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System errors with Tele2’s customer service – and they are far from alone

Just a few days after the EU introduced free roaming in Europe last summer, I was able to test the new rules in practice. I was on holiday in the Netherlands, and would finally not have to deal with local prepaid cards. As you know, EU roaming means that we can now surf and call at the same cost throughout the Union.

To make sure that everything would work even with my cheap Tele 2 subscription, I contacted their customer service in advance, and they assured me that this was the case. When I arrived in the Netherlands, I was able to connect very well, but soon the internet stopped working. After an hour or so of troubleshooting calls with the support department, it turned out that Tele2 had shut down my internet because they thought the free roaming wouldn’t apply. Embarrassed, they hit the internet again.

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A couple of days later the same thing happened, and it took the same endless rounds of troubleshooting before they again acknowledged that the fault was theirs. The third time the same thing happened, however, the answer was different. Now Tele2 refused to admit any wrongdoing. Free EU roaming would not apply to my particular subscription, and if I continued surfing I would receive a hefty bill, explained the support technician menacingly.

Some note never came and I heard nothing more, so when I was going to travel again two months later, I emailed Tele2 to finally get a clear message. “Your subscription works within the EU, and should not be turned off again” was the reply.

After a day in the EU country Romania, my internet stopped working. When I contacted support again, it was the same troubleshooting process, before they again crawled to the cross.

The support person revealed that I was not alone in the problem. Over 5,000 customers were in the same situation, and Tele2 had only realized this two days earlier. Two days – even though I had raised the issue two months earlier.

One could blame the human factor. But since I had spoken to five different employees at different times, I think the explanation is bigger than that. It is about a system error with Tele2’s support. And what’s worse – after many emails from disgruntled PC for All readers, I think the problem is wider than that.

Few managers seem to realize that a customer service representative is the company’s ears to the customers. In addition to solving the customer’s problems, he has a unique opportunity to catch dissatisfaction and report what is not working. This can do wonders for the company.

A couple of years ago I interviewed a manager who told me that he loved unhappy customers. Correctly used complaints can help a company to improve, but then it is required that all employees sound the alarm if something goes wrong. Working in this way with continuous improvement is sometimes called the Toyota model, and for it to work, everyone needs to be encouraged to act in the long term. Not just putting out temporary fires.

I wish more managers would dare to think the same way. By capturing customer dissatisfaction, problems can be solved much earlier. For example, Tele2 had discovered that they were in breach of the EU’s roaming rules two months earlier.

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