Mystery Caller – 382



Time and day of call10:15 weekday
Duration of call9 minutes
Length of queue? 3 minutes
Assistant introduced by name No

Polite and courteous manner2
Able to identify and understand my needs1
Knowledge to provide a good level of service?1
Genuine interest in wanting to help1
Giving clear, easily understood explanations1
Overall level of satisfaction with call outcome2

Orange is committed to providing excellent customer service, therefore your call may be recorded for training purposes. The network must end up with a lot of blank tape; thats all I can say. After three minutes of silence (apart, of course, from the obligatory attempts to get me off the line and into the website – where Id find answers to the most commonly asked questions, dont you know – my call was answered.

Usually, this is cause for great rejoicing. Not in this case. For the simple reason that I couldnt understand what the female on the other end of the line was saying to me. I was forced to ask her to repeat herself.

The communication barrier was still firmly down, but I was able to make out one sentence. How can I help you?

I seized the initiative. Whats your name? I asked.

No name ignored me. This is Orange, she said. How can I help you? Clearly ours was not destined to be what youd describe as a close friendship.

With a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders, I ploughed on, enthusiastically. I have a phone and a Bluetooth headset. I need to get them to talk to each other before I can use my phone in the car. I have no idea how to do so. Can you help?

I was conscious that I had slowed down my speech and that I was taking great care to pronounce every word properly. Just as a teacher would speak to a small child. It seemed to do the trick. No name asked for my name and security PIN.

What is the error message? asked no name. I told her there was no error message for the simple reason that I didnt have the faintest idea how to make the headset connect to the phone. Id no idea what Bluetooth was either, for that matter.

You are trying to link to a Bluetooth? Here. I will help you with that. Er. Please. Let me put you on hold whilst I transfer you to the relevant department. And with that, no name was off.

But four minutes later, she was back again. A relevant department was no longer necessary, apparently. She had all the answers.

Go to the menu, connectivity. Click on connectivity. Turn Bluetooth on. Look at the screen. Scroll down to the other person. They must have their Bluetooth switched on, too. You may get the option, wire Bluetooth. Select that and it will be done. Remember to make sure that the Bluetooth device of the other person is turned on. That is most important. Is there anything else I can help you with?

A brick wall was looming and my head looked like it was about to be hit against it repeatedly, so I said my farewells.

Oh, woe is Orange. This Indian call centre thing just isnt doing the network any favours. Its not so much the language barrier as problems in understanding precisely what I wanted help with. No – name ended up explaining (very badly) how to connect my phone with someone elses. The Bluetooth headset didnt get a look in.

Very disappointing. I sincerely hope that the call was recorded and will be used for training purposes. As an example of how not to help a customer.


Time and day of call10:45 weekday
Duration of call8 minutes
Length of queue? 3 minutes
Assistant introduced by nameYes

Polite and courteous manner3
Able to identify and understand my needs1
Knowledge to provide a good level of service?1
Genuine interest in wanting to help1
Giving clear, easily understood explanations1
Overall level of satisfaction with call outcome2

If I was really, really certain that I didnt want to look at the Vodafone website, the voice on the other end of the phone gave me several options. Or rather was in the middle of giving me several options when it interrupted itself and barked, We didnt detect a response.

Hardly surprising, as it hadnt asked for one. Eventually I made it to the end of the queue.

When youre in a queue to talk to a Vodafone call centre, you feel youve gone for the budget option. Theres no piped music. Just the sound of silence for three minutes punctuated only by the occasional brrrrring brrrrring. All the way to Wales. Or at least, a very Welsh sounding Beth.

I explained that I was having a hard time making sense of my new Bluetooth headset. Id been told I needed one to drive safely. Could she help? And what was Bluetooth anyway, I asked, to emphasize the level of my incompetence.

Bluetooth? asked Beth. Its a kind of infra-red connection, really. It signals the headset.
That sounds about right, I said. So how do you get the headset to talk to the phone?

What do you mean, talk to the phone? I havent a clue. Im not good on Bluetooth. Ive only been here a few days, admitted Beth.

Not so much talk to, I explained, patiently. More connect to. How do the headset and the phone communicate. How do you set them up to work together?

Ill have to go and ask my supervisor. What sort of phone do you have?

