Every now and then I like to have a bit of a rant. Mainly to let off a bit of steam. Today is one of those days. It involves a phone call with a mobile phone company that sounds similar to Birgin Media. This is how the conversation went.
CALL AGENT (CA): Hello sir, you’re speaking to xxxxx (I can’t remember what their name was), how can I help you today?
ME: Hi, I have a loan for my last mobile phone that I’d like to clear, can I do that please?
CA: Sure, can I take your mobile number for the account please?
ME: Yes it’s the number I’m calling from.
CA: And that is?
ME: 07xxx xxxxxx.
CA: Okay thank you, just having a look at your account. Yes you have an outstanding loan of £24.
ME: Okay, can I pay that off please? It’s showing up on my credit report so I’d like to clear it.
CA: Sure I just need to ask some security questions, can you give me your date of birth please?
ME: Okay, it’s xx/xx/xxxx
CA: Thank you and can you give me the 1st, 4th, and 6th characters of your password?
ME: Oh, erm, I don’t know. Maybe, ‘A’, ‘T’, and ‘D’?
CA: No that didn’t work.
ME: Hmm, maybe ‘2’, ‘2’, and ‘C’?
CA: No that’s not right either.
ME: Is there a reminder or something? I have lots of passwords for lots of different things.
CA: It’s a series of 6 numbers.
ME: Oh okay, then ‘2’, ‘4’ and ‘6’.
CA: That has worked. We need to set up another password on your account, can you give me another one?
ME: Right… okay how about… xxxxxxx (that’s the not the actual password I gave in case you were wondering…)
CA: Thanks. And can I take your email address?
ME: Yes… it’s firstname.lastname@example.org
CA: Thank you. Okay I’m going to pass you over to the team who look after loans.
ME: Okay thanks.
At this point I waited for a few minutes on hold before another identical sounding person answered the phone.
CA: Hello how can I help you today?
ME: I have a loan for my old mobile that I’d like to finish paying off.
CA: Okay, what is the mobile number for the account?
ME: It’s 07xxx xxxxxx.
CA: Thanks. I need to ask some security questions, can you tell me your date of birth?
ME: Seriously? I just answered a load of security questions.
CA: Yes, I’m sorry sir, I need to ask them again.
ME: (Big sigh) Okay fine. It’s xx/xx/xxxx
CA: Okay can I take the 2nd, 4th, and 6th characters of your password.
ME: Is that the old password or the new one?
CA: I can’t tell you sir.
ME: (Another heavy sigh). Okay, well I think the 2nd character is ‘7’. And the 4th is ‘4’, and the-
CA: I’m sorry sir the 4th character is?
ME: Is ‘4’.
CA: Yes I need the 4th character.
ME: The 4th character is ‘4’. The number ‘4’.
CA: Okay and the sixth character?
CA: Yes I need the 6th character.
ME: The 6th character is ‘6’. The number ‘6’. ‘S’, ‘I’, ‘X’. ‘6’.
CA: That didn’t work. Can you tell me the 2nd, 4th and 6th characters of your password again?
ME: Oh my god.
CA: Sorry sir I need the 2nd, 4th, and-
ME: Yes, yes, it should be ‘7’, ‘4,’ and ‘6’.
CA: Okay… that worked. Now we need to set up a new password.
ME: But I just set up a new password with the last person.
CA: Yes we need to do it again I’m afraid.
ME: (More heavy sighs). Okay. Okay. It’s going to be: xxxxxxx
CA: Thank you and what is your email address.
CA: Okay you have a loan of £24 on your account, would you like to pay that off by card?
I then proceeded to tell them all my card details. I’m not sure why they needed that as they already have all my bank details but no matter.
CA: Thank you sir, I’m just putting that through now. (Waits a few moments.) Hmm it doesn’t seem to be working. Can I have your address please?
ME: Yes it’s xxxxxxx, in the town of xxxxxxx, and the post code is xxxx xxx.
CA: Hmm that’s not what we have on our system. It’s not matching up with the bank details.
ME: Oh it’s because I moved house last year. I did tell Birgin Media my new address when I moved. And you’ve been sending letters to me so you must have it.
CA: Yes unfortunately the credit account the loan is on has a different address on it.
ME: I see. I’m sorry why do you need my address to take a payment? They don’t ask my address in the supermarket. I just want to pay off the loan.
CA: The bank won’t accept it without the address. I can send an email to you with a form to fill in to change your address.
ME: Seriously? I have to fill in a form to change my address. Really?
CA: Yes, shall I send you the email?
ME: This is ridiculous. And then I’ll need to call up again?
CA: Yes that is correct.
By this point I was getting severely pissed off. I thought about my phone and how crappy the signal is around where I live. And I thought, actually, I can get a cheaper tariff elsewhere, I only really use data these days anyway, I hardly make any texts or calls. So I decide, fuck it, I’m going to cancel.
CA: Do you want me to send you the email?
ME: Actually no, I’m going to cancel.
ME: Yes. The service is terrible. The signal is terrible. I don’t want to be on Birgin Media anymore.
CA: I’m sorry to hear that sir, shall I pass you through to our cancellations team?
