A lot going on in the mobile industry in the last few days and Israel is in the hot spot (no pun intended). Let’s start with the fact that all 3 cellular providers; Orange, Cellcom, and Pelephone recently announced that they will be launching the iPhone 3Gs over the next few months. The word on the street, and when I say street, I mean Twittersphere of course, is that at least two of the three providers bought 100 thousand iPhones from Apple. Now you have to understand that fact in the context that these providers max out at 150 thousand mobile devices sold annually! So out of the 150 thousand phones they will sell in 2009, 100 thousand will be iPhones?!
So to continue from where we left off, I had told Orange that I appreciated their offer of a free Blackberry Bold, but I was not willing to commit to a year and a half of Blackberry service since I know I will probably be switching phones within the next year and a half and Blackberry service is useless if I have an iPhone.
I am happy to report that after putting social media to the ultimate test, it passed, but unfortunately Cellcom did not. OK, here is the story. After writing that last blog post about how horrific Cellcom’s service has been, and after attempting to speak to a manager for months, I finally got the call. It did not take long, in fact it was around a half an hour after the post was published that I got a call from a senior manager in Cellcom apologizing for the whole ordeal and offering me a “new” phone for “free”.
After last week’s highly impressive event hosted by Orange, I am even more surprised at how horrible my customer experience has been with Orange’s largest competitor, Cellcom. Let me begin by saying that I thought long and hard before writing this post as I am sure Cellcom is years from reading blogs or tweets about their customers’ opinions. I also generally refrain from writing about topics that are exclusively Israeli. However, I came to the conclusion that this is an important enough topic for my readers to know about, so I decided to go ahead with it.
Where do I start? I guess I will start by saying that I have been a customer of Cellcom for over 10 years and have recommended them to family and friends, which eventually led to them signing up with Cellcom as well. Over the past year or so, there has been a significant drop in the quality of their service. I am talking anywhere from me finding mysterious charges on my bill for traveling abroad (have not left the country in years) to them not answering the phones, and when they finally do, hanging up on me and not calling back.
This last saga was the “straw” for me, and the combination of this nightmare and Orange making me an offer I cannot refuse was what lead me to my decision that it was time to move on. Yea right! Called Cellcom to cancel my subscription, and it turns out that a call I got a month ago from their representative offering me a “better” package of minutes, has now committed me to Cellcom for another year or so. Do you think the representative told me this? Of course not! Can I prove that? No! OK, now on to the details of this last drama.
I am now using a prehistoric Nokia 6288, which I purchased from Cellcom 2+ years ago. I am paying 69 shekel a month for this dinosaur (approximately $18) just for the phone. To just put that in perspective, Orange is offering the MUCH-MORE-ADVANCED Nokia 5800 for 40 shekel a month. In addition to that charge, I am paying another 20 shekel a month for 3G service. Here’s the problem. My phone is NEVER configured to use the 3G network, not because I do not want to, anyone who knows me knows I am a Web junkie. The reason I do not use my 3G is because it is as slow as Edge and it eats up the battery to the point that a fully charged battery will die after 15 minutes of 3G use.
Sounds like a faulty battery right? Well, I went and purchased a new battery since I was sure that was the issue. Of course it was not. So I called Cellcom and told them of this issue. After waiting the standard half an hour before reaching the right person, he told me to bring it in to their main lab. So, I did exactly that. I told the manager there that I am VERY not happy with this phone and it has given me nothing but problems from day 1. She said they will fix it and send it back like new.
This was on Friday. I called that Sunday to ask what the status was and to make sure they are fixing the appropriate problems, to which I was told that there is no way to contact the lab and if they send it back, it will be like new. Sure enough, I got the phone back, paid 50 shekel for the repair and not only is it not fixed, the phone has some other major issues that were a thousand percent not there before.
So, at this point, I am starting to get fed up, so I call Cellcom again and explain the issue. The representative consulted with a manager after the normal hour and a half wasted on the phone with them and offered me to fix the phone again. They were even “nice” enough to pay for a messenger to come pick up my phone and give me a replacement for free (as if it makes sense that I should pay again after getting back an even more broken phone). I thanked them and asked that the replacement phone he brings me be the same model so I can at least use my memory card, as well as other functions I use regularly. She promised me he’d bring the same phone.
Of course, when the guy came to take my phone, he took out the most basic of phones, I am talking no MP3 player, no Web access, nothing. I told him I am sorry but I had only one request and it seems they could not even do that right. I did not take the phone and sent the messenger back. I then called Cellcom again and asked for a manager. I was told he would call me back by the next day at 7 PM. I eventually got that call 4 days later and when I asked the manager why it took so long, he responded, “OK, no need to overreact, I am on the phone now, aren’t I?” In this manager’s opinion, the fact that he called me 3 days after the time I was told he would call was acceptable.
At this point my blood was pretty much boiling as it is right now writing this post. Basically, the bottom line is they could not offer me anything other than to send another messenger to pick up the phone and do the same story all over again. The status now is that I am waiting for the guy to pick up my phone tonight, and I was guaranteed he would bring the same model as the replacement. Let’s wait and see.
One more thing that makes me nuts is how every step along the way they keep offering me an “upgrade”. Now, I might be nuts but when I think of an upgrade, I think of returning one product and getting another one that is better. With Cellcom, their definition of upgrading is buying a new phone. You start paying for the new phone and continue to pay for the old one. Am I crazy or is this total trickery? What makes that an upgrade?
Now, it is important to emphasize that every single manager and representative I spoke to along the way was aware of the fact that I have a blog with a relatively large audience. I told them I blog about mobile matters and that it can be great PR for them if they help me solve this problem and alternatively give them a horrible name if they do not. Of course, going down this path brought no results besides of course being asked a few times by managers “Are you threatening Cellcom?” Gotta love the attitude!
What do I want? I am not asking for them to give me a phone for free. I am asking for them to replace this phone with one that works. If it is the same model, so be it, although from what I have read, it is a problematic phone. Give me a phone that works, one that I am not paying close to 100 shekel a month for between the phone and the 3G service that does not even work. If they cannot do that, refund me for all the months I could not use the 3G service. Most importantly, I do not care WHAT they offer me, I just want to see that they actually care. What I want to see is that they understand the value of a happy customer and how that is worth so much more than one repair or even phone they might just have to “swallow” to make a customer happy.
I, as a firm believer in the power of social media decided to write this post with the hope that maybe it will be spread around enough that SOMEONE who has some say in Cellcom will be listening. Other companies like Alfa Romeo, Ford, Samsung, and even Orange have started paying attention to the Web community, it is about time Cellcom opened their eyes and did the same.
OK, there’s the story, now it is up to you to ensure that somehow Cellcom reads this post. So spread it as much as possible until you see the following message in my Twitter stream: “It worked, they called, I am tweeting this from my brand new <insert phone here>”.