Mystery Caller – 384


Time and day of call08:45 weekday
Duration of call8
Length of queue? 7
Assistant introduced by nameYes

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 outcome1

The might of T-Mobile swung into action as I placed my call. With tens of thousands of staff and billions of euros at its disposal it sent me on an all expense paid trip – to the queue. Where I was bombarded with platitudes for a good (or not so good) seven minutes.

Eventually, a weary and tired Sharon welcomed me to T-Mobile. How could she help? she wanted to know, in a very Scottish voice the colour of a rainy Monday morning. Her apparent desire to help was unconvincing, to say the least.

We embarked on the formalities. I gave my number followed by my registered alias and its address. No. Thats wrong. Thats not your name, said Sharon.

Id been rumbled. But how could my undercover status have been blown? Is there a mole at Mobile News Towers?

Undeterred, I stuck to my guns. Ive certainly been called that since I was christened, and possibly long before, I told Sharon. Grudgingly, she asked me to repeat the information.

Oh, 253, she said. I thought you said 353. Youre right.

Reassured now that I was competent enough to remember my own name, I ploughed on and wrested back the initiative.

Im fed up with having the same old ring tone as everyone else, I told her. How can I get a new one on my phone?

You can either download one from a T-Zone, or, if you have the right software, direct from your PC.

I told her Id managed well without a PC for 50 years and that I didnt see why I should get one now. As far as a T-zone was concerned, Id no idea what she was talking about.

Sharon could have chosen this moment to enlighten me about T-Zones, but she chose not to. Instead, ploughing on with the script. What sort of phone do you have? she asked.

A Nokia 7610.

Havent you got the instruction book?

I told Sharon Id inherited the phone.

Silence. Followed by quiet and solitude. A feeling of being at one with nature as the birds outside in the garden began their spring song. I was left in contemplative mood for two minutes before Sharon came back to me.

Im going to send have to send you some settings, I think, she warned.

Will it hurt, I asked jokingly, trying to lighten the tone.

Shouldnt do. Said Sharon, stony faced.

Then she appeared to have a better idea. Push the menu button, she instructed. Go to the web site. Find the browser. Go to the T-Mobile WAP site.

I did as shed asked. But could only find an Orange WAP site in the browser. I told Sharon this and explained that the person whod had the phone before me was an Orange customer.

Sharon sighed deeply. And the line went dead.

And it certainly wasnt me that hung up.

If Sharon didnt cut me off, it was an extremely convenient time for the machinery to dump my call. Disinterest with attitude added to a couldnt care less approach doesnt make for the best in customer service.

Even before the disconnection, I got the distinct impression Sharon would prefer licking the road clean with her tongue before a breakfast of arsenic and razor blades rather than be talking to me. Just the kind of girl T-Mobile needs to win friends and influence people.

Time and day of call17:00 weekday
Duration of call8 minutes
Length of queue? 3 minutes
Assistant introduced by nameYes

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 help2
Giving clear, easily understood explanations1
Overall level of satisfaction with call outcome2

You really have to feel sorry for Vodafone. Once again, the network was suffering. From a condition thats been reported on regularly over the past few months.

The condition? Higher than usual call numbers.

As we know, medical science has no cure, though its thought that employing a few more staff may help alleviate the problem. The trouble is that the network itself doesnt seem to suffer any immediate symptoms, though there is evidence of long-term customer dissatisfaction and churn. Longsuffering customers, on the other hand, report increasing irritability and an irrational desire to hurl the phone at the nearest cat in sheer frustration.

After seven long minutes, Hazel answered my call and went through the formalities conversationally with a little humour thrown in for good measure.

I explained Id like to download a ringtone but that I had no idea where to start.

Hazel reassured me that my ignorance was nothing to worry about and helped me discover the make and model of phone by telling me to take the battery out.

Once the horrible truth dawned – that the phone in question was a 7610, Hazel retired to consult her database. She was gone two whole minutes. Can you see a Vodafone live! Logo on the screen? she asked on her return. Alas, Id no idea what a Vodafone Live! logo looked like, and told her so.

What does phone say when you press menu? I reported the various folders that presented themselves, but saw nothing pertaining to Vodafone. There was another pause for consultation. Im going to have to pass you though to a colleague who will be able to send the right settings to your phone. Sorry I cant help you any more myself.

And with that, Hazel was gone. She came back again to tell me Id soon be talking to Natasha, and bid me a not so fond farewell.