Armed with the knowledge that I was using a Nokia 7610, Beth was off to seek solace in the arms of her supervisor.

Whilst she was gone, I attended to a spot of weeding and valeted the car.

Eventually Beth was back, with the news that no one could find any reference books about the phone. She did have some news though.

You usually connect your accessory through he connectivity menu. All you have to do is find the menu. Whatever else, you cant fault Beths logic. And the problem is that connectivity is different for every phone.

On a philosophical level you could argue that connectivity is the same for every phone and its just that phones achieve connectivity by different means. But lifes too short.

What you could do is get the headset to work with the mobile phone and do it that way round, I suppose. What sort of headset have you got?

I told her. It wasnt on her list. After an embarrassing pause, Beth suggested I go to the Nokia website. She even told me the address, when I asked her.

Disappointing, to say the very least. Starting with the fact that Beth thinks Bluetooth is an infra-red link and ending with her suggestion that Id be able to get the headset to pair with the phone even though I hadnt activated Bluetooth on the handset. Brilliant.

Add to that carrying periods of silence and a general feeling that it was a case of the blind leading the blind and you just about have it.


Time and day of call19:40 weekday
Duration of call10 minutes
Length of queue? Nil
Assistant introduced by nameYes

Polite and courteous manner4
Able to identify and understand my needs3
Knowledge to provide a good level of service?2
Genuine interest in wanting to help3
Giving clear, easily understood explanations1
Overall level of satisfaction with call outcome2

Obviously, because 3 is what it is, I couldnt claim I was wanting to connect my 7610 to a headset. But, even though I ascertained the ZTE handset I was currently running on 3 is not a Bluetooth enabled device, I decided to stick with the story Id concocted about having bought a Bluetooth headset.

Nothing much changes at 3. We pay is still their new pre pay tariff despite its having been around for a year or more.

Still, Shamila was commendably quick off the blocks and answered my phone as soon as it flashed up on her screen.

She thanked me for calling 3 and asked how she could help. I told her that Id bought a headset for my 3 handset, but that I couldnt find any way of connecting it to the phone.

It took some considerable time and a close examination of the language barrier before I was convinced shed understood me. As soon as she got my story straight in her head, she excused herself and went off to consult.

Three minutes later, she was back, asking me to find a hole next to the hole where the charger goes. I should oplug my headset in there. I told her the headset Id bought didnt have a wire to plug in anywhere. And that the only other hole visible on the handset was hidden behind some kind of plastic bung on the side of the handset, not the bottom.

You have a Bluetooth headset, Shamila informed me. I will find out. And, with that, she was off.

A minute later, she returned. I made a pre-emptive strike. Whats Blutooth? I wanted to know.

It is a file sharing protocol based on wireless. Certain handsets support handset bearing which means you can talk to a third party away from the phone. I said the only thing I could under the circumstances.


Shamila repeated what shed said to me virtually word for word except it became clear the second time of telling that shed said pairing, rather than bearing first time round.

I pretended Id understood all shed told me.

The ZTE phone does not support Bluetooth, Shamila told me. You must take the headset back to the store you bought it from and ask for a headset with a wire.

I wanted to know why one hadnt been included in the pack and why the word headset didnt seem to appear anywhere in the pages of the instruction manual. Multimedia, yes. Mobile TV, yes. A headset to help me keep my licence, no.

I will need to check if there should be a headset in the box, said Shamila. And she was off again, only to return moments later to confirm what I already knew. No headset.

The only option open to me, she reiterated, was to go and find someone who a) knew the kind of headset Id need and b) would sell me one. Thank you for calling 3, she said finally.

About the only thing to say in Shamilas favour is that she was polite. I found her accent all but impenetrable, and her explanations pretty much unfathomable. However, it was clear that she was trying to deliver a service.

Not her fault if the ZTE doesnt support Bluetooth or the manual makes no mention of headsets. Perhaps Ill send the summons to 3 and theyll take care of the £560 and 3 points.


Time and day of call10:55 weekday
Duration of call8 minutes
Length of queue? <10
Assistant introduced by nameYes

Polite and courteous manner4
Able to identify and understand my needs3
Knowledge to provide a good level of service?2
Genuine interest in wanting to help4
Giving clear, easily understood explanations3
Overall level of satisfaction with call outcome3

T-Mobile didnt keep me hanging on. No sooner had I selected the catchall option 5 than I was talking to Claire. She went through the formalities, established that I was a T-Mobile customer and asked how she could help me today.

