Wednesday 5 May 2010

The problem with deaf customer service

Apologies for my silence this week – I’ve been recovering from my bank holiday weekend, which included my running race.

I completed it slowly and steadily, without stopping, which was quite an achievement as it was pouring with rain and freezing cold. But the camaraderie between the runners was fantastic and Tigger stayed by my side as promised throughout.

Now, I’ve just got work on getting faster – this morning I had a jolly good go at it, but my egg timer failed so I have no idea whether I was quicker or not! Ho hum.

Anyway, I’m back to an old bugbear today.


As regular readers will know, I have an iPhone, and the recent upgrade procedure – done completely online with no human contact whatsoever – demonstrated that in some areas O2 have got better in making it possible for deaf people to use its services. However, what I didn’t factor in was that, as I have been a loyal – and long-suffering – customer with them for almost 10 years, my SIM card was too old to receive 3G coverage.

I thought it was my iPhone that was the problem, so spent my entire lunch hour queuing at the Apple store only to be told that lack of 3G was due to the fact that my service provider still appears as BT Genie! Remember those days?

So, I went onto O2’s website and had a good hunt around through the FAQs to see if this was fixable online – but it wasn’t. I had a look at the contact us section, which features lots of phone numbers for all sorts of reasons, and one email us section. I even bit the bullet and called O2 – and after 10 minutes of saying pardon, asking the call centre peep to repeat himself, reminding him of my hearing loss and trying to request yes or no answers, I gave up, red faced, conscious of the fact that once again I was hitting a brick wall with what should be a disability-friendly company.

So, counting to 10, I filled in the convoluted email form and sent it off. And guess what? They will endeavour to get back to me within 24 hours. When people on the phone get an instant service. How is that fair?!

It just makes me cross that after years and years of technological developments, O2 does not have a designated email for hard of hearing people – or if it does, it certainly doesn’t advertise it.

Surely there must be someone in O2 thinking, ‘Hang on a minute, this can’t be fair – a crap service for people who can’t use the phone?!’ but then, seeing as they’re a phone company, this is probably not the case.

But what I want companies like O2 to recognise is that it is more than just a phone provider now – and for a deaf person like me, my phone is my lifeline – I can book tickets on the internet, find out train times, send emails, chat on MSN, text, search for traffic issues when I am stuck in a jam, check London travel situations while on the move, and even, when stuck on an overland tube, find out if there are any problems on the line. All this, is invaluable to me – it saves me from trying to communicate, it enables me to build relationships, keep in touch and maintain friendships. And when it goes wrong, I literally feel as though I have lost a large area of my world.

To have no way of contacting O2 quickly to sort this out is a big problem for me.

Now, I know that I could cancel O2 and go elsewhere, but guess what? You need the phone for that. And also, apparently, I can go into an O2 shop and sort things like my SIM card out – even though I am an online customer. And I have done this on occasions, but it reall does seem to depend on the friendliness of the shop staff as to whether they can actually help you. So with the whole SIM card issue, an O2 shop is going to be my next port of call. But I’ve heard a rumour that I may be charged for a new one.

Charged for 10 years of loyalty!?

Well that makes sense, doesn’t it.

But, it shouldn’t be relevant whether or not I can go into an O2 shop for service. I am an O2 online customer. I should be able to get a decent service from my provider. I mean, I certainly pay enough.

It’s not rocket science, I don’t think. O2 need to give deaf people the same service they give hearing people. And if that’s really not possible, then deaf people should get a reduced tariff as an apology for substandard customer service – plenty of other companies offer just that, from theatres to travel.

The 24-hour window of the email response I have been promised by O2 has almost run out – I’m hoping I hear from someone. I’m hoping that they’ll tell me that a new, improved 3G-friendly SIM is in the post to me, free of charge.

I’m also hoping I win the lottery and achieve a 7-minute mile by the end of the month. And right now the latter wishes are looking more feasible.

UPDATE: Oh the power of Twitter! Through it, I contacted O2 and I have been assurred that I can go in store and get a new SIM for free and that I will soon have an email back in reply to the one I sent yesterday. It was so nice to actually have a conversation with a real person from O2, that I got carried away and asked them about an easier way to get in touch with the online peeps. I was forwarded a link about access for all, but it only gives phone options or the email form that I filled in yesterday and have yet to have a reply from. So I am not sure how this helps. So I said that – and it's gone quiet for now. I will keep you posted!

1 comment:

Miss Brodie said...

Have you ever thought about consumer associations? All this would be pretty adverse publicity for O2, and it's probably the only argument they're interested in!

Well done for the race, how does one send you the money?

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