The trials and tribulations of a mobile phone customer

On a recent trip back to London, I thought I'd take the opportunity to upgrade my rather ancient Nokia phone for another pay-as-you-go smartphone that I can use while in the UK. I was keen to hang on to my mobile number--I have had it since 1997, which must be some kind of record--and the man in the shop of the mobile operator who shall remain nameless (it begins with "V") seemed happy to oblige.

Fast forward two days and I was one very unhappy customer: my new SIM card had not been registered properly; I had no choice but to go back to a store; the store I was directed to on said operator's Web site appeared to be closed for refurbishment, and the next available one was 10 miles away. I was also heading back to France the next day, so options were limited.

It's just another tale of woe from a mobile phone customer. Customer dissatisfaction with the care they receive from their operator is still at a high level. This was further underscored by two reports I received on the same day that dealt with this very issue.

One report commissioned by Astellia claimed customer care dissatisfaction had hit 50 per cent in the six markets surveyed. Interesting, 66 per cent of consumers expect network-related problems to be resolved within one hour of a call, whilst mobile network operators believe the majority will wait up to 24 hours for a resolution. That certainly chimes with my experiences.

The second report from AetherPal covering the UK market claimed that each major UK operator must brace themselves for a 20 per cent increase in smartphone customer care costs over the next five years. The report says this is because smartphones are becoming more costly to support and operating systems are more fragmented, while take-up is also increasing among "late majority" or "laggard" customers, as they are so described.

I am probably a laggard customer in the UK: I've had the same smartphone on a UK network for a number of years because my main account is in France. My situation was certainly not helped by the fact that my old SIM card was too big for my new smartphone, not to mention the fact that Bluetooth connectivity did not seem to work between an old Symbian-based Nokia and a new Android-based Samsung.

Mobile operators face so many challenges on every level, but customer care still seems to be an area in which they consistently fall short. My issue was resolved in the end thanks to a last-ditch attempt at Heathrow airport, but the overall experience was not impressive. It's definitely time for MNOs to get ahead of the curve when it comes to customer support.--Anne