Hall of Fame: Why I Am Willing To Buy From And Recommend Tesco Mobile

Honouring One’s Word v Keeping One’s Word

As a ‘graduate’ of Landmark Education I came across many valuable distinctions.  One of the most powerful of these distinctions is this one: honouring one’s word. Notice, that honouring one’s word is not keeping one’s word.

When one operates from a stand of ‘honouring one’s word’ then one cleans up the mess that occurs or is likely to occur when one does not keep one’s word.  And one does so gladly as one values the other, values the relationship, and values one’s word as one’s self.

Tesco Mobile Honours Its Word After Having Not Kept It

What has this to do with Tesco Mobile?  You may remember that it occurred to me that Tesco Mobile had not treated me fairly given the situation I found myself in. And the way that I had sought to work with Tesco Mobile to come to an amicable resolution – one that was fair and worked for both Tesco Mobile and myself.  I wrote up my experience in the following post: Why I Will Never Buy Anything From Tesco Mobile Again!

Several days after writing the last post, a helpful chap (Niky McBride) from Tesco Mobile contacted me.  We spoke on the phone.  And the phone call ended with Mr McBride promising to look into the situation and find am amicable solution for all.

I had my doubts.  One part of me expected that Mr McBride would come back and tell me that he had looked into the corporate policy and he could not help me. The other part of me expected that the best offer would be along the following lines: you can terminate the contract by paying up the remaining amount on the cost of the iPhone and this months airtime-data fee.

Instead I received the following offer:

Dear Mr Iqbal

Thank you for your time over the phone today.

As discussed, we are unable to offer tethering on iPhone at present. As a resolution to the matter, we’re happy to:

1. Allow you to return the handset so we can cancel your contract without Early Termination Charges
2. Allow you to pay for the handset so you can keep this and use it on another network that supports tethering

Please let me know which course of action you would prefer so we can bring this matter to a resolution for you.

Kind regards,

Niky McBride (Mr)
Customer Service Executive
Tesco Telecoms

After consideration, I chose to return the handset and cancel the contract.  In part, this was because I wanted to see what my experience would be like if I did decide to return the handset.  Would it be easy or difficult?  Would I find that despite Mr McBride’s promise, I would find that the right arm didn’t know what the left arm was doing. And so I would find myself charged for cancelling the contract and returning the phone.

The return process turned out to be remarkably easy.  I was sent clear-helpful instructions on how to go about returning the iPhone. And on the appointed day-time, the courier turned up to pick up the iPhone.

Somewhat later, I got an email informing me that I would be charged something like £800+  for the early termination of the contract.  So that which I had envisaged had come true: the right arm did not know what the left arm was doing!  Just as I was about to consider my options, I found myself disarmed with the following email:

Dear Mr Iqbal

I am writing to prevent any concern, as there has been a charge applied to your Tesco Mobile account for the iPhone handset you returned. Please however, rest assured that we’ve asked for this balance to be cleared so you will not be charged.

This email is confirmation that you will not be charged.

Kind regards,

Niky McBride (Mr)
Customer Service Executive
Tesco Telecoms

Did Mr McBride live up to his promise?  Did he keep his word?  Here is an extract from the email that I wrote:

Dear Mr McBride,

I have just received my credit card statement and find that you have been true to your word …. I have not been charged by Tesco Mobile.

….. I thank you for all that you have done on my behalf. I find myself wondering what kind of world you-I would find ourselves living in if enough of us were to show up and operate in this world in the way that you have done – in helping me come to an amicable-just resolution……

It occurs to me that a great way for me to repay you is to thank you through a follow up post. You have done right by me. And now it is my turn to do right by you, and Tesco Mobile. If you are in a position to email me a photo of yourself, your team leader, or your team then please do so, and I will include it in the post……

At your service / with my love and gratitude

Does Tesco Mobile Now Offer Tethering On The iPhone?

Allow me to close out this post by dealing with the issue of tethering on the iPhone. Why?  It was the lack of tethering that drove me to look to end my relationship with Tesco Mobile.

Two readers have written to let me know that Tesco Mobile is now offering tethering.  I am assuming that this means that Tesco Mobile is now offering tethering on the iPhone; they were already offering tethering on other phones including my daughters £60 Samsung phone which made me see red as I had paid £660 for the iPhone 5s 32GB and could not get tethering when I needed it for work.

I cannot say whether Tesco Mobile is or is not offering tethering with the iPhone.  My recommendation is to check this before you enter into a contract.  Or to check it out as soon as you receive your iPhone. Why?  Because you have 14 days to return your phone and cancel the contract.  I believe this is a legal requirement when buying stuff via the internet.

