Adventures with customer service

I have had two encounters with customer service departments this week as a result of online shopping experiences. Both had happy endings against my expectations.

Mobile phone company

The first was with my mobile phone company, Vodafone. My mobile phone, a Nokia E65, is over 3 years old, which doesn’t sound old by normal standards. A lot has changed with mobile phones since then, and I decided that since it was my birthday I would upgrade to a smartphone. My E65 was able to connect to the internet but with the small screen and the need to scroll the mouse up and down and across internet access was slow and tedious and I tended not to use it.

I shopped around and checked reviews and decided on a HTC Legend. My current mobile phone company has this phone, and for that and other reasons I decided to stay with them. I had a play with it in the store and made my decision. I would replace my $20 per month sim-only plan with a $29 per month contract and pay an extra $10 per month for the phone of my choice – $39 per month. This was equivalent to me buying the phone outright somewhere else and staying on my $20 plan, with the added convenience of spreading the payment for the phone over 24 months.

I ordered it online. Part of the process was to tell them my existing phone number so I could transfer my number across to the new plan. By ordering online I could get a $100 credit and surely it would arrive in a reasonable time. I had ordered the Nokia online and had had to spend time on the phone with Customer Service to sort out the account, so I was prepared to have to do this, and decided it was worth the $100 credit I would receive.

After a week the phone hadn’t arrived so I phoned Vodafone. The nice man with the accent assured me that the phone had been picked up by the courier company and gave me the consignment number. When I asked about swapping my accounts to the new phone he assured me that all I had to do was move my sim card to the new phone. The courier company did not have the consignment number on record and said it would take another couple of days, so I was disappointed when I went out the next day, thinking I was safe, and there was a card saying my phone had been left with the post office.

No matter. I picked up the phone, swapped my sim card over, gave the old phone to my husband, and away I went. I’ve had a lot of fun learning how to use it and playing with Facebook and Twitter and searching for information. I reminded myself to check my account online to make sure I wasn’t paying for all this extra internet usage.

I did, and I was. I had racked up $55 worth of downloads in a couple of weeks. I was still on the old sim-only plan. I was furious. I rang Vodafone and spoke to a nice lady with an accent. She put me on hold, looked into it, and promised to ring me back after she’d spoken with her supervisor.

She did ring me back, the same afternoon. She hadn’t been able to find a $39 plan so had put me on a $49 plan. I exploded. She asked me to allow her to finish. She had put a recurring $10 credit on my account, and had refunded the $55 extra charges. So I now get more free calls and a much higher data limit for the life of the contract.

I’m happy! I just wanted to be put on the contract I’d signed up for. I didn’t expect anything extra. Because Vodafone went to the next level to keep me happy, they have made me a satisfied and loyal customer. At least for the 24 months of the contract.

Printing services

The second experience was with a printing service. A company called ?Vistaprint has been marketing very aggressively lately. They were offering 140 free address labels that you could design on their website, with only postage to pay. I played around on the website and ordered some labels for my business, Heritage Genealogy, with the picture that I use on my website to appear on the labels.

They arrived, and I was happy with them. There was a mistake on the website but that was my fault, not theirs. I rarely forget to put the .au on the end of the website address, but this time I did. No matter, I thought, I can write it in.

I have received, since then, numerous emails offering bargains, and on one of them they were again offering free labels. Since they were free I figured I could correct my mistake and improve the picture, which I did. Once you have completed the configuring of the labels they offer other products and show you pictures of them with your picture and address inserted. There were pads and post-it notes at very low prices, so I ordered one of each. My order came to about $10, plus postage.

When I was checking out, the website offered me an additional pad and  post-it notes with free postage. Since the amount of the postage came to about the same total as adding these items I agreed, thinking I was getting free postage for ordering more items. When I realised that it just meant no further postage would be charged I tried to go back but the order had been placed.

I was furious. I am reasonably savvy when it comes to computers and websites, and I felt I had been tricked into ordering more at the last minute with no opportunity to change my mind.

I think that if this had happened a few years ago I would have chalked it up to experience and left it at that. It was only about $15 more. No. I found the Contact Us page and told them what I thought of their website and their marketing practises.

That was a few days ago. This morning I received an email to say that they had given me a refund on the extra items I’d ordered and an apology for any inconvenience. The extra items have not been cancelled and so they are sending them with their compliments. I have already received notification from PayPal that the refund has been received.