A couple of clicks on the line and, instead of the expected Natasha, I was on the receiving end of prolonged and raucous laughter. The kind of hilarity that ensues at a Christmas party after the sixth Babycham. It wasnt pretty to listen to and, more worryingly than that, it went on for a full minute before Natasha realised I might be on the other end of the line.

Hello, she said. Youre wanting your MMS settings sent?

I said I wanted to download a ringtone.

Right. When you get a message, open it up, save it, and when it asks you for a PIN, put in 9999. Just wait now. And Natasha was off.

A moment later, she was back. Has it come through now?

I told her it had.

Right then, is there anything else I can help you with? Thanks for calling Vodafone, Goodbye.

Unsatisfactory in oh, so many ways. The bottom line is that I was no nearer downloading a ringtone at the end of the call than I was at the beginning. Hazel was polite but not over endowed with technical competence.

It was left to her colleague to really let the side down with a performance so inept as to be laughable. True, the MMS settings did arrive, but I wasnt given the slightest hint about what I should do with them. If this is customer service, Vodafone can keep it.

Time and day of call08:15 weekday
Duration of call3 minutes
Length of queue? 5 minutes
Assistant introduced by nameYes

Polite and courteous manner4
Able to identify and understand my needs2
Knowledge to provide a good level of service?1
Genuine interest in wanting to help3
Giving clear, easily understood explanations1
Overall level of satisfaction with call outcome2

At the sound of the O2 welcome announcement, the journalistic hairs on the back of my neck rose in anticipation. Had I unwittingly stumbled upon a scoop?

My highly-trained ears had noticed a significant omission from O2s intial spiel. No longer was I being welcomed to one of the networks UK-based customer service centres. The crucial phrase UK based was missing. Had O2 exported its customer service function under cover of darkness? Was it now, even as the on hold music played, making its passage to India, or South Africa?

Or had someone in authority decided the UK based bit was, well, too jingoistic in these politically correct times. Either way, we should be told.

Still the on hold music played, passing the five-minute mark with impressive ease. Just as I was beginning to lose patience, Stacy answered the phone, bright and bubbly. How could she help?

Unwittingly, she already had. Her accent placed her somewhere between Cleckheaton and Bradford in West Yorkshire, suggesting she was talking to me from one of the call centres clustered around Leeds.

I told her that my life would be enriched, possibly for ever, if she told me how I could download a new ringtone.

Youll have to look at the internet first. Find a tone you like and then download it, Stacy told me.

Thats the problem, I confessed. I really dont have a clue who to do that.

Stacy wanted, not unreasonably, to know what sort of phone we were talking about here. The admission that I owned a 7610 completely floored her. She withdrew into a world of silence punctuated only by umms and ahhs various.

Eventually, Stacy must have located some kind of emulator because she tld me to press the menu key and go to the folder that said www. She also warned me that Id have millions of folders to choose from..
Whilst there might not have been millions of folders nestled away in the 7610, there were certainly a fair few. I found one that fitted the bill and opened it.

I described its contents and the choices open to me.

At that point, Stacy threw in the towel. Look, she admitted. Im not familiar with the 7610 and youre not familiar with the phone either, or the mobile Internet. Because I cant see what youre doing on the phone, this is potentially going to take a very long time.

Can I suggest that you go to your nearest O2 store and get them to check the settings on the phone are correct. Theyll then show you how to download a ring tone from the web and install it on your phone. It will only take them a couple of minutes and they are guaranteed to get you sorted. Surely thats the best option?

Im really sorry I cant help you further. Is that OK? Do you know where your nearest O2 store is?

I assured Stacy she shouldnt loose any sleep, that shed come up with a good idea and that I knew roughly where Id find my nearest O2 store.

Whilst disappointed that Stacy couldnt help me get up and running there and then, my disappointment was tempered by the fact that she seemed, at least, to have tried to find the settings and was defeated by a lack of information. The fact that Id dismissed the PC route earlier meant she couldnt send me to the Nokia website.

Throughout the call she tried her best and made me feel a valued customer, her suggestion that I go elsewhere wasnt a case of washing her hands of me. It was a pragmatic solution to the problem.

Virgin Mobile=4th
Time and day of call12:15 weekday
Duration of call8 minutes
Length of queue? 2 minutes
Assistant introduced by nameYes

Polite and courteous manner3
Able to identify and understand my needs1
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

I dont know, you wait all your mystery calling career for a potential scoop, then two come along at once. Virgin Mobiles usual recorded announcement was nowhere to be heard. Instead, theyd put together a catchy little number that went a bit like this.

