Which?’s Mystery Shopper: Episode one, PAYG advice
Here at Which? we like to keep a close eye on mobile phone operators’ customer service, and what better way than to put customer service reps through their paces ourselves?
We all know the customer service experience we have often depends on who you speak to – so it pays to know what to expect so you can avoid being fobbed off.
To help you get the information you need and identify the questions to ask, our Mystery Shopper will be regularly contacting each of the operators found on the Which? website, bringing you a snapshot of the range of responses you might get– from hugely helpful to utterly useless.
This month’s customer service challenge: Pay-as-you-go advice
In the first of our mobile mystery shopping series, we thought we’d start the operators off with a few simple pay-as-you-go questions over the phone. We pretended to be a customer that had spent years paying through the nose for a contract phone that gave us more minutes and texts than we could ever use.
Our Mystery Shopper wanted to know what pay-as-you-go (PAYG) options each operator could offer and whether switching to PAYG would save them some money.
The questions we asked and the responses we looked for
- PAYG vs Contract: Looking for the most basic information, we first wanted to hear the difference between contract and PAYG – namely the fact that you pay for your call time and texts before you use them, rather than after.
- How does PAYG work?: We wanted to know how you go about using a PAYG, what topping-up is, how you do it and where you can buy credit. All operators offer multiple ways of topping up, for example, buying vouchers, registering e-cards, paying online and using ATM machines. We wanted to hear about all the options and we checked online against each operator’s website to make sure they got them all.
- What PAYG tariff are on offer?: Once we got the technical part out of the way we wanted to know about the tariffs on offer from that provider – what would we get for our cash? Now lots of operators have all kinds of different tariffs and add-ons that mean going through all the different options could take all day. Here we wanted maybe a couple of questions from the rep to make sure they would be delivering the right information. We didn’t want to know about all the tariffs, just the appropriate ones.
- Is switching a good idea?: Finally, we wanted to know if switching was a good idea. Here we gave the reps the chance to move off their corporate scripts and offer a bit of advice on a human level. Comparing calls costs with those on a contract would be helpful and it would be a good opportunity to extol the virtues of PAYG – for example, highlighting the fact you don’t have a fixed cost so if times are tough one month you can really cut back on spending.
On top of all that we were simply looking for a nice customer service experience. Did the rep explain themselves well? Were they friendly and knowledgeable and did they seem pleased to hear from us? We also awarded brownie points if we got through quickly, rather than being stuck on hold or lost in an automated system for ages?
Mystery Shopper results summary
We’ll be publishing in depth reports about how well each operator performed over the next few days and we’ll add each one to this summary page, starting with the worst and working our way up to the best. So make sure you check back to see how all the operators’ customer service skills stack up.
Eighth place: Orange
Bottom of the pile was the rep from Orange. He just seemed to want me to go away. I had to work pretty hard to get any information out of him but, with enough prodding, I managed to get some useful nuggets.
Asking about ways of topping-up the only one he missed out was using ATMs and he also told me what the minimum top-up was. The main problem with the call was the fact he just didn’t seem interested and made it sound like I was getting in the way of his afternoon snooze.
Seventh place goes to 3’s rep who finally answered the call after a lengthy and frustrating experience with 3’s automated system, where the right option wasn’t working and sent me back to the start.When I finally got through the rep didn’t seem to listen all that much and was a bit too focused on pushing the sales pitch rather than giving me any of the information I asked for,
In sixth place was Virgin, whose rep didn’t agree with what I was trying to do and kept telling me how much better value a contract would be. Well done for giving me the advice, but listening to me would have also been a bonus. We got through all the methods of top-ups and I was even treated to some unsolicited advice about changing networks, but, without checking how much I used my phone, she decided that PAYG was not for me and became fixated on contracts, making it feel like a hard sell.
My call to Tesco was fielded by a rep who told me it was a call more suitable for the sales team. I pushed for more information regardless. She did offer up quite a bit of information about top-ups and the advantages of Tesco – namely triple credit top-ups and the ability to link it with your clubcard.
Despite being apparently able to answer my queries she seemed very keen to be rid of me and she offloaded me before I could even get through the full set of questions.
T-Mobile took fourth place, with a rep as robotic their automated system, but at least he managed to provide me with most of the information I was after. He provided a lot of information about the rewards I would get if I topped-up and went through the tariff in detail.
He also asked me about my usage and suggested an appropriate tariff and generally performed admirably, if only he could have done it with a hint of personality.
Bronze medal goes to O2 when its rep explained as many PAYG tariffs as there are grains of sand, or at least that’s what it felt like. She had a lot of information to hand – almost too much for a PAYG novice (like I was pretending to be) – and delivered it well.
Going through tariff after tariff definitely gave me all the information I could ever want, but tailoring the information for the listener would have been a better option. She also managed to go through all the methods of topping up and drew on her own experience to provide me with advice over whether I would save any money or not.
Talk Mobile claims silver thanks to a noble effort from their rep. He gave a lot of information about PAYG, which was particularly impressive as he turned out to actually be one of the pay-monthly reps.
Still, he managed to tell me all the methods of topping-up and go through the most appropriate tariff for me. By the time I ran out of questions he said if I wanted to know anymore I would have to be transferred, but he had already done a good job.
Top honours go to Vodafone, with a star turn from its rep combining professionalism and the personal touch. She gave me all the information about topping up and tailored the tariff information meaning I wasn’t deluged with minutes and text costs.
She also used her own experience to provide advice and managed to sneak a little plug for Vodafone’s freedom packs in here too. And not only that, but she also did all this with personality and even laughed at one point. Good work.
Useful links for PAYG advice:
If you’re looking for more information on network operators take a look at our mobile networks customer satisfaction survey to see how Which? members rated the UK’s major operators.
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