Funnily enough, I wasn’t on hold very long this time.
CA: Hello sir, how can I help you today?
ME: Yes I’d like to cancel my mobile phone contract and pay off the remaining loan on my old phone.
CA: Okay, first I just need to take some details…
ME: Are you for real? I gave my details twice already. I want to cancel.
CA: Yes I’m sorry sir but we need to ask some security questions…
Unbe-fucking-lievable I was thinking. I wanted to hang up, but I knew that if I hung up I would just have to go through the whole process again. So I took a deep breath, and through gritted teeth I went through my details. Again.
CA: Thank you sir. Now, may I ask why you want to cancel?
ME: Terrible service and terrible signal.
CA: Oh dear, can I ask what your postcode is so I can check if there are any faults in your area?
ME: It’s xxxx xxx.
CA: Ah well it seems there is a fault in your area and it will be fixed soon.
ME: The signal has been patchy for the last year. So that means it’s taken you over a year to fix a fault. Another reason to cancel.
CA: I’m sorry to hear that sir. Okay, it seems you have an outstanding loan for your phone, would you like to pay that off?
ME: Yes but your system probably won’t let you, the address is an old one.
CA: Okay can you tell me your address?
I proceeded to tell them my address and gave them my card details and, lo and behold, this time it works! It turns out I don’t have to fill in a form after all. The money comes straight out of my account and the loan is cleared. Halle-fucking-lujah.
CA: Okay, I’m just processing the cancellation.
ME: Great thanks.
For some reason this took forever. I waited patiently. I wonder if they just make you wait to see if you’ll hang up or your line will cut out or something, and then they won’t have to process the cancellation perhaps. But maybe I’m just being cynical.
CA: Sir, your cancellation has been put through. You’ll stay on the network for the next 30 days after which your sim card will change to pay-as-you-go.
ME: Oh. It’s not really going to be cancelled then is it?
CA: I can set it up to cancel completely after 30 days?
ME: No it’s fine, I’ll just throw the sim card away. Can I get the PAC code so I can transfer my number to another phone?
CA: Yes, do you have a pen and paper?
ME: Can’t you just text or email it to me?
CA: Yes I can text it to you.
ME: Seems like that would be a much easier option than pen and paper.
CA: (Pretend laughing) Yes, yes. I will send you a text.
ME Okay thanks. Bye.
CA: Have a good day sir.
I hang up the phone and breathe a big sigh of relief. There were so many ways my call could have been easier. So here are some suggestions for Birgin Media:
- Don’t make me ask the same security questions over and over again every time I speak to a new call agent.
- Don’t make me answer the security questions at all – why do I need to answer security questions if all I want to do is pay off the remaining balance of a loan? I don’t get asked security questions when I pay for my shopping at the supermarket. Put it this way, I’m not going to mind if some fraudster came along and paid off my loan for me. Only ask me security questions if they absolutely need to be asked.
- If I tell you I’m calling from the phone number for the account, don’t make me spell out the phone number for you.
- If you’re going to give me the reminder of my password anyway, maybe give me that first before I spend 5 minutes racking my brains to try and think what it might be.
- If I call to give you new address details for my mobile account, perhaps you should update them for the loan account at the same time? Or ask me if I want to do that too? How am I supposed to know that there is a separate credit account?
- I don’t want to fill in a form to change my address details – sort them out then and there – you’ve asked the security questions (three times), sort it out on the phone.
- Don’t tell me something isn’t possible when another call agent can handle the request perfectly fine. Train up your call agents properly.
- Don’t make me set up a new password and then use the old one anyway.
- Don’t tell me the reason the signal is patchy in my area is from a fault that will be fixed when the signal has been patchy for over a year.
- Don’t make me wait while you process the cancellation. There should be a button you can press called ‘Cancel’. It should be very simple.
- Don’t tell me you’re cancelling my sim card and that you’re putting me onto pay-as-you-go. That’s not really cancelling is it?
- Don’t make me ask for the PAC code when I want to cancel my account. And don’t suggest I write it down with pen and paper when there are much more convenient modern solutions which avoid human error. Ie, text or email.
Okay that’s about it. Rant over. I feel much better now.
I probably wouldn’t actually have cancelled my relationship with Birgin Media if they hadn’t been so inept at dealing with my original query, but there you go.
Actually, this wasn’t so bad really, I remember 5 or 6 years ago when I tried to cancel a contract with another mobile phone company (the name of the company rhymes with Bree), I was on the phone for a good 45 minutes while they tried repeatedly to convince me not to cancel. I remember I even started swearing on that call because they didn’t seem to be listening to me – I’m pretty sure I told them I wanted to cancel the contract about 10 times before they finally did it.
A few years back the government got involved after one case went viral. A man named Gavin Hackwood was trying to cancel his Sky account because he’d found a cheaper option elsewhere, and the operator made him wait 90 minutes to cancel his contract while she went through ‘the process’. You can read about it here. The problem with these calls is that you can’t just hang up, if you do you then they’ve won – you haven’t cancelled your contract. Fortunately things are better today, but even so, the service I received today was still awful.
Anyway, I hope a little bit of schadenfreude has brightened up your day!