Complexity breeds complaints

21 Apr 2006

If you can't stand complaints, look away now. This column is about what irks users with their mobile service.

According to Convergence's polling, the biggest source of irritation is mobile voice spam.

It was the one issue that nearly all of those interviewed raised in response to the question, 'what pisses you off about your mobile service‾' OK, it wasn't a very scientific survey, involving 11 people in the Telecom Asia newsroom. And even the most determined operator couldn't halt telemarketing calls, even if it wanted to (although a disturbing amount of cold callers are operators themselves).

But if people are irritated by voice spam, they are absolutely furious about it when they are roaming. There's nothing quite like being woken in the middle of the night by an automated caller asking if your hair is falling out. And having to pay $1.50 for the privilege.

Some operators exacerbate this by generating an automatic call to users every time a message lands in their voice mailbox. One operator (which will remain nameless, but let's just say it considers itself to be a smart one), keeps calling until users listen to the messages in full.

Those same operators also require users to listen all the way through to messages before they can delete them. It's an appalling way of railroading people into running up minutes, and painful on the pocket of people on the road. 'I want to freaking kill those guys,' commented one of our sales team, who has churned to another operator.


Spam callers and voicemail aside, users seem quite content with their mobile service. The only other complaints were about actual phones: two people complained that handsets from a certain Japanese-European brand often power off and then reboot.

The reason for this foray into customer research was to find out if I were the only one frustrated with my operator's inability to fix a problem (the answer was 'yes').

The problem: My handset, from a popular north European firm, is a smartphone fitted out with the usual features - camera, video, videophone, video editing software, etc. This device happily downloads email on its home network, yet cannot do the same when roaming.

When I took it to an operator's store In Singapore two weeks ago, a technical staffer thought that either the card or the phone were locked. A technician in China Mobile's support department was similarly mystified. For good record, so was technical support at my home operator (whose name sounds like 'free').

I've had several conversations with customer service, most of which end with them promising to call me back. I'm still waiting.

And so on.

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