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The future's dull, the future's Orange

by Parm Mann on 15 January 2008, 14:23

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Orange in need of customer service schooling

In today's busy world, customer service is a goal that can often be left overlooked. Companies with vast quantities of customers in particular often struggle to ensure the majority of customers go away happy.

One of those very companies is mobile phone operator, Orange, who in my estimation have customer service standards at an appallingly low level. The service is so bad in fact, I've decided to write about it and share the experiences of myself and my partner.

So, lets begin with my partner. Not being the most tech-savvy of people, she asked me to look into a new mobile phone contract that provided her with a large number of inclusive texts per month. Having browsed various operators, I found Orange's 18 month Dolphin plan to be best suited. It offered 200 anytime minutes, unlimited anytime texts and a free Samsung G600 handset for £30 a month. Not a bad deal at all.

Furthermore, Orange's rather tricky to navigate website advised that a customer signing up to the aforementioned contract could receive Orange Broadband for only £5 a month. My partner, not one for the latest gadgets, was still using dial up internet access and the broadband upgrade seemed a logical step. For £5 a month, who wouldn't want it?

With the Orange Home Starter Broadband added to the basket, now totalling £35 per month, we placed the order. Job done, that was easy enough. The Orange Home Starter Broadband that we had ordered claims "speeds of up to 2 Meg, 6GB monthly usage allowance, a wireless modem and BT line rental remains payable". Perfect.

That unfortunately was about as far as the perfect experience went. After placing the order, we received no e-mail confirmation, at all. A few days later however, the Samsung G600 handset arrived. We called Orange to activate the phone and that wasn't a problem, the PAC code given would carry over a previous number in approximately a week and the phone would be up and running in the meantime. Whilst on the phone, we thought we'd query the lack of an order confirmation and the lack of any broadband equipment as of yet. The Orange adviser informed us that the order had been for mobile services only and that broadband hadn't been ordered. Interesting.

Not to worry, the Orange representative added the Home Starter Broadband to the account and advised that the equipment would be with us within a few days. A few days later, the modem arrived accompanied with a welcome later stating that the broadband was ready to go and that all calls made on the home phone line would soon be switched to Orange. We weren't aware of the included Orange home phone services and at time of ordering, it wasn't made clear at all on the Orange website.

My partner, currently living with her parents, didn't want any interference with the home phone calls and here begins our tale of woe as we attempt to contact Orange Broadband support. On our first call to Orange Broadband, we were greeted by an overseas representative who advised that we would incur a cancellation charge if we opted out of the broadband service - this is on the same day that the broadband equipment had arrived. It was clear that this representative wasn't interested in helping and we tried again. The second representative (who we managed to get through to after some 30 minutes of holding) advised that we should get in touch with BT and simply let them know that we don't want anybody to take the calls from the land line. That's one way to defer a query.

On the third attempt, we spoke to an Orange adviser who suggested that we switch to the Orange Home Select Broadband package, priced at £10 per month for mobile customers. Home Select would offer up to 8 Meg speeds, unlimited usage and a free Livebox wireless modem. That raised the monthly total to £40, including mobile services, but with the increased broadband speed it still seemed a good deal. Great, we'll do that, we'll switch.

A few days later, a parcel arrives. It contains the Livebox wireless modem and a welcome letter that states "Welcome to Orange Home Starter", uh oh, somethings wrong already. Further down the letter, Orange advise that the home land line calls would also be switched to Orange in a few days time. Back at square one. In sheer fear of trying the Orange Broadband Support helpline once more, we take a different approach and head to a local Orange store, paperwork at hand.

At the Orange store in Stafford, we met a shining ray of customer service hope who goes by the name of Amie. Realising our predicament, Amie attempted to contact Broadband Support herself, only to be dismayed by just how unhelpful the overseas adviser was. She had been advised that as we had ordered both broadband and mobile services, it was no longer a broadband only query and they couldn't deal with it. Honestly, that's what she was told. As an Orange employee, she was embarrassed herself and took it upon herself to find someone who could help. Some 20-30 minutes later, she managed to get hold of someone in another department who switched the package from Home Starter to Home Select. Voilà, find the right person and it's as simple as flicking a switch.

Though we haven't yet received any confirmation of switching to Home Select, we'll be keeping an eye on the forthcoming bill to make sure. Orange's written correspondence is about as vague and misleading as it comes.

Now that I've demonstrated the woes associated with Orange's Broadband customer service, lets move on to my experience with its Mobile customer service.