Though Claire has a delightful (to my ears at least) Scottish accent, she sounded a little hesitant. I was to find out the reason a little later on in our conversation.

I explained that Id bought a headset to prevent being nicked for driving and talking, but that the thing had no wires. I couldnt see how it was going to work with my phone. Did she have any ideas?

There was a pause. I thought I heard the word Bluetooth whispered somewhere amidst the background patina of noise.

Is it Bluetooth? asked Claire.

Whats Bluetooth? I wanted to know.

More whispering. Its a kind of wireless connection between the headset and the phone, Claire told me, sounding commendably knowledgeable. What sort of phone do you have?

More whispers followed the news that I was a 7610 user. Thats not one of our phones, Claire told me. Weve never sold it, so Im afraid I dont have any details about it.

If you dont have the user manual, you can have a hunt through the menus on the phone. Look for the one marked connectivity. Or you could take the phone down to a T-Mobile store. Theyd be able to set you up in a moment, promised Claire.

Another bout of whispering ensued. You could also go to Carphone Warehouse; they sell a lot of T-Mobile and theyll be happy to help too. Especially if Claire tells em to. Would you like the nearest address?

When I said I would, Claire warned me, twice, that there may be some delay in finding the information. She was specific. Between two and three minutes, she thought.

In fact, the delay was less than 30 seconds and the addresses she gave were, indeed, those of my nearest T-Mobile and CPW outlets.

Before we parted, Claire wanted to make sure that I was happy with the call. Have I covered everything? she asked.

When I apologised for not knowing what Bluetooth was, she confided in me that, being new, shed have trouble setting up a Bluetooth headset too. So I wasnt alone. Have a nice day and I hope you get sorted soon.

Claire was a bit light on detail. There was no mention of having to pair the headset with the phone, let alone pointers on how to achieve satisfactory pairing.

This was obviously one of the first calls Claire had taken — hence the whispered help. Whispering, by the by, that wasnt intrusive and Im certain wouldnt even have been noticed 99 times out of 100. All things considered, she did OK. Maybe I wouldnt have been able to pair headset and phone on under my own steam, but by sending me off to the local store, shed demonstrated T-Mobiles willingness to help.

Virgin Mobile

Time and day of call18:25 weekday
Duration of call10 minutes
Length of queue? Nil
Assistant introduced by nameYes

Polite and courteous manner2
Able to identify and understand my needs3
Knowledge to provide a good level of service?5
Genuine interest in wanting to help2
Giving clear, easily understood explanations5
Overall level of satisfaction with call outcome3

The menu put me in a bit of a quandary. Did I need help with getting my phone to work or did my problem fall into the anything else category. I decided it was the anything else, and pressed #5.

Liam pounced. He was on my call in a flash. But this alacrity was about the only enthusiasm he showed throughout the call. How can I help you? he asked in a Geordie voice laced with indifference.

I went through the purchase of the headset to escape conviction and summary roadside execution by the local constabulary and the problems I had finding a wire with which to connect it to the phone.

Is it Bluetooth? asked Liam. I said I didnt know. You could look on the packet, he suggested.

I came back with the news that the headset was Bluetooth and offered congratulations. But what, precisely, did the word Bluetooth mean?

Its, like, wireless. A way to share music files and stuff from phone to phone and also a way to connect accessories to a handset. What phone have you got?

I could imagine Lima punching the air in jubilation as he explained that the Nokia 7610 is not a phone that ever darkened the doors of Virgin Mobile. I cant help you, he added somewhat unnecessarily.

I wasnt going to let Liam off the hook that easily. What can you suggest?

Liam established that the manual and the 7610 had become separated some time previously. You could always have a look on the phone menu, he suggested, reluctantly, sensing perhaps that he wasnt going to get rid of me as easily as hed hoped.

Eagerly I pretended to search for something in the phone menu that related to connections. Ive found connectivity, I told Liam. Will that do? Reluctantly he agreed that it would and together we got down to the nitty gritty of pairing phone and headset. And, Liam proved that he knew his stuff.

