Thursday, May 26, 2011

Car Crash Time.

"Is there anything else I can do for you today sir?" Yes. Get lost.

Last year we went onto one of those car insurance policy websites which are the subject of a mad UK TV advertising war. I can't remember if it had a meerkat or a mad opera singer but it worked. It allowed us to see various quotes and we opted for the cheapest, thus saving several hundred pounds.

Since then, we get regular calls from the old insurance company who don't seem to know that we don't insure with them any more, even though we told them and cancelled the policy in writing. I have long conversations with them, where I patiently go through all our details, answering all their repetitive questions, listening to he/she click away on a computer, until we reach the point where I'm allowed to speak. I tell them that we don't insure with them any more. Generally, there's a momentary pause, just enough to register a faint degree of embarrassment, and then the phrase, "Is there anything else I can do for you today sir?" I politely explain that no, there is nothing else they can do today as we don't do business with them. And we hang up.

And so it goes on, and on. Now, the calls are been coming shorter, as I'm a teeny bit irritated, so I don't let them bang on with their needless questions, I interrupt quickly to get the damn call overwith. But there is always, always, time to say at the end "Is there anything else I can do for you today?". Even though I'm not a customer, not going to be (ever again) and the whole call is the result of an internal datacrunching mistake. But my mother always told me to be polite.

So the new policy is coming up for renewal and whaddyaknow, on the policy comparison website we can save £200 by changing again. Not £2, or £20, but £200! I call the insurance company to put it to them that if they come down we can renew with them right now. Today.

That's all it will take, a short conversation to discuss price. Do we have that? No. Do we have a short call? No. Do we get to discuss price? No. Do we have time to conclude our pointless, frustrating exchange of information with the phrase "Is there anything else I can do for you today sir?". Yes.

The entire conversation is spent poring over details that are in a written, completed online form. That we both have in front of us. Twice. The price goes UP by £15, then comes back down by 40p. I keep trying to interrupt to explain the purpose of the call but I'm swatted away like a fly. "Do you still do the same number of miles?" "Yes" "Do you still park in the same place?" "Yes" "Do you still......" "Yes, yes yes! It's there, in front of you, in black and white!"

"There's nothing I can adjust here sir" he explains, because my details apparently haven't changed between me checking the form five minutes ago and now. "There's nothing to change"

"That's not why I'm calling" I explain patiently.
"We came to you last year because you offered a better, cheaper deal. If you can offer a better, cheaper deal this year, we'll stay"
"Sorry there's nothing I can do" he says, his hands tied by the fact that I suddenly haven't changed my details and probably the desire to get on with his Tesco snack deal. Not even a flicker of negotiation, not even a second's thought to the possibility that we're about to change companies. We're about to become ex-customers in this very call.
I explain, in less than 10 seconds that that seems to be that then, and possibly I shouldn't even have bothered calling. I'm not even sure he was listening.
"Is there anything else I can do for you today sir?"

No. There isn't today. Nor was there yesterday. Nor will there be tomorrow. Or in fact ever. Goodbye.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs.

We were talking about him only today. Sexy or what?

Ryan Giggs, certainly one of the best football players in the UK today. He's been recognised all over the world for his talents.
Good player, on and off the field. Good man.

It must be difficult to do the business when you're under the spotlight all the time, pity there's no way to turn the spotlight off - ha! take out an injunction or whatever! Ha!

Anyway, is Ryan Giggs the sexiest player in the field today? Well, is he?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Your Call Is Most Definitely Not Of The Slightest Importance To Us. Now Get Lost.

Once, cars broke down and at the side of the road, you repaired them. Once, you had a telephone that occasionally malfunctioned and a bloke would fix it. Once, every negotiation didn't require lawyers for days on end and 500 emails. Once........

But enough with the nostalgia. Further to my last post about the shaky business end of mobile phonery I have an update. My mobile phone company, Nomi Mobile, did, in fact go bust, as can be confirmed here. I was right, their obfuscation and call avoidance was concealing an office emptied of employees, with tumbleweed blowing through it, and a lonely receiver sitting at a desk trying to pick all the pieces up to make an asset sale.

I know, I've been in there three times.

Why? Well I have a mobile number on which I'm pretty dependent and the rules of the game allow me to take that number and "migrate" to another network for any reason. All the mobile company has to do is tell you what your PAC Code is over the phone and.....well that's if they're answering their phones. Which Nomi aren't.

So I popped in and had a friendly chat. Aaah, they said, we don't have your PAC Code, sorry, that was "outsourced" to a company that doesn't appear to be answering the phone.
"The networks will be able to help" they offered, cheerily. Well, after several days of talking to customer service on Three, 02, Orange, and Vodaphone, let's just say that those charming people on customer services were not able to help. Dealing with callcentres is bad enough when you know what you're talking about.

