And so, it’s nearly over. Barring the handover of some details that will set me free to forge a new life with a new partner, a relationship stretching back nearly 10 years draws to a close. Yes, I’m leaving my mobile phone provider.
But it hasn’t been easy: not because of some peculiar affection for a company which enables people to track me down at any time of night or day. No, it’s literally been the most difficult contractural arrangement to extricate myself from, ever.
Up to now, the service given by this household name has been quite acceptable (they let me make and receive phone calls – hard to mess up if you’re a mobile phone operator). I paid my bills on time by direct debit, so it’s the very least you’d expect. But dare to close your account and be prepared for the full force of corporate inertia to be unleashed.
The minutiae of the case is too painful to recount, but when Tory leader David Cameron referred last week to the Government as “Stalinist”, it suggests that he clearly hasn’t tried to swap his mobile phone number between networks.
After two months of endless phone conversations with an array of chirpy call centre staff promising to phone back with answers, trips to one of the company’s high street branches which bears the same name but might as well be a cheese shop for all the help it’s been, the pain should soon be over.
But anyone who lives within a radius of at least five miles will have heard me talking about this company in a way that would make Gordon Ramsay blush. It’s an old adage about the unhappy customer telling hundreds of people, but the level of customer service displayed sometimes by companies hints that they really don’t care. For all the investment they throw at advertising, PR and clever sponsorship deals, they are undoing it all at the point of delivery.
Astonishing to note, but there is actually a British Standard Code of Practice for Customer Service, which is clearly being used to prop open doors or support coffee mugs across the nation. Elsewhere there is some pretty comprehensive advice to be had for free on the subject.
With the cost of winning new customers far outstripping that to retain existing ones, it’s curious that nobody yet at the mobile phone company has asked me why I wish to leave or what they could do to make me stay. Maybe they were about to dump me, but just got fed up of being put on hold.