A belated Happy New Year to whatever vestigial mega-uber value readers may remain out there. I hope 2012 brings you all you wish for, though personally I am trying to keep my wishes humble, in line with the New Austerity zeitgeist.
As with every new year, I begin 2012 with good intentions of blogging more this year. It's not that I have nothing to say - quite the opposite - I am involved in some very interesting things, but sadly almost all of them are bound by strict non-disclosure obligations. Nevertheless, both this humble bloglet and the Memphibian both deserve more attention than they have received in recent months, so I will endeavour to do better.
In terms of telecom, I miraculously made it almost all the way through 2011 without a single catastrophic service provider incident - up until December 30, that is. On that day, my HTC Desire HD handset decided to stop working. Not entirely, but the on/off button stopped responding, meaning that the handset was switched on but I could not activate the touchscreen. At this point I decided to visit an Orange shop to see if they could do anything for me.
Being in The City, I stopped by the Moorgate shop, and the staff helpfully phoned the Orange customer care call centre for me. I spoke to an affable Geordie who was only too happy to order a replacement handset for delivery the next day. I told him that I was not at home, but rather was staying with family in the West End, and I asked if he could arrange delivery to one of the Orange shops on Oxford Street. That, as the old song goes, is when my heartaches began.
The call centre man then asked me if I knew the postcode of the Orange shop where I would like the phone to be sent. Surprised, I answered, "No, just any shop on Oxford Street will be fine." There followed the sound of keyboard tapping, and I asked him if he was Googling for Orange shop locations. His answer was unclear, but after a few seconds he said, "89 Oxford Street." I said that was fine, and we agreed that I could collect my replacement handset there the next morning. I even received a confirmation by SMS.
The next morning, I made my way to the Orange shop at 89 Oxford Street, with only one minor complication - the shop doesn't exist. Wandering down the road to the nearest Orange shop (at 155 - 157, for the record), I asked the puzzled staff if there had ever been an Orange shop at No. 89. It felt a bit like a scene from "It's a Wonderful Life." I explained my predicament, and the friendly and helpful shop assistants put in another call to the mothership.
When I asked how Orange could possibly ship a handset to a non-existent store, the very apologetic customer care person speculated that there must have been a "training issue" in the call centre. She said that the only thing to do was to allow the delivery to fail, then arrange delivery to another store. She then asked me for the postcode of the shop I was calling from. As the situation got more Kafka-esque, it occurred to me that I wasn't sure if I was still under contract with Orange, so I asked. "No, you're not under contract," came the reply.
It was then that the penny dropped. I had visited two Orange shops and spoken to five Orange employees about needing a replacement for a handset which was clearly not the most current vintage, without anyone checking to see if I was a candidate for an upgrade or contract renewal. All the staff were knowledgeable and pleasant, but seemingly no one had the commercial killer instinct to upsell, or at least to try to retain a customer who was likely to be a bit disgruntled over being sent to a shop which only exists in a parallel universe.
The Telco 2.0 team have written a number of very interesting and thought-provoking reports about the plethora of potential incremental revenue opportunities for telcos in unleashing the power of customer data and metadata, but in my sorry tale, the company failed to exploit even the most basic customer data - something which should be a well-established operating routine in such a mature and competitive market.
Then again, confronted with the prospect of more pain, cock-ups, and wasted time in the event that I chose to leave Orange in protest, I knuckled under and renewed my contract, and I am now the proud and satisfied owner of an HTC Sensation. Maybe inertia trumps metadata and processes...