No the company Nomi pointed me to are called LycaTel, who are another MVNO. I'm sorry, you don't know what an MVNO is? It's a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, you dolt, where have you been?
MVNO's are companies that don't have the infrastructure, the radio frequency, or anything really (except possibly the cash) to set up a mobile phone network. But what they do is come into the market and do a deal. Just like LycaTel, who did a deal. And for those of you who think this has been complicated so far, hang on to your hats.

Nomi, apparently, were with Vodaphone, the company becoming better known for their tax affairs than telephone services. The up popped LycaTel who - in conjunction with Plintron (don't even ask) - POACHED Nomi from Vodafone and took them to 02. Who, in the great scheme of things, are the Spanish Company Telefonica. But more importantly in the UK use the network owned by.....Vodafone.

Still with me?

So, if I want to retain my number I, well let's start with OfCom, the Government Regulator who sorts out all this snaffoofery. I had complained to OfCom a couple of weeks ago when I thought Nomi were going South. "Yes" they said, "Um, you're a customer with, um, Nomi. What can we do for you?"
I explained, as best I could. "Nothing to do with us" was the essence of the reply, before uttering the immortal phrase, "Is there anything else we can do for you today?"


So I decide to call Lycatel to get my PAC Code (we'll be coming to Plintron in a moment. patience)

I have no idea who Lycatel are, but they're based in the UK in East London. I call and get switchboard and ask for the Managing Director, Mr Kangle.
"He's not at his desk" comes the reply.
Or his PA.
I ask for someone who deals with Nomi.
"That's Mr Jogan" I'm told, "He's not in"
OK, let's try, um, technical. An internal extension rings out somewhere in the building.
I call back a total of 7 times. I get nowhere.

Then I look up this article and discover that Plintron are a company in the middle of all this, that, according to their website, facilitate 'mobile number portability' and it is probably THEY who have my PAC Code, my number, and the answer to all my dreams.

But guess what? They don't have a phone.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

"Your Call Is Important To Us"

No it's not.

It has replaced the American platitude "Have a nice day" and the call centre mantra "Is There Anything Else I Can Do For You Today?" (because I haven't managed to do anything for you so far) as the most hollow, hated phrase of modern life.

On voicemails which used to play a tinkling version of Greensleeves to drive you mad ("I'm paying for the call, f*cking answer!") we now have our music interrupted by a synthesised voice telling us how valued we are, not to hang up - just because we don't employ enough people to take our calls without the wait - and that while you are a V.I.P. it's just that we're going to keep you hanging on for a little while longer, just a little while, possibly until that watched pot boils, or possibly long enough for you to have spent god knows what on our 0845 number that you're going to slam the phone down.

And then dial again.

The worst version of "Can I Do Anything Else For You Today" was an anonymous car hire company (clue : Avis) who shut their Las Vegas office early one day and left me stranded. They were unable to get me a car, left me in the middle of nowhere, but ended the call, "Now, is there anything else.....etc" But that's old hat now.

Today I'm an important VIP according to my mobile phone provider, Nomi Mobile.
Never heard of them? Few people have. They're a service provider who for the past few years have managed to undercut every mobile phone producer in the UK on cost. They're based in Madeira but don't let that put you off. Madeira's a nice place and Funchal a nice town. In fact if I had a cricket bat I'd be round there now. Or a baseball bat. Or a brick.

Nomi have been letting me down of late. The network keeps falling off the end of something. Calls go unanswered. You dial, there's silence. People call me and don't get through. I get exasperated voicemails "where you been? I've been calling you for ages" when all the time I've been sitting at my desk and the phone hasn't rung.

But I accept that I may have to have a reduced quality service to make the savings. They must be buying up line time or whatever it is they do, to make it so cheap. But as a service provider in the UK they have to maintain standards according to OFTEL, the industry regulator.

But the last two weeks have been exceptional. The service wouldn't work at all while I was abroad. I came home furious, emailed and called. I was told that my call was very important etc and eventually I got an apologetic email. A short one.

Then it happened again last week. This time I couldn't send texts but unbeknown to me every "failed" text was being sent - in triplicate - and I was driving people mad. I called and emailed again. This time, despite being told that my call was important I didn't get a reply. I didn't get an email.

Yesterday the whole network ceased to work. I called. I was told how important I was then suddenly a real person came on the line.
"It's a temporary network condition" I was told.
"What's that?" I asked.
"It's a temporary network condition"
"You just said that. What is it?"
"I am only allowed to tell you it's a temporary network condition" she repeated.
"But I don't know what that is" I replied.
"It will be fixed in two to three hours" she said.
"The Temporary Network Condition?"

It wasn't fixed. And today there is no human. There is simply a voice - for hours and hours - telling me how important my call is.

The truth is harsh. My call is not important. And to Nomi Mobile, who may even have gone bust today, it never was.