Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How SMART Customer Service and Its "Retention Program" Lost a Subscriber

Stupefied.

That's how I felt after a harrowing experience with Smart.

It's ironic if you think about it. Their Twitter handle is @SMARTcares. Even a 2-year-old would know it implies that SMART cares.

But, whom does SMART care for? Its customers or itself?

This is the story of how SMART lost me as a subscriber. A subscriber who very much wanted to continue using SmartBro.

WARNING: Long story in spite me saying I am stupefied (which I still am, actually)


My SmartBro contract ends this December. I wanted to re-contract and get a new device with the extended contract - which has been my experience with telcos (well, the two we have in this country) in the past.

ROUND 1
I called customer service to inquire about re-contracting, and I was told it was "retention", not re-contraction. Okay, semantics. I let that pass. But then I was referred to another hotline since the initial one supposedly didn't have the access to "retention" services.

This happened three times.

Several transfers (and an hour or so) later, I was told to go to a wireless center (their store) since that was the best option for "retention", which they told me I was qualified for.

ROUND 2
I wanted to continue using SmartBro postpaid since, to be fair, the LTE connection served me quite well in the past two years. I went to the main store along Ayala Avenue, where I was told - much to my consternation - that they don't do "retention" services in-store!

He was rather sassy, insisting that they really didn't do "retention" in-store, but hey, look at this. (And remember, I was told several times over the phone that I should go to the store.)



But did he care? Nope.

Supposedly, that was only done via the hotline *888, which can only be accessed via a Smart line.

Since I use Globe phone (Smart is for the iPad), I couldn't call that hotline. The CSR at the store told me I could use their phone in-store.

Recap: Their website says to go to the store, but their CSR says they don't accommodate renewals. Since we were at an impasse, I tried the phone he was talking about. Good luck to me. The phone had no access to *888 - only the same hotlines I used initially, wasting my time and effort.

ROUND 3
Still, I wanted to try to extend my SmartBro account contract so I set out to purchase a Smart prepaid SIM.

Lo and behold, I was finally able to call *888! But only to be told that they don't handle "retention" services and that I should go to the SMART store.

This conversation lasted for a long time as I explained everything I had gone through and insisted on speaking with a supervisor. You know how that goes. You almost never get the supervisor.

But I didn't feel like being juggled around anymore (by the way, @SMARTcares was dropping the ball as well the whole time), so I said I would stay on the line until the supervisor was available or until he called me on my other phone. I said I could wait all day, so instead of wasting his time, could he just please have his supervisor call me.

That worked. I got a call, but the only result I got was a "promise" to have the people from "retention" services to call me within the day.

I really wasn't expecting a call at all but...

ROUND 4
Telesales gave me a call around 6PM!

To be honest, after talking with the supervisor earlier, I was so frustrated that I had decided to cut my contract, but the call came, and I thought I'd give it another chance.

Indeed, I was qualified for "retention" and there were free devices depending on the plan I wanted. That surely got my attention.

However, they were - are - only offering the iPad Mini (first gen) for "retention". I mentioned that I wanted another device, but the telesales guy said that the iPad Mini is all they're offering for free.

I made it clear that I wanted another device and that I was willing to forego the free device and pay an additional fee for the device I wanted.

He said he had to double check - several times - and we just went round in circles. I felt like a dog chasing his own tail.

CSR: We only have the iPad Mini for free for "retention".
ME: But is it possible for me to get the other device/s and PAY as long as I can continue my contract?

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

ME: Let's forget the "retention" iPad Mini restriction. I want this particular device and continue being a SMART subscriber. Can you help me get the device, with whatever plan necessary, and with whatever cash out is needed?
CSR: I'm sorry, ma'am, but you'll have to go to the store or call (another line) for that. "Retention" doesn't handle that.
ME:  Can you transfer me to whoever can help me with the situation?
CSR: I'm sorry, ma'am. We don't have that feature in our system.
ME: Surely you can transfer my call to someone who can help me.
CSR: I'm sorry, ma'am.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

ME: So you're saying that I cannot avail of your "retention" services if I want to get a device other than the iPad Mini and you can't do anything to process my request so I can continue to be a SMART subscriber?
CSR: Hindi naman po ganun... (It's not like that...) But I'm sorry. 
ME: Last chance to "retain"  me as a customer; to convince me to continue being a subscriber. I'm willing to forgo the "retention" perks, and if necessary get a new contract with a device of my choice, and pay the additional fee. Will you help me go through the process?
CSR: I'm sorry, ma'am. If you have the time, I suggest you go to our store.
ME: So "retention" services can't do anything to retain a customer. You'd rather not make an effort to help me get a contract (new one as it seems necessary), have me end my contract, and stop being a SMART subscriber.
CSR:  I'm sorry, ma'am.

Let me just say that I am unconfrontational. I tend to use euphemisms (see what I did there?) and don't like being harsh with people. But at that point, I was just too frustrated (understatement) and couldn't believe that I was practically having to beg SMART to be able to continue using their services when it should have been the opposite. It should be the opposite.

SMART should be catering to its customers and making an effort to keep them, not juggling subscribers around.

ROUND FIVE: KO
Given my experience, I don't think this company has an idea what RETENTION means. Buzzword alert!

I don't care what term they use - retention, re-contracting, or whatever buzzword they come up with. It's the concept and the implementation that matters. The system shouldn't make customers feel as if they were being done a favor by their telco, when in fact, it's the telco that receives money from us.

Come end of the month, I am walking right into that main store and ending my contract. I know I'm just one customer to them. I won't make a dent in their bottom line, but how many other customers have had the same experience? How many others continue to go through SMART's convoluted system because there's no other option? How many SMART customers get passed from one place to another over and over again? How does SMART get away with it?

SMART touts itself as a company that cares for its customers. Sad to say, it seems to me it's all marketing crap.

And that's how this telco lost me.



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