When the web doesn’t work, use the phone


A tweet from 3mobilebuzz this morning alerted me to some really sweet deals from mobile operator 3 regarding mobile broadband.

Half-price offers! The one that interests me is the 18-month contract for 3’s USB E160G modem dongle with 5 gigs bandwidth allowance per month for just £7.50 instead of the usual £15.

This is similar to the broadband modem I had on free loan from 3 and 3mobilebuzz earlier this year to try out, and I liked it and 3’s service a lot.

I needed no urging to sign up for this – it’s a very good deal for the price. So I go to 3’s website to buy it online.

That’s when I fell at the first hurdle. Actually, more like a brick wall.

I couldn’t fill in some of the information on the online order form which asked for my address information as it only let me input things like UK postcodes. So I couldn’t enter my address in The Netherlands from two years’ ago.

So I go onto web chat. First attempt failed as the message I got was the service was too busy and to email instead. Email? So much for spontaneity.

I tried again a bit later and got connected via text messaging to a customer service agent.

And here was the brick wall: No, sorry, we can’t accept your order as you haven’t been resident in the UK at a UK address for three years or more.

Excuse me? I said. Surely I cannot be the only UK citizen you’ve dealt with who’s lived abroad for some years and who returned home less than three years ago, and who meets all other criteria, eg, UK bank account, credit cards, etc.

But that was it – I couldn’t be a customer of 3 because I’ve not been living in the UK for at least three years.

A pity, I thought. We’re moving next week; Virgin Media won’t have hooked up cable broadband in our new place yet so having a mobile broadband option would be very useful meanwhile.

So while I was thinking about giving Vodafone a call – they are the people with whom I’ve had my mobile phone contract for the past two years – an email arrived from 3.

“We miss you already,” it said, clearly in reference to my aborted attempt to become a 3 mobile broadband customer.

The email actually intrigued me (it didn’t piss me off like a marketing email from Dell did earlier this month), maybe because of its immediacy and obvious connection to what I’d tried to do on 3’s website a bit earlier.

I decided to call the toll-free number in the email and ask them about this brick wall I encountered on their website.

According to the helpful Heather I spoke to, it turns out that what the online customer service agent should have told me is that I couldn’t do my order online because the process there is geared wholly to would-be customers providing their personal info related to the UK, eg, UK postcodes, etc.

She then should have suggested I call 3 if I do wish to become a customer, and do it all over the phone.

Anyway, in less than three minutes (all these 3s!) on the phone, my contract was approved and I’m expecting the dongle to arrive tomorrow.

So a bit of a disconnect between 3’s e-commerce website for ordering, and the efficient human beings on the end of their sales phone line.

As someone who does just about everything online, it’s an example to me that the real human touch can count most.

My recommendation if you want to deal with 3 – phone them!

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Andy C

    One day, 3 will will DM/IM/email you with details of the offer, having already qualified the lead and checked the red-tape.

    Not sure if I will be alive to see it but still…

  2. neville

    Some companies are already using a wide range of tools to connect with customers, in a way that appeals to those customers.

    It’s when you get people doing the interaction rather than auto-marketing systems like emails that we’ll enjoy deeper relationships with each other. We’re not there yet with more than a handful of companies.

    Lol, Matt!

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