17 Jul 2008
The web offers companies a way to improve the customer experience. They can provide interactive services 24/7 with all the work being done by the customers themselves.
The trouble is, when things don't go quite as planned, the result is not a better customer experience, but a seriously pissed-off punter. I know. I'm one.
Years ago I chose France Telecom's Wanadoo as our ISP. We don't use them for that any more, but we retain the account because it's very cheap, some people still insist on sending messages to our old addresses and it's a useful backup when our current ISP, Altitude Telecom, decides that providing an Internet connection is just too much effort. We have a WiMax connection via Altitude and every now and then its servers or its transmitters give a huge gallic shrug and we're cast into net oblivion. Selah.
Wanadoo has since become Orange following the latter's acquisition by France Telecom. Similarly, we had a cellphone account with Itineris - another France Telecom brand that has now become Orange.
That has provided Orange with two opportunities for making me angry, frustrated and aggrieved and it exploits those opportunities with surprising regularity.
The problem is the company's website - orange.fr - slick, flashy, busy and way, way too orange. But it's not the colour that gives me a headache, though it might if I could ever use it long enough.
There are two features on the site that I find useful. One is the ability to download the monthly invoices for the ISP service. I need those invoices for my accounts. The other is the ability to top-up my pay-as-you-go cellphone account.
The two accounts have always required separate logins, which was an annoyance, though more of that later. The real issue is that these invaluable services hardly ever work. When I request an invoice, most times I'm greeted with a message saying that there is a 'technical problem' and that I should try again later. When I see that, I know that 'later' generally means the next day at the earliest. That's highly irritating when I've girded my loins to tackle the accounts that day. I manage to download an invoice on the first attempt perhaps one time in four or five.
As for the cellphone, there are more hoops to jump through - choosing the amount I want to add to the account, giving the authorisation number for the credit card (which means remembering which credit card I've registered on the account). After a while I arrive at the end of the process ... which is usually a message saying there's a 'technical problem' and that I should try again later. Today will mark my third day of trying to add credits for the coming month. It's always like this.
Then I spotted a new link - an option to combine the two accounts so that one has to log in only once. I filled in the form, received a confirmation code via SMS, typed that into the relevant page, hit 'confirm' ... and got the message that there's a 'technical problem' and that I should try again later.
I give up.