I never meant to leave Telefonica-owned O2. I was happy with the UK’s original iPhone network, but moved to Vodafone as I didn’t see why I should pay more for the iPhone 4. It was a big mistake, as I blogged in 2012. I have found Three excellent for data, but hopeless for voice calls, even in London.
Companies around the world are waking up to the power of social media. They’re looking for the magic sauce that turns customers into fans. So it was no surprise that today’s Social Media for Results conference in London revealed some great examples of the best of social media practice.
I spoke about how organisations can use social media to help their customers, especially when things go wrong. I quoted an amazing finding from the United States: 47 percent of social media users had turned to social for help (this rises to 59% of people aged 18-24). And 71 percent of people who have had a positive experience will recommend that brand, compared with 19 percent who got no response. [Source: NM Incite: State of Social Customer Service 2012.] Incidentally, the figures are remarkably similar for men and women. In short, handling complaints well on social could turn an unhappy customer into a friend for life.
I spoke of my own experience as a Vodafone customer: how I enjoyed outstanding customer service after the social customer service team contacted me after I blogged and tweeted about my unhappy experiences. I also cited the example of Vodafone’s rival, O2, which did a great job keeping people informed with humour (and allowing critical comments) on its social channels after service interruptions recently.
My favourite experience however was Chiltern Railways. Last year, I got on the wrong train at London’s Marylebone. I tweeted about my stupidity. Within minutes, Chiltern’s excellent social team tweeted back the best train to return home on. Experiences like this make you feel special.
My other point today was that it’s so important to ask what’s in it for the customer (or council tax payer…) when you’re developing a social media presence. So many companies think: we need a Facebook page. Yet they don’t ask what value it will give. What content will you share? Are you simply going to churn out sales messages and dull news releases? Or do you have something interesting and relevant to say?
I also repeated my favourite subject at any communications conference: the need to use simple, compelling language. I quoted RIM’s apology (during the 2011 service failure) to customers in ‘EMEA’. As the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones mocked, ‘Where on earth is that?’ It doesn’t exist, except on corporate organisation charts.
Finally, a plug for an excellent book raising money for a very worthy cause. Behind the Sofa, compiled by Steve Berry, is a collection of celebrity memories of Doctor Who. All profits from the book will go to Alzheimer’s Research UK. I called Steve after we at PayPal had let him down. I was keen to find out how we could put things right and learn from the experience. Seven months later, I was delighted to read the book. Well done Steve!
[Disclosures: I am Head of PR & Social Media at PayPal UK. Steve Berry kindly gave his permission for me to mention his experience.]
Above: connection frustration. Life with Vodafone UK
I should never have moved back to Vodafone. The last 16 months have been an incredibly frustrating experience, as life as a Vodafone customer has meant constant inability to use the mobile internet. I can’t wait for my two year contract to end in December.
It never occurred to me that Vodafone would be dramatically worse than O2. I had been a Vodafone customer, corporate and personal, for 16 years before I switched to O2 when I got my first iPhone (the second, iPhone 3G, model) in October 2008. For many years Vodafone ran adverts boasting it was the best network for voice calls, and it never occurred to me that it would prove so appalling for data coverage and performance.
From the day I moved back to Vodafone in December 2010 I found 3G coverage almost non existent, despite the company’s charts showing how widespread its 3G network was. I can only assume that the company hasn’t increased capacity to match demand – what I found was that a supposed 3G signal dropped to Edge or worse by the time I tried to do anything. And that was when I was stationary.
On the move, Vodafone is almost useless. My Vodafone iPhone is constantly searching for a signal, and all too often comes up with no service. Tonight, as a passenger on a journey down the M40, I wanted to find out about the distinctive tower next to the motorway near Bicester. By the time I reached home 40 miles later, I had only managed to get a page of Google search results. The shocking Vodafone network failed to open the two most promising search results despite 35 minutes trying. It took just 12 seconds on my home wifi network to find out that the tower was distinctive 1909 water tower at Trow Pool near Bucknell.
Vodafone isn’t just poor for data. I can no longer get a reliable voice signal at home – despite years of never experiencing a problem. (I used to feel sorry for people on Orange who found they couldn’t use their mobile at home.) And before you ask if my iPhone is to blame, my work BlackBerry proves that Vodafone is just as bad on the RIM device as on Apple’s iPhone.
Even in London, I find Vodafone unreliable. I found even Edge (never mind 3G) out of reach at one point in Westminster and on a walk back from a dinner in town last year I couldn’t get online once in 15 minutes.
Breaking up won’t be hard to do when my two years are up. I’m likely to buy my next phone SIM-free so I’m not held hostage again for two years by a failing mobile network.
UPDATE: my post has struck a chord. A neighbour says he got Vodafone to give him a Sure Signal device to stop him cancelling his contract. (He couldn’t get a signal in his house without it, and also finds mobile internet impossible with Vodafone.) Another friend recommends Three’s mifi device to get online rather than rely on Vodafone. Just some of the responses I’ve had. Let’s see what Vodafone says.
UPDATE, Tuesday 8 May: kudos to Vodafone for replying to this post offering to help, and also contacting me via Twitter. I will update after I get its response to my email.