But what about customer service?!….

Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.netAfter nearly 12 years of using Orange as my mobile services provider (which was mostly a good experience I must say), I recently switched following the arrival of Free Mobile, an aggressive new player disrupting the French market’s status quo with its unlimited local & long distance fixed-line calls, text and picture messages and Internet, including Wifi, all for €19.99 (or €16.99 for Freebox clients like me !!) or 1/4 of what I paid before.

However, to get there I lived through a very frustrating 7 days, during which time I was not a happy customer at all…

Free Mobile opened it’s doors for business on January 10 via its website. Due to the huge demand its site was overloaded from day-1, and that despite initially serving only to its existing home broadband clients. It took me 2 days and several aborted registration attempts to finally sign-up and get the sacred confirmation e-mail. Phase 1 completed.

Five days later I received a text message from Orange tell me that my number would soon be ported to my new provider, and that I would always be welcome back to Orange”. Two days later, and with a text message notification, my Orange service was cut. Up until this point I still had no Free Mobile SIM card.

Now here is where the fun begins….I waited 5 days with no mobile service, until my new SIM card finally arrived! With my new SIM card in hand I quickly inserted it into my iPhone and waited…….nothing.

As it turns out, despite not being under contract for 1.5 years and (I am nearly certain of this part) the fact that I had unlocked my phone one year earlier, my phone wouldn’t work with the new SIM.

After testing the SIM with my old clunky Treo 680 and figuring out that it was indeed my phone which was still locked, I called Orange to ask them to unlock it.

In the end I had to call Orange 3 times:

  1. The first time I was told by a stern attendant that my phone was not in their database and that they couldn’t do anything for me. To unlock the device I would have to send Orange a letter and wait at least 2-3 weeks. I found this surprising and quite unacceptable, given that I had bought it directly from them in a packaged offer.
  2. The second time I actually first went to my neighbourhood Orange shop to speak to a sales rep, who confirmed that my phone was indeed in the customer database and that the person I spoke to was actually not being helpful at all. Slightly infuriated I called them a second time and explained my story again. At this point I was told that I would receive a call or an e-mail explaining the unlocking procedure. I waited 1 day and nothing.
  3. At this point I was getting very frustrated, but I decided to call a third time. This time I spoke to a more friendly attendant who put up no roadblocks or poor excuses and told me that I would receive an e-mail in under 24 hrs. outlining the procedure. 10 minutes later it was sitting in my in-box, and as it happens, my phone was unlocked with no further effort needed.

During 1 full week I had no mobile service and I found myself bouncing around in thin air with no signal between a new operator who is still taking the kinks out of their shiny new customer management processes, and the long-established leader, who on the one hand was quick to cut my line, but slow to free my phone.

This whole experience showed me the not-so-nice competitive tactics that go on, which in the end made me, the customer, suffer.

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