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Posts Tagged ‘proper disclosure

You may not have as many minutes left as you may think

with 2 comments

Recently, a friend of mine was charged for over usage by her wireless provider, whose initials I will not disclose here. My friend was shocked as the provider’s online account management system failed to inform her that she had no minutes left. Outraged, she called the customer service and the representative told her that she should have checked her minutes using her phone as the information available online was not accurate. Frustrated with this and previous nightmarish experiences with the provider, she threatened to switch but failed to get any reaction from the rep. Feeling helpless, she paid the amount and decided that she will take her business somewhere else once her contract expires.

I only came to know about this via her outraged facebook status:

can’t wait until June when I can actually end my contract with <provider>. Worst customer service!!!

When I inquired further, she told me the whole story. Having spent multiple hours on the customer service line of the said provider myself, I could relate to her frustrations. It did not make sense that a customer has to pay for a limitation in the provider’s reporting system. I decided to contact the customer service (via e-mail because I knew better) and was told that usage information retrieved via the web as well as the phone are both an estimate and it is up to the user to use caution as they get closer to the limit. That meant that the customer service rep was incorrect to tell my friend that she should have checked her minutes using her phone. SHOCKER, I know!

I myself was absolutely unaware of this delay in reporting. Since they said it was due to technical reasons, I was curious if only this provider was plagued by this limitation. Turns out that at least one other major provider also has the same limitation. Since this seems to be a common problem, I am okay with just estimates. However, this information needs to be clearly communicated to the user wherever usage estimates are displayed.

I want to make it clear that the provider in question does communicate this delay at the very bottom of the usage page. However, there is no clear indication at the beginning of the page that will inform the user that they should look for this additional information. It would be much better if a succinct version of the disclosure with a link to a detailed version was displayed wherever these estimates appear so that the user is fully informed about the limitation of the reporting system. With the current placement of this information at the bottom of the page, majority of users are not going to be aware of this limitation unless they or someone they know are slammed with over usage fees.

I recommended that the provider make the aforementioned changes and the representative I was in contact with has promised to forward my suggestions to the people responsible for the website. Let’s hope for the sake of customers & the provider that they make these changes. When companies grow as big as these providers, they often tend to lose sight of little things. In the days before, getting your voice heard was difficult but internet in its current form has given us a truly remarkable power to bring these issues to light and force change for the better. To better understand true power bestowed onto customers and new expectations from companies, I recommend that you read The Cluetrain Manifesto.

I leave you with the following excerpt from the book:

…People of Earth
The sky is open to the stars.
Clouds roll over us night and day.
Oceans rise and fall.
Whatever you may have heard, this is our world, our place to be.
Whatever you’ve been told, our flags fly free.
Our heart goes on forever.
People of Earth, remember.

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Written by tundal45

April 13, 2009 at 10:14 pm