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A charge too close to call

A charge too close to call

I went to the supermarket on Saturday. The reason I’d gone in was to check out a special deal that had been advertised in a weekend flyer. When I got there, I had a look around to see if I could find what I was after. However, after plodding aimlessly up and down aisles for about 15 minutes, I finally admitted defeat and sought out a shop assistant.

“Can you help me?” I enquired.

“Uh huh.”

“I’m looking for this,” I said showing the guy a picture of the item in the now dog-eared flyer. “Can you point me in the right direction?”

“Oh... yeah... sure. But it’ll cost you $1.”

“It’s new company policy,” he explained. “We don’t give out assistance for free any more.”

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. Actually, it didn’t happen. I just made it up. But having seen Vodafone’s latest announcement on the customer service front, it may not be long before this sort of thing starts becoming the norm.

I heard about it by text. Maybe you did, too. It read:

From: Vodafone

Fm 1Aug it will be $1 per call to talk to Cust Service on Prepay. You can still manage yr mob free online. For other ways 2manage ur mob &more info freecall 440

The jolly and ‘with it’ lingua texta aside, it seems it will soon cost a Vodafone prepay customer $1 to dial 777 and talk to someone at the company. One dollar to ask a question about a Vodafone service. One dollar to check if you’re on the right tariff. One dollar to ask about new offers and products. One dollar to upgrade. One dollar to spend money with them. One dollar...

I tried the ‘freecall 440’ and got an automated message (the irony was almost lost on me... but not quite) and it explained that the new “service fee” to talk to a customer service rep had been introduced because “customers are demanding online services 24/7”. It went on to say how good the online service MyVodafone was, and even text, if that’s your communication of choice.

Not sure I quite follow their argument, but a quick call to the company’s media people put me straight.

It would seem costs are rising and Vodafone wants people to stop calling its CSRs with silly questions – questions they can get perfectly good answers to if they bother to go online. So, the message is clear to all us lazy customers who just think they can pick up a phone and call a living and breathing customer services person: don’t bother us unless it’s really, really, really... really important.

Now, this charge doesn’t apply to using IVR and things. We can still call the free landline number: 0800 800 021. And, as keeps getting pointed out, online and text services are free – but do require a little more work on our behalf.

I’ve also been assured it’s not a money-maker for the big V. It’s simply a “disincentive” and will free up CSRs to answer “more complex” questions. As I understand it, people won’t be charged the dollar if they have a legitimate reason for calling, such as a fault... or a complaint, perhaps? But this is at the CSR’s discretion.

Charging customers to talk to you… whatever next?


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