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How to Lose a Mobile Phone Customer

I recently upgraded my mobile phone to this very modern Nokia E63 (pictured right). At the same time I changed my phone carrier to Virgin Mobile. It cost me nothing up front and the new plan I'm on is far better than the plan my previous mobile carrier imposed upon me as part of 'upgrading their billing system'.

This article is actually a sequel to an article I wrote just over two years ago titled Forgotten by my Phone Company. In that article from April 2007 I described how my phone company *cough* AAPT *cough* failed to upgrade my very old mobile phone (a Nokia 2100, pictured left) when my contract ran out - like they had the previous contract.

How to Lose a Mobile Phone Customer

Step 1: Double your monthly service access fee.

Fast forward to November of 2008 and I get a letter from my phone company explaining that they will be upgrading their billing system over the next few months and as part of that I'll be switched over to a new monthly plan called '$15 Access'.

I thought very little of it, though I did notice that the new plan more than doubles my monthly service access fee from AU$8.95 to AU$19.50. Which is about what I used to pay when I was paying off the handset in my first contract. Hence, I'm too lazy to change plans and assume my bill will be AU$19.50 each month instead of AU$8.95 as it previously had been for most of the last two years - except for months where I actually made a call.

I'm not a big phone user but I do use SMS text messaging quite a bit. My original plan included AU$20.00 of call credit which I rarely exceeded except, as I said, if I actually made a call.

Step 2: Offer no new services and fail to upgrade the customer's phone.

For a long time I've wanted one of those flash new phones with tons of features that have little to do with making a phone call but lots to do with communication and productivity. Why? Because I'm the kind of person who uses all those features. Digital camera, Digital Video Camera, MP3 players, Mobile Internet access, MMS messaging etc. etc. You can't do any of that on a Nokia 2100 handset.

Mid way through 2008 I got my hands on my partner's old Samsung SGH-E370 mobile phone (pictured right) which is capable of all of the things I listed above but, since my phone company didn't offer me any new services or a new phone, none of this was available to me. It's like having legs that work but you're not allowed to use them.

The Samsung phone wasn't that great. The video was small and too slow and the photos weren't that high a quality either. Great for music but because it had a non standard head phone jack I couldn't get a head set to fit unless I wanted to splash out for a specific set from Samsung (nope). So I couldn't really use it as a personal MP3 player.

3. Raise your call fees and lower your customer's monthly credit.

Like I said earlier I text message a lot. Mostly to my partner. Despite this I rarely, if ever went above my $20/month credit from text messages alone. However my phone company raised the cost of a text message from AU$0.23 cents to AU$0.25 cents and lowered my monthly credit to AU$15/month (hence the plan name $15 Access). Suddenly I'm exceeding my credit limit by a lot, every month.

4. Change your billing period so that unbilled charges from previous months constantly appear on the current months bill.

I literally don't understand how upgrading your billing system and changing to a six week billing period can cause this much problem but it did. In June of this year I received a bill that included new charges totalling more than AU$72.00 - WTF!! That's quite a jump from $19.50 per month.

That particular bill contained a whole list of charges not available at the time of my previous bill. What's worse is that these charges come with the statement:

"These calls were not included on your last bill. You made these calls in the last 90 days and we've just been told about them. Sorry we didn't know about them in time for your last bill"

Oh. That's okay then? NOT!! I'm not disputing I made the calls but come on. You're not helping my cash flow at all by lumping all these charges together and expecting payment within 14 days.

My next bill they give me a $20 credit for reasons I still don't know why and the total bill is only $5.00. Nice but then they follow up with a $49.00 bill that contains a bunch of calls from the previous month with the same apology... you get the picture. My cash flow is not looking healthy at all.


I did end up paying the $72 bill but it was at about that point that my phone company lost me. See that shiny new phone at the top of this article. I got that for AU$20.00 per month with $50 call credit including 5MB of internet data downloads per month, free text messaging and calls from Virgin to Virgin phones (which my partner has) and I get all the features of the phone I've wanted for ages. I used it to film my first solo exhibition with (see video below).



Being a heavy internet user I decided to pay an extra $5.00 to get 50MB of internet data downloads per month.

To add a few more nails to the coffin here's how you lose a customer forever...

5. Let your customer service people tell the customer they have no outstanding balance then send a bill for $49 that includes charges not owed by the customer.

Yes that's right. This company billed me for a charge that I didn't owe on a final bill that I didn't know I'd be getting (and neither did they apparently) because, you guessed it... it contains charges they didn't know about before my previous bill.

In the process of transferring my number to my new service I rang my old phone company and specifically asked two questions. The first was would it cost me anything to transfer my number? Answer: 'No'. The second was would I be getting another bill? Answer: 'No because my account had a zero balance'.

You can imagine my surprise at receiving a $49.00 bill that included a $13.00 'unbundling' fee because I transferred my mobile service to another provider.

When I queried this with their customer service people they said the fee is usually applied to people who have more than one service on their bill. You know, those deals where you 'bundle' your home phone, internet and mobile service into the one bill.

I've only ever had one service on my bill in five years of being with this company. My mobile phone service. To the customer service person's credit they did remove this off my bill saying it was a fault with their new billing structure but if I hadn't contacted them?


This has been a very long venting article for me. However, let this serve as feedback for any phone company that chooses to listen. It actually takes a lot to lose some customers. If you're like me, you don't want to be bothered with who's got the best deal from month to month. You just want a phone that works and doesn't cost the earth to maintain.

Some of us like to have all the latest features but we're not going to chase you to get them. If you want to keep us as a customer then learn that communication is a two way street. Make us feel like we matter to you and offer your existing customers the new deals and plans you've put together.

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