Before arriving in any country we spend considerable time looking at the mobile data situation to make sure we get the best value for money and best coverage. Part of the process is reading reviews on sites like ours, wikipedia and TripAdvisor. Arriving in a country we head out to find the closest best deal for one, two or even five mobile sims.
We run our business on data. Using the data email, Facetime, Skype, Viber, hangout and most importantly publish images and video on the move. Between the five of us we have many mobile data devices and occasionally purchase 7 or more sims data and connection charges are suitable. We only use phone credit to call or SMS each other within the country for safety and day to day communication. We don’t care much for phone credit its data bandwidth were after.
After reading the reviews we decided on Orange or SFR to be our carrier in France. Since Orange had a store closer to us in Toulouse we brought two prepaid sims from them. We initially talked to a lady in the store who spoke some english and found out the pricing and requirements needed to purchase a sim. We returned later with passports and purchased 2 sims at 9.99 EUR each and added a data pack of 30 EUR to each giving us a total of 4Gb of data between the two sims. The gentleman in Toulouse who served us was friendly, professional and spoke enough English to make the transaction pain free.
Although we weren’t expecting pain free. Numerous reviews referred to Orange.fr as being the largest mobile carrier in France with a system that was overly complicated and very poor customer service. So finding our experience in Toulouse to be pleasant and efficient was a positive sign. We looked forward to similar experience dealing with Orange during our stay in France.
But the trouble started early. One regular operation we perform is checking data usage. All carriers we’ve used so far have simple SMS or call back system to inform us of the data used and the amount remaining. Not so with Orange.fr, we did an extensive web search and even translated numerous pages on the Orange.fr website looking for the solution. Finally deciding to visit another orange store and ask one of their sales and tech staff that very question. How do we find out how much data we’ve used? Seemed like an easy enough question just walk into a store and ask, use google translate if needed.
The first chance we had to talk to someone about this was in Moissac where I found an Orange reseller who spoke a little English. She didn’t seem to know how to recall our data usage and after playing with the #123# dialup interface for a while said she was sorry but it didn’t seem to be an option to display our usage. So not knowing when our data might run out we brought a data recharge. She suggested a Let’s Go recharge as it provided 2GB of data for only 20 EUR which seemed like a reasonable price for phone data. Later we tried to recharge using the pin number supplied but received and error message.
Thinking we would have more luck in a larger city. We waited until arriving in Paris to find a large Orange shop front similar to the one in Toulouse. Confident that the secret to monitoring data usage could be gleaned from Orange directly and assuming we had purchased the wrong recharge pack in Moissac, believed that this could be remedied in Paris also. Perhaps either a refund or exchange for the correct recharge product minus a few EUR to purchase an equivalent recharge.
But how wrong were we. Not only did we get either of these issue attended to I left the Orange.fr store in the 4 Temp Mall, Le Defense feeling totally belittled and rudely palmed off by the staff. Initially the conversation started well. Admittedly the gentleman at the door didn’t speak any english and our communication was slightly difficult but he appeared to understand my desire to determine data usage on my phone and showed me several steps in the #123# utility that appeared to show data usage. Great so I proceeded to the next question about the Let’s Go Recharge purchased in Moissac. Straight way he indicated that this credit was for modems and tabLet’s. He tried to recharge my phone using the pin and received the same error message. So I asked if I could use the credit on my tablet or convert it to a recharge suitable for my phone. He responded by booking me in to see a customer services rep.
Shortly an attractive dark lady arrived who spoke reasonable English and we proceeded to talk about the options. Since the data on my phone is more important we discussed phone data and she indicated that a 2GB phone recharge would be 30 EUR but for 20 EUR a 1GB recharge was available. So I asked if we could check my current data usage to see if getting 2GB would be advisable or would 1GB suffice for the remained of our time in France.
Initially we looked at phone credit and I explained how phone credit wasn’t important as we both have Orange.fr sims. So calls between our phones are free. We don’t ring outside of France or make calls to other numbers so our phone credit hardly changes. Instead we use Facetime, Skype etc. She then informed me that I couldn’t use Facetime or Skype with Orange.fr prepaid but sometimes Viber worked. I was surprised by this as only two days previously we had had a long conversation with a family member in Australia on Facetime whilst driving in country France. But it wasn’t my aim to educate this woman so I proceeded to run through the steps the previous gentleman had showed me to retrieve the data remaining on the phone.
A little uncertain of the french instructions I asked her to translate several menu items for me. After the second translation she abruptly logged out of the terminal and left to talk to the gentleman I’d spoken to earlier. Not knowing why she left I continued to navigate the unintuitive #123# menu system eventually landing on the page I’d been shown earlier. It showed a number of 1.11 Gb.
When she returned I attempted to ask whether this number was actual data used or data remaining. Her response was that she could “spend all night giving me training on the system. But could I tell her what product I want to purchase?” I tried to explain that I wanted to exchange the Let’s Go voucher for a suitable phone recharge either the 1 GB or 2 GB recharge depending on the amount of data left on the phone. Her response was that their were only the options on her screen. So I asked if she could exchange the Let’s Go recharge or refund it. She very off handedly said she could do both either.
Wanting to get out of the store and away from this obnoxious woman as quickly as possible I asked for a refund. She abruptly logged out again walk to the previous gentleman said something to him and pointed me in his direction telling me he would make the refund and left.
I proffered the ticket to him. He in return indicated that he couldn’t refund the ticket and that I’d have to purchase a new data sim and use the recharge with that sim. I put the ticket back in my wallet and walked away. Realising I’d just I’ve been given the deliberate run around by an employee who’s job description probably includes customer service representative or représentant du service à la clientèle. A phrase synonymous with helping clients and customers not fobbing them off.
In the past seven months we have dealt with telcos all over Asia but this is the first time an employee or agent has looked down their nose at me as if dealing with an inferior species. It seems the reviews online had been correct about Orange’s Customer service. I don’t believe I’ll be suggesting Orange.fr to anyone traveling in France or the readers of this blog.
Looking back over the conversation I realise even simple common courtesy like saying “excuse me I’m just going to talk to my college” or “I won’t be a moment” were missing from our exchange. I’m sure Oranges customer service training must have highlighted the need to be respectful and courteous in all dealing with customers. Why risk customer good will. You never know who that customer may be or how they will act. Why risk the businesses reputation all for the sake of a few polite words and gestures. Who knows what effect an interaction could have on the business long term. Or how may people will read this post over the next 10 years.