Every Orange cloud has… another Orange cloud attached to it.

Checked my bank account today to see if the Orange refund promised on the 16th February had materialised and was disappointed but not surprised to find it conspicuous by it’s absence.

I contacted Orange billing support and spoke to a friendly lady named Catherine but, sadly, before she could conclude the call we were disconnected. Before the disconnection she revealed that the notes contained no record of the promised £9.99 refund and my account also did not show this refund. The £3.99 refund for the second outage was recorded in the notes but had not been applied to my account. The upshot of this was I was not going to get either refund. We were disconnected while I was on hold while Catherine went to consult her Team Leader.

After the disconnection, I called right back and got a guy called Bain (pronounced Ba-in). I explained to him the call I had just made and he confirmed for himself what Catherine had stated earlier. When he consulted his Team Leader he came back with the news that they would not be refunding me £9.99 as promised for the first outage but £3.74. He has stated that the combined refund (of just under £8) has now been applied to my account and is not just languishing in my notes. This refund should be part of my April 16th bill meaning that I will not be able to confirm the refund in my bank account until that Direct Debit goes through. As an example of how long that takes, an Orange Direct Debit was collected on March 2nd, over two weeks after the billing date. Therefore, I will not be able to see this refund in my bank account until the beginning of May.

There was no apology for not processing my refund. Bain refused to give me the name of the person I talked to on the 16th February (I wish I’d made a note of that aswell, now) mis-citing the Data Protection Act. There was no goodwill gesture toward the phone calls I had to make today which were caused not by technical gremlins but by someone’s incompetence or negligence.

The real quality of a company is when things go wrong. Orange hasn’t been dreadful but they haven’t been good. Both outages were fixed within a week which, by all accounts, is positively gazelle-like for an ISP. The outage was fixed by capping my line speed to a lower rate than before I ‘upgraded’ my account (I was very happy at 2Mb speed, now I am at 1Mb speed). The promised refunds were not applied immediately and required further phone calls from me to get them.

My contract with Orange lasts until November this year but the ISP market is such (“up to 8Mb connection”, they might as well say up to eleventy mcbillion squeegy-bytes) that switching may be a case of out of the frying pan…

Here endeth the moan.

Back on but also back in time

Internet connection was restored today and a further refund of £3.99 should be in my bank account in the middle of March (they never take three weeks to take money, of course, only to return it).

Disagreeably, though, my connection has gone back in time as far as speed is concerned. After a couple of hours use, Orange locked me to a 1mb broadband speed whereas before this two week period of disconnection and for the first couple of hours of this reconnection I had a broadband speed between 2 and 2.5mb (out of a potential 3.5mb).

I contacted Orange about this and got through straight away (which was terrific) and support operative Andrew told me he’d put through a speed increase request. He commented that the lower speed seems to have been necessary to get me back online and that I try reconnecting again in a couple of hours time to see if the request was successful.

You can see my new (lack of) speed measured here.

Well, we’ll see if my service is restored to its former state.

Spoke too soon…

Well, my internet connection only lasted a couple of days. It returned Thursday morning and disappeared Sunday afternoon.

I have the same problem as before, slow flashing @ light and “PPP Server Down” error message from the Wireless and Talk router.

It took a very long time to get through to technical support this time, nearly 20 minutes, and I needed to get a little irate with the representative before she assured me she would not go through all the same protocols I had the week before (line test this, line test that) and that it would be bubbled up to the fault service personnel and should be repaired within 48 hours. However, I will be very pleasantly stunned if things are back within 48 hours. Here’s hoping.

It could be worse. I happen to live near enough a wireless hot spot to be able to connect to check email and make this post, for example.

Apparently, one week is good

On the very day I posted that my projector seems to be okay (it has now gone up to 100 hour lamp life without problem) my internet connection died. Grief!

I have a Wanadoo branded Inventel wireless router under the Wireless and Talk brand (now operated by Orange). The error was “PPP server down”. After six days and five phone calls, my connection is now restored.

However, a friend of mine told me he once had his (not Orange) internet connection disappear for over a month and there are a few other horror stories on the web about Orange technical support.

So I am glad to report that my problem was resolved within this reasonable time frame. It expired on a Thursday afternoon (when we had all that snow). I reported it on a Friday. It was restored about 2am the following Thursday.

Of the five times I called, I was only waiting for a very long time (about two-thirds of an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”!) on one of them and you are informed that you are to be in for a long wait ahead of time. The other times were answered within a couple of minutes, once within about five minutes (again, a ‘we are very busy’ message was delivered first) and once instantly.

I ended up making sure I phoned during normal-ish working hours as I seemed to get northern English- or Scottish-accented support personnel and they consistently had access to the technical services required. When calling at more exotic times (I am a late-night person), I tended to get strongly Indian-accented support personnel whose access to the relevant technical services needed seemed to be much more erratic.

