In praise of Vodafone’s social customer service

I blogged my frustration about Vodafone’s phone and data signal last week. I was so impressed by the company’s response on Twitter and on my blog that I thought it only fair to blog about it.

Jenny from Vodafone UK posted a reply to my post sympathising and offering to help. She also replied to my tweet. Her colleagues tried repeatedly to call me (last week was a busy one at work) and when we finally spoke the customer service team sent me a free Vodafone Sure Signal device to solve the very poor signal at home. It won’t solve the problem of poor data coverage on the go – but it will mean we won’t miss a call here.

This is a great example of how companies can use social media to help customers and improve their reputation. Well done to Jenny and the team.

Below: the Sure Signal device in action.

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Vodafone UK: time for a divorce

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 IĀ 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.

Smartphone wars: why Apple doesn’t fear Android

My first iPhone: goodbye Nokia, goodbye Sony…

If you believe the stories, the battle for dominance in the smartphone market is between Apple’s iPhone and Android phones, based on Google’s mobile operating system.

Android phones still outnumber iPhones, but a fascinating post by BBC technology reporter Rory Cellan-Jones today suggests that’s the wrong way of looking at it. Instead, we should be looking at how much money mobile phone brands are making. The answer is that only Apple and Samsung are making any money. (See also Lance Whitney’s CNET post.)

Rory links to analyst Horace Dediu‘s infographic that shows smartphone makers’ profit share over recent years. In 2007 – the year Apple launched the original iPhoneNokia enjoyed over 50% of the market’s profits. Nokia no longer turns a profit. Sony [Ericsson], Blackberry maker RIM and LG used to share some 20% of the market by profit. Again, they’ve all seen profitability disappearing. In return, Apple has gone from nothing to 73% of market profits. (Samsung has the remaining share aside from a consolation 1% for HTC.)

Back to Android. Samsung has that part of the market sewn up. Cheap Android phones are unlikely to make money for their makers anytime soon. Apple’s focus on the high end of the market, combined with its brand appeal and consumer-friendly approach, have created a revolution in a market long dominated by Nokia. Ā Nokia has bet its future on offering Windows Phone handsets, yet killed sales of its Symbian-based phones by declaring its plans way ahead of the switch.

It will be fascinating to see whether anyone can break the Apple and Samsung duopoly.