If youre calling to see if your promotional airtime allowance has been added toy our account, our team spotted a problem but theyve fixed it quickly and youll be receiving confirmation of your allowance over the next few hours.

Whatever could it mean? Had the notorious NTL gremlins jumped the species barrier to infect other members of the Virgin Media group? Were they already making a nest in Richard Bransons beard? Again, we need to know.

After my excitement had abated, I settled down to a music enhanced wait before Bunni – complete with pronounced South African accent – answered my call.

I explained that I was a mobile novice and that I wanted her help in downloading a new ring tone to replace the tired old thing currently on my mobile.

You want to know how to send texts? Bunni asked.

No, I replied. I said all Id ever used my phone for was calling and texting. What I want is your help downloading a new ring tone from wherever you download new ring tones from.

No texting, then?

No texting.

You want to download a ring tone? A trace of incredulity in Bunnis voice, as if Id owned up to a rather unsavoury habit. Things were not going well. Let me see. What phone have you got?

I told her. She excused herself and disappeared for a few moments.

We dont have that listed, she told me with an air of finality. Ive checked on the system.

So how, I wanted to know, would I get my ringtone.

You can go to Virgin Bites, or the web, or use Bluetooth.

Not unreasonably, I wanted to know what VM Bites were.

Its where you download ringtones. Ill find out how your phone can connect to Virgin Bites.

And Bunni was off for the second time. When she came back, shed clearly been talking to someone higher up the food chain.

I dont know how to get your phone to connect to the mobile web, so I cant get you to look at Bites. And I cant tell you how to access any other ringtone download. The only thing we can suggest is that you get a friend to put them on their phone then transfer them across using Bluetooth. That should work.

And, with that, Bunni gave me a lecture in Bluetooth 101 as applied to the Nokia genus. I felt fairly confident that Id have been able to Bluetooth a tone to my phone.

And, concluded Bunni, theres always the guys at the Virgin phone shop. Take your phone to them and theyll be able to help, Im sure.

Bunni tried hard, but didnt have either the IT or, dare I say, the intellectual resourced available to her. ITs not that she didnt try to send me the APN settings for the phone, its that she didnt appear to know she had to.

On the flip side, she used her initiative and came\up with the rather clumbersome but potentially effective Bluetooth solution. And, throughout, she was polite and friendly. Note to Virgin Mobile: Bunni didnt ask me for my name, phone number or password, so she could, potentially, have been talking to mobile phone toting punter, not necessarily one of Virgin Mobiles.

Time and day of call17:00 weekday
Duration of call8 minutes
Length of queue? 3 minutes
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 help4
Giving clear, easily understood explanations4
Overall level of satisfaction with call outcome4

After Id been welcomed into 3s accommodating bosom, the recorded voice asked me if, once Id been serviced, Id consent to asking a few questions. Needless to say, I readily agreed to take part in the survey. It would have been rude not to.

The 3 proposition makes this particular task a bit of a doddle. As all music downloads must come from 3 onto handsets sold by 3, theres not much scope to be confused by technology, settings or any of the 1001 issues that accompany other flavours of internet browsing and downloading. Allowances have been made when scoring.

And the first thing to say is that theres nothing to complain about in terms of the queue (non-existent) or the friendly greeting I received from Pasheen. He was easily understood and grasped my wants and desires (at least those concerned with matters mobile) very quickly.

Certainly, he said, I will be pleased to help you with your downloads. But first I must ascertain the make and model of the device that you are using.

The ZTE F866 has little to recommend itself as a handset, other than its price. But Pasheen knew it like the back of his hand. He soon had me pressing the planet button to launch the browser. Then, united across the continents, we scrolled together until we arrived at the tunes.

Unbidden, and clearly grasping the fact he was talking to a mobile novice. Pasheen walked me through the different varieties of tune on offer. I could set myself up with a traditional ringtone, or perhaps Sir would prefer a dialtune?

For anyone living in a cave for the past 3 years, a dial tune is played to callers instead of a ring tone when they call. Far more hip than the traditional Brrr, Brrr.

Another option, Pasheen told me, well into selling mode, was the dual download. A ringtone for the phone and a link to download the MP3 to the PC. All the above explained in laymens terms, without Pasheen ever resorting to geek speak

All the time, Pasheen was giving me a running commentary on what I ought to be seeing on the screen. He showed me how to search for a tune and how the price would be displayed before I committed to buy. He assured me Id only be charged once for any download and that if I encountered any problems, he or one of his colleagues would be there to help.

