Having been happily married for many years I don’t really remember my last relationship break-up – and it’s probably fair to say that any notions I have are informed by films, plays or books (or the Archers come to think of it). However I had a reminder of what it might have been like following a recent break-up with O2. Paraphrasing somewhat, it went a bit like this:
Me: I’m going to leave you – and I’d like to take my things (i.e. my phone number) with me
O2 (rather affronted): Is there somebody else? Tell me, who is it?
Me: It’s T-Mobile
O2 (voice betraying increasing emotion): Why? What’s she offering you that I can’t?
Me: It’s nothing personal, it’s just the best deal Carphone Warehouse could find
O2 (indignantly): You let Carphone Warehouse come between us? Why didn’t you talk to me first? We could have worked something out! I could have made you happier than T-Mobile ever could…
Me (regretfully): Look I’m sorry but you didn’t write, you didn’t phone… I never knew you cared
O2 (now weeping inconsolably): OK, take your damn phone number and get out of my sight!!!
OK, so it wasn’t quite like that but that’s how it felt…
The occasion was what must be a relatively new rite of passage for children and their parents: ‘my first mobile’ happens in most families these days and, at some point, can be followed by the transition from pay-as-you-go to a monthly contract.
As my son’s social life expands my wife and I figured it would be better to pay a small monthly contract fee rather than regularly forking out for a pay-as-you-go top-up and, as the handset was falling apart anyway, it seemed to be time for a change.
I’ve been reasonably impressed by Carphone Warehouse’s shop service in the past so we went to the branch in Putney to see what was on offer. The service we received in the shop was first class: we were looking for the smallest possible tariff and didn’t want to buy a flashy handset that would be instant mugger-bait on the mean streets of south-west London. The assistant looked put us under no pressure to buy anything more than what we wanted and waded through the vast amount of information in search of the best deal. When we changed our mind about the handset half way through the transaction she was completely un-fazed and maintained a good humour throughout. We walked out with the deal we wanted and a handset that has a camera that will keep my son’s Facebook page supplied with high quality images for the foreseeable future.
So far so good but there had to be a catch. The PAYG account was with O2 but the new account was with T-Mobile. We wanted to keep the same number and there’s a reasonably straightforward process to do this: to kick it off you phone your mobile supplier and say you want to leave. Cue the emotional exchange above.
Now I define a superior customer experience as one that leaves you with a positive emotional connection with the service provider and both my Carphone Warehouse and O2 experiences had a strong emotional content. In the case of Carphone Warehouse it was overwhelmingly positive. In the case of O2 – despite the gusto with which the service advisor attempted to reclaim the lost business – it was fairly negative: I felt like I was in the wrong somehow.
I still have my mobile contract with O2 for about another year (and I felt I had to reassure the advisor during our conversation that the break-up wasn’t total) but I’ll be searching for the best deal via Carphone Warehouse this time next year. O2, get your handkerchief ready…