Intuitively, he helped me find the right sub menus, discover the headset and pair it with the phone. A bleep in my ear confirmed wed been successful in a commendably short time. Phone and headset were as one.

When I reported back to Liam, he didnt seem at all impressed. Perhaps hes not a bloke thats given to showing emotion. His default setting really is disinterest.

Only when I was preparing to say goodbye — ie when the end was in sight — did Laims voice betray any emotion. And that, I think, was relief.

This is a very difficult one to score. Lioams apparent disinterest would normally have him languishing at the bottom of the pile, because in my experience, disinterest goes hand in hand with incompetence.

But when it came to knowing his stuff and explaining how to sort a problem out, Liam acquitted himself very well. If you were looking for someone to write a generic handbook for pairing Bluetooth enabled devices, Liam would have to be in the frame. Trouble is, if you were looking to award prizes for attitude, hed get the wooden spoon.

O2 1st
Time and day of call16:45 weekday
Duration of call9 minutes
Length of queue? <20
Assistant introduced by nameYes

Polite and courteous manner4
Able to identify and understand my needs4
Knowledge to provide a good level of service?4
Genuine interest in wanting to help3
Giving clear, easily understood explanations4
Overall level of satisfaction with call outcome4

O2s changed the message it gives out when you make contact with the lady in the box. If youer someone who habitually refuses to type in your mobile number when requested (Whats the point? They always ask you for it again later?) youll appreciate the following.

We didnt catch that. Let me try to make it easier. Press 1 for pre pay, 2 for contract. Nice.

Another nice thing is the brevity of the queue. In this case it took less than 20 seconds for me to be connected to Matt who made all the right noises, seemed pleased Id decided to call him and asked what he could do to help.

I told him that Id bought a headset for my phone because I didnt want to get any more points on my licence. But that I couldnt find the wire. I was confused. How could I plug the headset in without a wire?

There wasnt event a hint of a snigger in Mattts voice as he asked, Can you see the word Bluetooth on the headset or the packaging?

I told him I could.

Thats why there are no wires. The headset uses a kind of radio system to talk to the phone. The system is called Bluetooth.

I wanted to know what distance this Bluetooth thingie worked over.

Usually 10 metres or 30 feet. Some work overmuch larger distances, but I suspect that in your case were looking at the less powerful version. What sort of phone do you have?

I told Matt that I was the proud user of a 7610 — but before he got any ideas Id only every used it to talk on. Hadnt so much as sent a text, far less found out what all the buttons did. Matt took it all in his stride and made the right noises. But I was in for some bad news.

Weve never sold the Nokia 7610 as a pre pay phone, so we dont have access to any manuals. I could put you though to the Nokia helpdesk where someone will talk you through it, Matt suggested, enthusiastically.

Or, he conceded reluctantly, we could try and work out what to do. If you tell me what the menus say I could point you in the right direction at least.

And thats what we did. I found the box on the 7610 marked connectivity. Together we found a menu marked Bluetooth. Matt explained how Id first have to turn on the headset (It is charged, isnt it?), get the phone to discover it then pair with it.

Then, thinking outside the box (always a good sign) he asked me whether the headset had come with any instructions. When I told him it had, he very politely suggested I spend some time immersed in them. If youre still having problems, please call back, he said. And meant it.

Apart from being a tad too eager to palm me off and make me Mr Nokias problem rather than O2s, Matt did a good job. From not sniggering at my initial ignorance, through talking me through the principle if not the detail of pairing, he did just enough to enable me to get by. Using his advice, Id have paired my headset and kept my licence.

No one was more surprised than me to find that even the most basic, 30p a go headset doesnt find its way into the ZTE box. That doesnt exonerate Shamina, but it goes some way. At least she tried to help and had some knowledge around the subject.

Which is more than can be said for Beth at Vodafone. From her telling me that a Bluetooth enabled device relies on an infra- red to telling me Id be able to pair my phone with the Bluetooth headset without even turning the latter on, this was a disaster.

It was up to Orange to do worse. No name struggled with the language barrier before eventually pairing my phone with another phone. The headset didnt get a look in.

T-Mobiles Claire put in a valiant effort as a newbie and Matt at O2 came out on top despite barely concealed mirth at my Bluetooth ignorance.

But its Liam I feel sorry for. If only hed displayed a slightly more enthusiastic attitude, hed have romped home.