Finally, Pasheen told me what to expect once Id downloaded a ringtone – the prompts Id see and how to respond to them to turn the download into a default ringtone. All of this delivered in a competent, if somewhat detached style. About the only thing Pasheen didnt do was choose a ringtone to put onto my phone. That was left up to me.

But again my hopes of taking part in the survey was cruelly dashed. At the end of the call, instead of a set of options, all I heard was the dial tone.

Pasheen was very efficient, but I found him difficult to warm to. He is not a bundle of laughs. But his step-by-step approach was considered and intelligent. And he sold the services on offer, as well as presenting them. In all, a very good performance indeed.

Time and day of call18:55 weekday
Duration of call13 minutes
Length of queue? 4 minutes
Assistant introduced by nameYes

Polite and courteous manner5
Able to identify and understand my needs5
Knowledge to provide a good level of service?5
Genuine interest in wanting to help5
Giving clear, easily understood explanations5
Overall level of satisfaction with call outcome5

Youll have gathered. This was an exemplary call. After a couple of minutes in the queue, the electrons had reached South Africa, at least judging by Geoffs accent as he picked up the call. It was thick enough to cut with a knife.

I trotted out the cover story and Geoff began by offering his sympathies. Not everyone is born digital, he agreed. After hed verified the security he told me what to expect. Hed check the SIM was GPRS enabled, then hed send the appropriate settings to the phone. Hed then help me install them. Wed take it from there.

And thats exactly what he did, with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of competence. It was straight out of the textbook. Metaphorically holding my hand through the settings installation whilst keeping up an illuminating commentary throughout.

Once my phone had been provisioned, Geoff told me how to immerse myself in Orange World. Then he told me to Stop right there. Press the hang up button.

Geoff explained that he was going to apply a £12.oo credit to my account so that I could browse the mobile internet and get acquainted with everything that Orange World has to offer. As well as the ringtones wed already talked about, there was a host of good stuff waiting to be discovered. The £12.00 of credit had to be spent on browsing and was valid for 30 days.

Geoff told me where to find downloads and assured me that if they came from Orange, they were guaranteed to be compatible with my phone or my money back. If I encountered any problems during the download, Orange would investigate and refund where appropriate. Of course I wouldnt get a refund if it was a case of my just not liking the ringtone.

Ringtones bought from Orange World would install automatically. If I couldnt get them to work, I could call back or perhaps Id prefer to go into an Orange Shop where phone trainers were waiting to help.

If I went outside of Orange World, in all probability, if I chose to download from a reputable company, Id be fine. But there was no guarantee. And, if anything did go wrong with the download, I couldnt appeal to Orange for a refund. It wasnt unknown for an account to be debited more than once for one download.

Geoff told me the way to check how much browsing credit was left on my account and ran through the ringtone download procedure in minute detail. Hed have stayed on line until Id downloaded if Id have known the tune I wanted.

We said goodbye. For the first time.

I was half way through the opening paragraph when the mobile rang. It was Geoff. Look, I forgot to tell you not to browse until you get a text through confirming your account has been credited with the £12.00. If you do, it will come off your balance. With that, an already excellent call just got better.

One word will do here. Perfect. The £12.00 browsing credit and Geoffs call back to make certain I didnt incur charges before it kicked in were the icing on the cake.

A fairly shambolic performance, to say the least. Its hard to remember a lower average score, with only 3 and Orange performing well — in the latter case, exceptionally so.

I cant prove it, of course, but I have the distinct impression that T-Mobiles Sharon hung up on me for no adequately explained reason. The call was taxing her brain too much, perhaps.

Hazel did tolerably well initially, but when she passed me over to her Vodafone colleague the whole ball of string unravelled. A totally unacceptable performance.

O2 and Virgin Mobile did very little to set the pulses racing, in both cases seeming to lack a basic understanding of my question and were even less predisposed to help me out of my download dilemma.

3s Pasheen did well across the board, but Geoff at Orange receives the ultimate accolade. Not only did he win hands down, he scored a perfect 30.

Sure, he didnt actually hold my hand as I downloaded a tune, but only because I hadnt chosen one. And top marks to Orange who realise the only way to boost ARPU is to whet the punters appetite for added value services. And a £12 browsing allowance is as good a way to whet the appetite as any.

Other networks take note.