Monday, January 09, 2006

Telefónica Móviles: One of the World's Most User UnFriendly Companies

I spend a lot of time in Chile and have had the misfortune of having to deal with celular phone companies in that country.

One of the worst I've ever dealt with is now called Movistar owned by Telefónica Móviles. This company hugh -- it claims to be one of the biggest 5 in the world and operates in most of Latin America and many countries in Europe. (If anyone has any experiences --good or bad-- with other celphone companies I'd welcome a comment with details)

Their corporate literature contains the most blatant lies that I have ever seen:

From their web site on Corporate Responsibility they state:

Telefónica Móviles wonts to be a trusted company, not only due to its size and experience, but also due to its nearness to people, showing it has a definite vocation to understand and comprehend their needs, and above all, to be a company able to make commitments and to fulfil them. (Copied directly from web site complete with spelling errors-jf)

Why do I call this company a blatant liar?

When I contracted their services, they were the most friendly and accomodating company that you could imagine (and this would be completely in accordance with the corporate values stated above) , however, when I had occasion to cancel a service which I had contracted with them, the red tape and obstacles which were placed in my way made me feel that in signing a contract with them I had sold myself into perpetual slavery.

When signing up for a service, a sales rep came to my office, prepared all the forms which were needed to be signed, made photocopies on their time and at their expense, delivered equipment ... it short made it almost effortless to become a client.

The service I contracted was for several employees of a firm I administrate and when one person left our employ there was no further reason for our firm to have their service.

In order to stop that service I was required to visit a company office where I had to take a number and wait nearly an hour to be served. Then the customer service rep. took another 20 minutes to get the necessary records so that she could then inform me that I had to write a letter renouncing the service and then wait until the end of the billing cycle until the service was effectively stopped. It wasn't enought that I was physically present in their office with the equipment in my hand ready to return it. The service would not be terminated until I provided a written request.

This was not all, however. Afterwards, I received no less than 3 additional calles from different representatives, attempting to convince me to continue with the service.

Somewhat later in the year the remaining employees decided that they wished to change the equipment they were using and made the necessary arrangements on their own without any knowledge or participation on my part.

Now, when we were faced with the need to separate this service from our firm, Movistar, informs me that the change in equipment, which was made without my knowledge or consent, obligated the firm to a minimum of 18 months additional service and now, if we wish to terminate the service, they will charge us rental for each of the incompleted months.

In short, in order to terminate any service, they require a written request from me, however, they do not require any written authorization to put into effect something that will increase our obligation to them.

I have the understanding that Movistar is not the only cellular phone company in Chile which is user "unfriendly", but it is the only one which I can cite from specific experience. From what I see, all companies spend enormous amounts on advertising promoting new and varied ways for you to spend your money, and they make it extremely easy to make these expenditures, but if you ever have a problem, or make a mistake, heaven help you.

Chile is reputed, among other LatinAmerican countries, as being one of the easiest and least bureaucratic countries to do business in, so I can only shudder to think about what kind of conditions consumers in other countries might face.

My point in writing this is to encourage readers, especially in Latin America, to read the fine print and ask a lot of "what if" questions when signing up for any kind of on going service. In North America, many services are regulated and controled by laws which tend to be friendly to consumers, but most of these laws have come into being because of abuses to which consumers were subjected.

So beware ... the next contract you sign may not have all the protection you might expect.


fooDcrazEE said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
fooDcrazEE said...

Jax, all major phone company is similar. Happens here in Malaysia too.

What can we do abt it ?

jf said...

foodcrazee, as an individual there is little one can do that will have a direct and immediate effect.

However, that doesn't mean that all is hopeless. First, it is important to express your dissatisfaction to everyone you can who work for these companies.

I don't think that most employees are bad or even have bad intentions, but most of them have never experienced any better treatment so they have no model on which to base their own actions.

So, if you don't like something, the first and most important thing you must do is tell those people.

Next, encourage other people you know who have the same complaints to express their complaints.

You see, I've seen this before in Latin America, many people don't complain because they believe that nobody will listen to them and so they think "why bother, people will just think I'm an ill-humored crank"

But, one doesn't have to create a big scandle to make others aware that they could improve ... it is important to be persistent and, wherever possible offer a positive solution.

Once a certain number of people realize that things could be better, things will start to change. The consumer-oriented environment which exists in the US didn't happen overnight.

fooDcrazEE said...

You are right, jax but overall M'sian just couldnt be bothered. Just like a bank here supposedly the best bank servicei n Malaysia voted by consumer but their system sux big. Imagine charging me a Malaysian 12 bucks a month as I have mistakenly pay less by a ringgit malaysia and that RM1.00 actually rings up to about RM60 for 5 mths and no one tells me about it till i received a letter from the bank(computer generated) askingme to pay uo the late charges.

Ask the officer in charge and all they said was sorry, its the system. WTF.....anyway, its monopoly. No other telecom company can come close to them as they started first and they r the best there is currently.

jf said...

Thanks fooDcrazEE for your further comment.

The point you raised about the bank could lead me to get into a tirade about banks in Chile, but I will resist except to say that it appears that Malaysian banks might be very similiar to those in Chile.

This issue at stake is the lack of concern which most big institutions, public utilities and government bureacracies have for their customers.

Remember the observation of Confucius that the journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step.

The road to improving the service level in all of these begins by each individual expressing their dissatisfaction to the banks, companies or offices involved. (If nobody says anything, they might believe that all is OK). Next, encourage all your friends and acquaintances to also express their concerns.

Eventually, if people continue to insist on improvements, they will start to be implemented, but if no one says anything where it counts, things may just stay the same.

Your protestation about the bank here is just wasted breath if you just leave it at that, but if you make a point of telling (or have already told) someone in authority at the bank, then you've started on that long journey.