Thursday, June 14, 2007

When is a free download not a free download?

Regular followers of this blog will know I'm a bit of an evangelist for 3's ground-breaking X-Series and its free-at-the-point-of-use (ie flat-rate) data charges.

Should end all the confusion over data charges, shouldn't it?

If only. It's a shame, but I've just had to fire off a complaint to their press office.

The crux is that as part of my deal I get '£5 of free downloads a month'. On my bill this refers to TV channels.

I decided I'd have the £5 mobile TV 'add-on' for my entitlement.

And I've spent a few months happily watching in spare moments and opportune environs.
Trouble is, it turns out an 'add-on' isn't a download. And I've been billed an extra £5 every month.

I argue this is semantics. I'm entitled to £5 of freebie - I want this bit please.

It's worth noting that I have always assumed that by using the TV add on and I am using my 'free £5 download' and for that reason have not downloaded any of the other 'freebies'.

Customer services won't have it.

Customer complaints won't have it.

Neither would action my request to accelerate my complaint to people higher up the food chain who might actually understand the situation from the customer's perspective.

Hugely frustrating. I've ended up sending an email to the press office (which their complaints department claimed they didn't have - not the first time I've had that particular one span at me! - last time it was a mortgage company. Schoolboy error when you're dealing with a journalist...)

The message is simple really - this customer feels mislead - how are 3 going to put that right?

Answer - you clicked for the add-on service - that's your problem.

I have a thought or two in response to this kind of 'customers from mars, companies from venus' thinking.

They've turned a 3 evangelist into an enemy by being maddeningly intransigent. Not bright, is it?

UPDATE: June 15, 2007 A call from 3's executive office results in a refund. I'm told my email is now being circulated internally and that customer service improvements are about to be implemented. I offer the advice that they should empower their customer-facing staff to make decisions based on understanding the customer, rather than reading a script - and they should clarify their bills. Result: I feel I have finally been listened to, I have finally been engaged with - but it took considerable effort on my part to make that happen. Surely that's the wrong way round?

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?