What I can say is this: I find myself willing to buy from and recommend Tesco Mobile.  Why? Because Tesco Mobile, through Mr McBride, honoured its word to me as a customer. And that is all that I ask of any person-organisation that I do business with: honour your word.

Why I Will Never Buy Anything From Tesco Mobile Again!

I Become a Tesco Mobile Customer in Dec 2013

On the 5th December 2013 I signed up (online) for an iPhone 5s and took out a 24 month contract with Tesco Mobile.  If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I am a customer and advocate of giffgaff. So why did I, in addition to continuing as a giffgaff customer, also became a Tesco Mobile customer?

The need to buy a second phone, and have a second phone number, arose for business reasons.  The decision to go with Tesco Mobile was based to a large degree on the Nunwood placing Tesco Mobile at no 13 in it’s 2013 Customer Experience rankings.  You can read my post on those rankings here.

About a week after (around the 12th December) the phone had arrived and I activated it.  It worked fine. I was happy with the choice I had made and got busy with organising Christmas as for once we were not travelling but staying home.

I Hit An Important Snag This Week: Vital Functionality is Not There

This week, on Monday, I was in a business meeting and needed access to the internet to access documents in the cloud. So I turned to my iPhone (as I had done for the last three years or so) to turn on the personal hotspot and use that to enable my laptop to connect to the Internet. To my surprise and disbelief I couldn’t find the functionality on the iPhone.

During Tuesday I checked on the internet and talked with some people.  They couldn’t find the personal hotspot functionality on my iPhone 5s -yet it was on their iPhones! So I rang Tesco Mobile for help.  How helpful were the folks?

Technical Support Showed Up as Honest and Helpful

The chap in Tesco Mobile’s Technical Support was great. I told him of my issue, he got it, he sympathised. He told me that whilst the personal hotspot/tethering functionality worked on other phones it didn’t on Apple iPhones. Why? Because Tesco Mobile has not struck up a suitable agreement with Apple.  When I shared the impact of this lack of functionality, he was great. He told me he understood. That this issue has been raised by other iPhone customers. And that he raised the issue within Tesco Mobile.  Unfortunately, management has decided not to do anything about it. By the time I ended the phone call I got his frustration, his disappointment at lack of suitable action by Tesco Mobile’s management, and his desire to do his best for customers like me.

Customer Services Quotes Policy and Points The Finger At Me

After taking time to consider my options given that I need that personal hotspot/tethering functionality I rang Tesco Mobile’s Customer Service team.  The woman who responded to my call was not great.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: I need the personal hotspot/tethering functionality. This week I found that it was not present on my iPhone 5s when I really needed it. I talked to Technical Support and they told me it is not active because Tesco Mobile has not come to a suitable agreement with Apple.  I need your help to get this issue sorted out.

Call Centre Agent: There is nothing I can do that functionality is simply not there.  It is not there for Apple products. It is there for other products.

Me: I had an iPhone (for 2- 3 years) previously through my employer on the O2 network, the personal hotspot/tethering worked fine. I used it all the time when I was travelling. I travel a lot for business and I really need that functionality. If I had known that this functionality is not present on the iPhone with Tesco Mobile then I would never have bought it. What can you do to help me with this issue?

Call Centre Agent: You had 14 days from the day of the contract to try out the iPhone, send it back and cancel your contract.  You didn’t do that. I can’t help you.

Me: I need help with my issue, I don’t need you or anyone else to quote the contract at me.  The fact is that I didn’t need the personal hotspot/tethering functionality until this week. And it is only this week that I became aware of it. Can you give me dongle that I can plug into my laptop and the data usage comes out of my existing contract?  That would sort out the issue.

Call Centre Agent: we are a mobile company we don’t do dongles. There is nothing I can do.

Me: My contract with Tesco Mobile consists of two parts, the phone and the monthly tariff for calls and data.  I’d like to repay, today, in full the outstanding payments for the phone and cancel the contract.  That way you are not out of pocket as I have repaid the cost of the phone. And I can go to another provider who does provide the functionality I need. Can I do that?

Call-Centre Agent: Yes, you are on the anytime upgrade plan. You should be able to do that.

Me: Can you please look into that right now and let me know what it will cost for me to end this contract?

Call-Centre Agent: I’ve looked into. If you want to terminate the contract then you have to pay off the entire contract. That comes to £610 for the iPhone and another £300 for the tariff.

Me: Thank you.

My Take on Tesco Mobile and It’s Orientation Towards Its Customers

Everything flows from being. It occurs to me that the being of Tesco Mobile is anything but customer-centric.  It is selfish. It is mean. It is extractive. It is dishonest.  What leads me to make this statement?