So I’m less furious than I was, and happy that I will be getting what I thought I was ordering in the first place. I still think their website is misleading and I imagine most people who get tricked this way just let it go. I will probably use them again and be more wary, although I now have enough labels, post-its and pads to last me a good long while.

Lessons learned

  1. Times are getting tougher for businesses, mine as well as the bigger ones.  Repeat business is important, and for customers to keep coming back they need to be happy and think well of your business. It pays to give a little something to keep them onside.
  2. Don’t be afraid to complain when something isn’t right, even if it’s only $15 worth. If they are a business worth sticking with they will fix your problem and go out of their way to offer you more than you expected. They don’t know about problems unless we customers tell them.

Free images courtesy of Ekaterina Gorelova on Dreamstime

Sharing documents on the web

I’ve been playing with a couple of sites that allow you to share documents. Initially I had to find a way to share Powerpoint slides on a blog, and my solution was to use Slideshare, a free website that allows you to share Powerpoint slides.

Slideshare is simple to use and works well. You can upload presentations quickly and easily, and make them public or restricted access, by being given a URL that you then share with those you wish to have access to the presentation. Viewers can leave comments, although if your presentation is public these may be spam, a common hazard.

The winner, though, is Scribd.

My Scribd profile

With Scribd I can share other kinds of documents, not just Powerpoint, so I can keep the slides and the handouts together. PDFs, Word, Excel, so far I haven’t found a format I can’t upload, although I admit I haven’t tried very hard. It does what I need so far.

Scribd upload

As you can see, you can import Google Docs and even create one from scratch by typing or cut-and-pasting into the text box. I haven’t tried either of these yet. I can see why sharing a Google Doc here would be easier for the people I know who inexplicably have trouble with Google Docs, particularly if you just want them to see it and not update it.

Others share documents, academic papers, even whole books on Scribd, and you can download the documents and follow the uploaders to see what else they come up with. You can also add documents of interest to collections so you can more easily find them again later, without having to download them.

You can also upload documents that you want to sell. I may do this in the future.

Have a look at Scribd and let me know what you think.

Another genealogy community website – Sirius Genealogy 2.0

Yesterday I received an email about a new website called Sirius Genealogy 2.0. The email said, in part:

Sirius Genealogy 2.0 (SG2) is pleased to announce that we have completed our transformation from a simple blog, into a complete online community for Amateur & Professional Genealogists. The old blog has been shut down and a new membership site has been launched and is publicly available. Membership is FREE! In addition to the general community atmosphere, SG2 has developed numerous Google Gadgets, Web Tools and other services to assist genealogists in their mission. Many more eliciting tools are on their way!

New or Improved Features:

  • Live Support via Chat (just look for the icon in the upper right corner of the site)
  • Articles, Article and more Articles (Member contributions encouraged).
  • Headline News: Links to related news stories from around the world.
  • Message Forums: Read what members are saying.
  • Speaker Bureau: A place to find speakers for your next genealogy or history related event.
  • Events Calendar: A place to find conferences and educational opportunities.
  • File Library: Forms, genealogies and more.
  • Word Of The Day: A new genealogy related word to challenge you each day!
  • Abbreviation Of The Day: A new abbreviation to challenge you each day!
  • Web Tools: Cousin calculators, age calculators, Soundex calculators and more.
  • Google Gadgets for iGoogle and your web pages.
  • Social Activity Monitors: See what genealogists are posting on twitter.
  • Marketplace: Look for a growing number of products for this area.

Member Only Features

  • Contributions: Get your articles, stories, events and speaker profiles posted.
  • Comment and Rate: Comment and Rate just about any page in the site.
  • Shoutouts: Post your quick genealogical thoughts to the entire community!
  • My Account: A place to manage your membership.
  • Message Forums: Meet, greet, share ideas and success stories in the forums!

So, we hope to see you in our new community. Please sure to stop in at the forums to tell us what you would like to see in the future.

I went in to have a look, and there’s a lot to see. Some of the options I clicked on needed me to sign in, so I signed in using my Facebook account and created a profile.

My “Home State or Provence” [sic] is ‘Non-US’, which tells me what I most need to know about the site. It is USA-centric. At least Non-US is at the top of the drop-down list, rather than at the bottom as it usually is.

I can see that this kind of thing might be useful. It seems to me that I have too many sites to keep track of as it is without adding another one that is unlikely to contain anything of immediate interest to an Australian.

I wish them all the best, whoever ‘they’ are.