Telcos and phones: Is it their problem, or ours?

  • Faulty smartphone, reverse logistics and starved of data
  • Is my experience with DiGi the exception or the norm with telcos?

Telcos and phones: Is it their problem, or ours?“WE are not really customer-focused. But we are about to move into this new state and mainly because there are very few industries which know as much about their customers as we do.”
 
So said Sigve Brekke, executive vice president and head of Telenor Asia, when he spoke to Digital News Asia (DNA) earlier this month.
 
I was already tempted to tell him that I was not impressed with the service I recently experienced with his Malaysian operations, DiGi.com Bhd, with which I had decided to stay with after getting a new phone and service plan.
 
I held my tongue as it was not the right occasion.
 
But then it got worse as my BlackBerry Z10 unit was giving me problems and one month after getting it, I sent it back to the store I bought it from. This was on May 5.
 
I did not however bring my warranty card and the executive told me they needed that in order to send the unit back to the BlackBerry distributor.
 
He tried to get me to take the phone over to the distributor’s Hq in Times Square in Kuala Lumpur, where I would get faster service, apparently. But I told him I did not fancy going down to the city for this, and would rather have the store I bought the faulty unit from act for me.
 
I also had my old BlackBerry with me and told the executive I would just use that in the meantime. Because the Z10 uses a micro SIM, he gave me a regular SIM I could use in the old phone.

He could not tell me how long it would take to get the phone back, but also cautioned me that the distributor would only come when there were a few units to pick up. They would not come just for one unit.

It was here that I thought this experience would make for a good article as clearly he was trying to get me to solve what he clearly thought was my own problem.
 
Telcos and phones: Is it their problem, or ours?The big problem here is that I feel my problem was DiGi’s problem. If DiGi – or any telco for that matter – is going to sell their customers contracts which are tied to phones sold at a discount, then I feel they have a responsibility too if the phones are faulty while still under warranty.
 
I am sure the telcos are well versed in reverse logistics. It just depends on whether they see value in practising it – and keeping their customer happy by doing their best to ensure the customer gets their phone back ASAP (as soon as possible).
 
Judging by my experience, I just do not see DiGi doing this.
 
I went back to the store in Gardens Mall, MidValley City, Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Day, Sept 16, together with my warranty card to have my Z10 sent back to the BlackBerry distributor.
 
A different executive served me but also tried to encourage me to take the phone in myself! But I also had another problem. Since I switched back to my older BlackBerry, I was not able to connect to my data.
 
Thinking it was a problem with my phone, I spent a good few hours trying to sort it out via various BlackBerry community forums, but to no avail.
 
When I brought this up to the DiGi executive, she said that was because I needed to activate the BlackBerry Information Services (BIS). It would cost me RM10.
 
“Why didn’t your colleague tell me this the other night,” I said, frustrated.
 
I was struck that she did not have the courtesy to apologise over what was a major oversight on her colleague’s part. And she even charged me RM10 to reinstate the BIS, which would then activate my data.
 
“I should not have to pay for this,” I said. She said she was not authorised to make the exception and had to ask her boss the next day. It being a public holiday, he was not working.
 
“Will he approve it?” I asked.
 
“It depends on him,” she said.
 
That’s just classic customer service, isn’t it? And it is now (as I write this) 13 days and counting, and there is no sight of my phone yet. I’ll have to wait for my bill to see if I was charged RM10 too.
 
As a tech journalist, I could have called the corporate communications people at DiGi and they could have probably fast-tracked the resolution of my problem. But I did not. I am just one of DiGi’s 11 million customers.
 
Is my experience common, or is it the exception? Do you experience the same frustrations with your service operators when you have had problems with your phones when still under warranty?
 
Should it be the telcos’ responsibility too, to help you resolve your phone problems while still under warranty?
 
Previous instalment: The hunt for a smartphone, and a data plan
 
Up next: How I survived without data

 
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