I’ve been an O2 iPhone non-business customer for 6 months now. When I decided to convert to a business tariff at the same time as upgrading to the 3G handset, I found myself in the twilight zone of the mobile phone world. (For those outside the UK – so far o2 has had the sole rights to the iPhone in the UK. Naturally, this severely limits the options for customers, and for the moment, puts O2 in a sweet spot which that can use to build immense customer loyalty for the future – or not!)
On Friday in the O2 shop I was told I could convert to the same tariff as I have now but as a business customer. The only real difference seemed that it would deliver a slightly different mix of minutes and texts. It would just take 3 days to do the credit checks on the company. This in itself is a little surreal given the fact that in the digital world credit checks are usually an on-the-spot service.
A little later on Friday rather than starting the credit check process, a customer service operator informed me that converting to the chosen business tariff was impossible – because that tariff, although advertised as an iPhone tariff in store, was not available for iPhones. (Confused!)
On Monday, a customer service operator contradicted this directly, telling me that the business tariff is available for the iPhone. (Now who is confused?)
Then the really weird fairy tale stuff gets started. A business tariff comes with a compulsory monthly £10 ‘bolt-on’ for the iPhone. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “What is the £10 bolt-on for?”
Customer Service: “You get WiFi”
Me: “But I already have WiFi on my current tariff. Why should I pay an extra £10 just because the tariff is called ‘business’?”
Customer Service: “That’s just the way it is!”
Me: “Can I speak to someone who can explain what the £10 extra charge is really for, please? It can’t be for the WiFi because that’s standard with the iPhone.”
Customer Service: “Nobody is available to talk about that.”
Me: “In that case, could you please give me the name and email address of the head of your customer service department. I will email the question through.”
Customer Service: “Please hold.”
Now, from being unavailable to talk about the issue, a customer service manager was suddenly free to talk. I repeat my question.
Customer Service Manager: “The bolt-on charge is for using the iPhone on a business tariff.”
Me: “Why would you need to charge me £10 extra for using the iPhone on a business tariff when you don’t on my current non-business account at the same tariff?”
Customer Service Manager: “Because you can choose from a wider range of tariffs when you sign up as a business customer.”
Me: “I’m struggling to understand the logic here. On a 24 month contract you are going to charge me an additional £240 in total, so that you can sell me a wider range of packages when I sign up. That seems like an advantage to you, but not to me. I’m not sure why I should be paying any extra for that.”
Customer Service Manager: “That’s just the way it is!”
Me: “OK, please could you just tell me what additional value I get for the extra £10 monthly charge I will be expected to pay if I move to a business tariff?”
Customer Service Manager: “Nothing.”
Me: “ So why are you charging a bolt-on fee for something which has no value for customers?”
At this point he told me I was “attacking” the customer service department. (Strange. I thought I was just asking for a clear explanation of the difference in their charges)
His final statement made it all utterly clear.
He said, ” We don’t have to justify the £10 charge to you.”
Sorry. No. I’m afraid you do if you want me to pay it. That’s just the way it is!
Clearly this is O2’s magic no-added-value special just-for-businesses-because-they’ll-fall-for-it tariff. Its not the amount of money that I find offensive. I have no objection to paying for the value I am receiving from a service. I’m just not all that keen on having my intelligence insulted.