Nine and a half weeks in Vo­da­hell

Mail & Guardian - - Comment & Analysis - Shaun de Waal

For a com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany, Vo­da­com is ex­cep­tion­ally bad at com­mu­ni­cat­ing.

Try to get a real person, who can ac­tu­ally explain some­thing, when you have phoned the line Vo­da­com hi­lar­i­ously calls “cus­tomer care”. You’re likely to get lost in a thicket of ro­bot voices in­ton­ing their pre­re­corded mes­sages, en­join­ing you to press this number or that number — un­til you get to the pre­re­corded cul-de-sac, a mes­sage telling you to check your bal­ances and be pa­tient.

That’s what one needs: pa­tience. If I was more pa­tient, I wouldn’t be so irked that it has taken nine-and-ahalf weeks (and count­ing) to get from the sales­per­son’s prom­ises to the mo­ment of ac­tual switch-on. Liv­ing in hope, as one does, I keep imag­in­ing it’s about to be sorted out in just a day or two. But hope is be­gin­ning to fade.

I would can­cel the con­tract, ex­cept I can’t get through to any­one to do that.

Silly me — I fell for the sales pitch. Some­one from Fi­bre SA, which seems to be mar­ket­ing fi­bre to South Africa (I would check that fact on­line if I was on­line), called me up, out of the blue, to of­fer a fi­bre con­tract. He said he would send a sales­per­son (a real hu­man!), who duly ar­rived. I ex­plained my prob­lems with the other fi­bre com­pa­nies I had tried (but never got fur­ther than the bot) and was told by this nice young sales­per­son not to worry: he would sort it all out. Give him two weeks.

Noth­ing hap­pened for three weeks, then four. I tried call­ing the sales­per­son. No an­swer. This number didn’t even seem to be his any more. Even­tu­ally I got through to Vo­da­com Fi­bre’s tech de­part­ment, who were help­ful but seemed un­able to get ei­ther Vo­da­com or Vu­ma­tel, which is in charge of the phys­i­cal in­fras­truc­ture, to move with any de­gree of swift­ness.

Vu­ma­tel blames Vo­da­com and Vo­da­com blames Vu­ma­tel. It’s like they’re locked in an em­brace of per­pet­ual near-im­mo­bil­ity, con­stantly stum­bling over each other’s feet.

Six weeks af­ter the sales­per­son’s visit, Vu­ma­tel fi­nally came to up­grade the box that was in­stalled al­ready. All I had to do was let Vo­da­com know and they would be along with the router — and all my dreams would come true.

That was three weeks ago. This week, Fi­bre SA phoned to see how it was go­ing. I had to say it wasn’t go­ing at all. The young man apol­o­gised and said he would “es­ca­late” the matter. Five min­utes later, he called back to say he had spo­ken to his man­ager and, very sorry, he couldn’t do any­thing at all.

So it’s back to my daily round of try­ing to call Vo­da­com.

Yes­ter­day, as in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, they were hav­ing “out­ages”, so couldn’t an­swer the phone. Out­ages? No elec­tric­ity? Do they then shut down com­pletely, or what? I do pity the cus­tomer with a Vo­da­com phone. Must be hell.

I would call Vo­da­com for com­ment on this col­umn, but that would prob­a­bly take years.

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