EE customers should not have to pay extra to resolve issues for a service they are already paying for, says Steve McCaskill
EE is already the UK’s most complained about mobile network operator, so the reasons why it decided to introduce charges for accessing its customer services are difficult to fathom.
The company says the fees are necessary for it to continue investing in its retail stores and customer service operations, pointing out it is “returning” 1,000 jobs to the UK from overseas and opening new call centres.
But quality customer service should be a pre-requisite for any service provider, and not an added extra. It should be funded from the subscription fee that millions of people pay each month and is no different from the ongoing maintenance of its network equipment. And the last time we checked, retail stores are pretty useful for selling mobile contracts in addition to providing assistance to existing customers.
If there’s a problem with the service, which the customer is paying a hefty premium for, it should be resolved as quickly as possible. Customers should not be financially penalised because of a problem that isn’t their fault.
The fact that new SIM-only subscribers will now have to pay 25p for every call to customer services almost makes it seem like EE thinks it’s doing them a favour, and they should be privileged to be counted among its clients.
The total cost of resolving an issue might not be limited to 25p. As anyone who has tried ringing one of these call centres before will know, some problems require multiple calls to solve, increasing the cost of fixing a service that a customer is paying good money to receive. Such a system could even incentivise poor service in the hope of attracting more calls.
Then there is the new ‘Priority Answer Service’, which is EE’s answer to EasyJet’s speedy boarding passes, and lets users pay an additional 50p to have their call to jump to the front of any queue. As we discovered, EE doesn’t tell you if there’s a queue to avoid before suggesting to pay the surcharge – potentially making the 50p a wasted expense.
It also implies that EE is ready to prioritise customers who are willing to pay extra, and the policy could take advantage of those desperate to resolve an issue affecting their mobile service – which again they are paying a not insignificant amount of money to receive.
And what if everyone decides they want to pay the 50p charge? Not only will those paying see little benefit, but customers who don’t want to pay extra will have to spend even longer waiting for their query to be answered – further exacerbating an already frustrating experience.
Ofcom has so far received a number of complaints about the 50p charge and says it is in contact with EE to see how the changes will impact customers. The regulator’s guidelines don’t cover the cost of customer service, but they do require operators to offer multiple ways for consumers to make contact.
EE says customers can access its website, community pages and the myEE app to receive assistance if they don’t want to call, but some issues can only be resolved over the phone, and many messages to the company’s official Twitter account go unanswered.
Not even Royal Mail can help. On Twitter, one user revealed that he recently sent a letter of complaint regarding EE’s increase in European roaming charges and has not yet received a response.
It’s difficult to see how these latest measures are going to help EE surrender its ‘most-complained-about’ title. Rather than improving customer service, EE has made it worse, and shown contempt for millions of subscribers in the process.
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