Folks in Tesco Mobile know that the Apple line of products is missing the personal hotspot/tethering functionality. Yet they have chosen to hide this information from those who search for and look at iPhones: nowhere on the website (product page, help and support pages, purchase process pages) have I found anything that informs prospective customers – so that any purchases made are made with open eyes.

Tesco Mobile is the source of my problem and when I brought the problem to Tesco Mobile’s attention, policy was quoted, and the finger of blame was pointed at me. What is my wrong doing? Assuming that because my last iPhone (with 02) had the personal hotspot/tethering functionality then the same functionality would be present on Tesco Mobile. Please note that Tesco Mobile is a MVNO that uses the 02 network.

All through my conversation with the call-centre agent I was the one suggesting ways of moving forward- the dongle idea, terminating the contract – no helpful ideas were put forward by the call-centre agent, her attitude was one of indifference (at best)

I offered Tesco Mobile a fair route to solving the problem – one that would have paid them back for the cost of the mobile phone in full, and the tariff charges to date.  Tesco Mobile didn’t go for that. Tesco Mobile insisted in charging me for the phone (which is fair) and for the whole 24 months of tariff charges.  Which, in my eyes, amounts:

  • to letting me down by not providing the functionality that other networks do provide;
  • causing me extra work in that I am faced with the work of finding and switching to another provider; and
  • insisting on robbing me by charging me for 22 months of a service (phone calls, texts, data) that they will not be providing and I will not be using.

Summing Up

As I think of Tesco Mobile, the phrase “liar, thieves and cheats” come to mind.  Put differently, it occurs to be that Tesco Mobile’s fundamental mode of being is that of a liar, a thief, a cheat. My experience suggests that liar-thieves-cheats don’t easily change their ways. Which is why I will never buy anything from Tesco Mobile again.

I recommend that you think twice before becoming a customer of Tesco Mobile especially if the phone that you intend to use is an Apple iPhone!

Afterword / Update

What happened when this post got retweeted on Twitter? You can find out by clicking here.


giffgaff: where customers are ‘members’ who sit at the heart of the organisation

What makes giffgaff special – worth learning from?

Some customers love giffgaff so much that they are willing to have giffgaff tattooed on them.  If this does happen then it puts giffgaff in the same league as Harley Davidson and Apple – brands that have fans not just customers.   giffgaff won the Marketing Society’s 2011 best new brand award . And in the customer management community some hail giffgaff as representing the future of customer service.  So what makes giffgaff special – different from the pack?

First let me tell you a little bit about giffgaff.  Vodafone, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, 3 – are the main brands that dominate the UK mobile telecoms industry.  giffgaff is an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) that launched towards the end of 2009 and piggybacks on the O2 network.  And in that sense giffgaff is rather like Virgin Mobile (the first commercially successful MVNO in the UK) and say Tesco Mobile.

So what makes giffgaff special?  It is not one thing, one ingredient, it is the entire recipe – the whole business model and organisational design.  In a way it is like the way that Dell (at the start) rethought the PC industry or Ryanair / Easyjet / Southwest Airlines rethought the airline travel industry.  Let’s start with customers.  It would not be too much of a stretch to say that giffgaff does not have customers – at least not in the traditional sense of customers simply as consumers.  giffgaff has members.  Customers are seen as members who are involved in, contribute to and carry out an array of organisational tasks: provide ideas, get involved in new product development, recruiting new members, serving other members (‘customer services’)……  Many pundits talk about putting customers at the heart of the organisation yet few organisations do that – giffgaff is an exception.  There is a lot of talk about transparency, authenticity, mutuality, collaboration and co-creation yet few organisation do that – giffgaff is an exception.  Finally, giffgaff is keenly focussed on its core customer segment (those looking for a great SIM only deal) and the associated value proposition (cheap calls, texts, internet).  If you want to find out more about giffgaff then I suggest you listen to Tom Rainsford, Head of Brand and Proposition, giffgaff.   For the rest of the post I simply wish to share with you my experience of dealing with giffgaff and why I am an advocate.

My giffgaff customer experience

To sign up with giffgaff you have to head over to their website as giffgaff is an internet only operation: there are no retail stores to visit nor call centres to ring.  The first thing that I noticed was that it was easy for me to sign-up and request a SIM: the task was prominently signposted on the webpage and the task was easy as I only had to supply my name, email and address – five fields in total.

Second, I noticed that giffgaff is great value for people like me – people who already have a phone and are happy to keep using that phone.   On Orange, as a pay as you go customer, I had been paying 20p+ a minute and 10p for text messages.  With giffgaff I would be paying only 8p a minutes for phone calls and 4p a text.