Upon calling today to process my refund, I was also pleased that they said they will arrange a refund of £9.99 which is double what I was expecting. I pay £19.99 a month and the service was out for nearly a week and so I would have been expecting a refund of about £5. The extra will comfortably pay for the charges on their 0870 technical support number (7 pence a minute).

So, overall, not too bad as far as speed and service and, providing they process it as stated over the phone, I am very happy with the refund. Yay!

Is poor customer service necessary?

It’s probably been clear that I have been largely unhappy with Superfi Coventry’s customer service. Superfi Coventry were consistently polite but were always passing the buck to Panasonic, their Nottingham headquarters or Superfi policy. Martin at Superfi Head Office, on the other hand, was active in resolving the situation and I felt confident in his desire to get the matter expedited. From my first contact with him, it took two weeks to receive a replacement projector in my hands. For comparison, within two weeks of returning the projector to Superfi Coventry, they had simply sent it to Nottingham Head Office but without any details of its provenance or even that it needed to be replaced because it was faulty (none of my emails were forwarded and mention of a fault was made on the appropriate paperwork).

Things going wrong, especially new technology items (and the Panasonic AX100 is not just a minor evolution, indeed, it’s new size may shock owners of former models), is a circumstance that must happen with reasonable regularity. While there is natural disappointment at an item you have purchased being faulty it is how that situation is dealt with by the retailer that determines the quality of the customer’s experience.

So what would have made me happy? I shall propose such a solution and leave it to you to determine whether it is unreasonable or financially undesirable from Superfi Coventry’s point of view.

This is an overview of what happened:

  1. December 1st: I ordered the projector.
  2. December 8th: I received the projector.
  3. December 16th: I reported the fault but told Superfi I would be placing the projector into Normal for fifty hours to see if that sorted it.
  4. January 5th: I requested a replacement on January 5th, 28 days after receiving it.
  5. January 8th: Superfi Coventry responded by saying they could not arrange a replacement because it was now more than 28 days since I had received it and Panasonic don’t furnish replacements after 28 days. An interesting note here is that this is the only time in all my email correspondence with Superfi that they replied on a different day to when they received the email.
  6. January 9th: I returned the projector to Superfi Coventry. They say that it will take about two weeks to be sorted.
  7. January 10th: Superfi Coventry send the projector to Superfi Nottingham for processing but do not supply the email provenance and do not make it clear that a refund / replacement / repair is being waited for. The fault description on the repair job card says in its entirety: “see notes can you please call panosonic as they are aware of fault” [sic].
  8. January 19th: I request an update from Superfi Coventry and they get in touch with Superfi Head Office and inform me that the projector is still sitting there awaiting collection by Panasonic. When asked to chase it, they suggest I call Superfi Head Office direct and give me the appropriate name and number. I call Superfi Head Office and he sounds genuinely surprised when I tell him it is faulty, that it has been faulty for nearly six weeks now and that I am waiting for a repair / replacement.
  9. January 22nd: Superfi Head Office call me (a most pleasant surprise) to tell me that Panasonic have now picked up the projector and should be authorising a replacement. He’ll call me when they confirm.
  10. January 26th: Superfi Head Office call me and let me know Panasonic have authorised a replacement and that it will be at Superfi Coventry with their next delivery. Panasonic items arrive there on a Thursday.
  11. February 1st: Superfi Head Office call me and let me know that the projector is at Superfi Coventry ready for collection. I make arrangements and collect it.

What I wanted to happen:

  1. January 5th: I request a replacement projector. Superfi Coventry respond in their usual timely manner after making appropriate arrangements and tell me they’ll call when it arrives and I can bring my faulty projector in and swap it for the replacement at the same time. This is especially nice because they know of my severely limiting health (I have told them about it on several of my emails) and that travelling to Superfi means making special arrangements and extra physical effort and pain.
  2. Preferably January 8th or, acceptably, January 15th: Superfi Coventry call me to let me know that the replacement has arrived. I make arrangements and take the faulty one in and return home with a new one.

In general, I wanted Superfi Coventry to do the chasing. I wanted to leave this matter in their hands and for them to contact me when the situation was resolved.

I was happy when this was the circumstance with Superfi Head Office. It instilled confidence and a feeling that a satisfactory resolution was something they were actively working towards on my behalf.

Am I being unreasonable?

New projector on its way

Martin at Superfi Head Office confirmed today that Panasonic have authorised a replacement unit and that it should arrive at Superfi Coventry with their next Panasonic delivery. As the previous projector arrived on a Thursday I should get a phone call on the 1st February to confirm collection.

To be honest I think it is a bit of a poor show that the projector wasn’t here this Thursday as Martin had arranged this on Monday but as long as it’s here next Thursday I shall be adequately satisfied.

Let’s just hope it works!