using either a USB modem with a plan that gives me unlimited data between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends for 99 NOK a month ($15 USD). On top of that I've been using my E51 as a wireless router with the pay-as-you-go data plan included in my cell phone plan, which means that I pay 9 NOK ($1.20 USD) per MB with a maximum of 9 NOK per day and reduced speeds after 200MB a month. In other words, if I use less than 1MB per day I pay per MB, but over 1MB it's free for the rest of the day. The system has been working well for Twitter, mail, and other low-bandwidth usages, but web browsing is limited due to the 200MB speed cap.
A few days ago, I emailed NetCom asking if it was possible to work out a deal with them. In return for them canceling my 99 NOK/month plan, which still has 8-9 months left on contract, I'd get the 249 NOK/month plan as an add-on for my E51 plan. Sounds reasonable, right? I get a more useful solution, and I pay them 150 NOK/month extra. Unfortunately, it turns out that NetCom doesn't quite care about either profit or providing good customer support.
The reply to my email was a "no." Not understanding the reasoning ("it's not possible"), I called them and got a rep. After explaining the situation, her reply was the same: "no." After asking why in every way possible, I finally found out the real reason: the add-on would be free of any commitment and they didn't trust me to not remove the plan by myself after the arrangement.
I've been with this company for the last 8 years, during which there have been technical difficulties several times a year that I've endured, and this is how they repay me! Having had several marketing courses in school, I have to wonder if the people at NetCom ever took a similar class, as it would have told them that the difference between a satisfied customer and a dissatisfied one is a lot more than the lost profit of the customer switching companies.
In arguing with me rather than working with my offer, they lost 150 NOK/month profit, my respect, and my satisfaction with their service. They also indirectly called me untrustworthy, they lost X amount of money due to me calling them and using their time, and they got a dissatisfied customer that the laws of marketing says will tell 5 of his friends about his bad experience (though with me writing this, the number is a bit higher than that!). All this because they were afraid of losing 750 NOK, the remaining value of my committed 99 NOK/month plan.
I must say I recognize the logic in this comic (more at CallCenterComics.com)
You might argue that I didn't have any legal ground for asking them to bend the rules like this, but since when has customer satisfaction ever been about legal grounds? I'm a active listener of American gadget-related podcasts and I hear stories of bad customer support in almost every one of them, so this is clearly not just NetCom. As an example, I recently heard a story about a podcast host who'd ordered an iPhone, received three, and then spent (as far as I can remember) 4 days to get it straightened out with customer service.
Talking to a customer representative shouldn't feel like trying to train a dog; it should be a straightforward conversation between two people. So, have any of you had any similar experiences? Either with a cell phone provider, Internet provider, or just customer support in general. Bring on the stories!
Andreas Ødegård is currently finishing the second year of a three-year bachelor's degree in Economics and Administration at Lillehammer University College in Norway. He loves gadgets of all sorts and has been writing for Anything But iPod since January 2008, as well as updating his own DIY blog.