Third, despite the fact that I knew absolutely nothing on phone unlocking, all the information that I needed to get my phone unlocked was on the website.  Better still upon entering the make and phone model the giffgaff website provided a list of companies that are able to unlock my phone.  And each of these companies was rated so I could just turn to the best rated one. 

Within two days I received the SIM card and it was easy to register my SIM card: I simply logged into my giffgaff account, entered a six digit code and then purchased a £10 goody bag that bought me 250 free minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited internet.  Within 30 minutes my SIM was activated and I was making calls and surfing the internet.  The process could not have been easier.

In the process of purchasing the goody bag I noticed that the giffgaff website had an automated top-up facility.  I simply had to activate and specify how much I wanted my top up to be and when the balance on my account hit a low of £3 giffgaff would automatically top-up my account thus making sure that I was never in a position where I had run out of credit and thus could not use my phone.  This grabbed my attention because that was one of the tasks that I hated doing on Orange: topping up my phone and the phones belonging to my two sons.  I still cannot believe how such a small feature delivers such a huge benefit to me: always being able to use my phone and giffgaff doing the work behind the scene.

Whilst I was using the phone I got more suprises in the form of useful information: the giffgaff network regularly displays how many minutes I have left if I have bought a gift pack (a bundled package that expires at the end of 30 days).  If I have bought ordinary minutes then giffgaff lets me know how much credit I have left at the end of calls.  Finally, when I make calls to other giffgaff phones then the giffgaff network automatically informs me that the call was free.  This is the kind of information that I had yearned for and never got from my previous provider.  And it got me thinking: if giffgaff can do this then why did my old provider not do this?

About two weeks later I got another pleasant surprise: an email from giffgaff letting me know that they were sending me an additional SIM card that I could give to a friend.  And on the same day it arrived.  When I opened up the envelope I noticed that I was not simply being asked to get a new customer for giffgaff.  giffgaff had thought through the value exchange: once the SIM was activated then the person using that new SIM would be credited with £5 and so would I.  So I was being rewarded for my effort.  How could I refuse?  My wife switched over from Orange to giffgaff.  And she is delighted with the money that she is saving and how easy it is for her to manage her mobile account/relationship with giffgaff.

At the end of the month I was able to view an analysis of my phone usage via the giffgaff statement.  This took me by surprise because on Orange I simply got a list of phone calls I made chronologically.  On the giffgaff site I got that and I got a bar chart type analysis which I found useful – it helped me to figure out what I had been doing with my phone.  I was surprised and delighted by the thoughtfulness of it: giffgaff is providing me with information and tools that help me to be informed and make better decisions. 

Interestingly enough giffgaff beat me to that as well.  Shortly after this experience I got an email from giffgaff telling me that they had done an analysis on my usage and had a recommendation for me.  So I logged on the website and accessed that recommendation.  The recommendation itself was no surprise but the fact that giffgaff was doing this was and is a delight.  It was something that I had wanted from my previous provider and yet was never able to get.  As a consultant I had advised a major mobile telco to implement this practice, as this telco wanted to improve the customer experience, yet management refused because it would have an adverse impact on revenues and profits because most customers were on tariffs that were too high and costly for them.

Now this might not sound like a big thing and yet it is to me: the language that giffgaff use is a human one and that really connects with me.  The other day I got a SMS message which delighted me both because it was unexpected and because of its simplicity.  Here it is “Thanks for helping to grow giffgaff, you’ve earned ….so far. For more information and to check your recommended plan see My giffgaff at giffgaff.com, cheers!”  I have recommended more than once the companies and marketers use a human language that speaks to connects with customers – that is something that giffgaff is doing rather well.

Finally, I recently took my phone to France and got another pleasant surprise.  On landing the mobile connected to a French network and up came useful information from giffgaff.  I cannot remember the exact words yet the message was clear: we don’t want you to have any unpleasant surprises so lets make clear how much your mobile calls are going to cost.  I was told that I would be charged 38p per minute if I was making the calls and 15p per minute if I was receiving calls.  This is the kind of honest, proactive, information that I have always sought and never got from previous suppliers (mobile networks).

Why am I a giffgaff advocate?

I am adding giffgaff to the list of companies I recommend.  Why?  Simply because they have made my life easier by taking hassle out of it (e.g. automating topping up), provide me with useful information (how much credit I have left, how many minutes I have left, how much calls are going to cost…), talk to me in a human way (the simple friendly informal language), provide more value for money (cheaper calls, texts, internet..), reward me for the contribution that I make to giffgaff and the call quality / network coverage is as good as that provided by my previous supplier (Orange).  Finally, I prefer being called/treated as a ‘member’ rather than a ‘target’, ‘consumer’ or even ‘customer’.  How about you?