Advantages Cheap tariffs
Disadvantages Customer service, handset
|Coverage & reception|
|Customer service quality|
|Customer service waiting times|
|Tariffs & Charges|
|Accuracy of charges|
|Range of different billing plans|
|Range of services (e.g. voicemail, messaging)|
July the 19th 2006 and I am sat in a hotel lobby in London waiting for a glass of wine and to be checked into my room. I think it's fair to say I wasn't in the best of moods and my phone rings; the young man on the phone tells me he is calling on behalf of the '3' network and has some offers to interest me in. Feeling irritated at receiving a sales call I lay it down to them exactly what phone I want (the newest Sony Ericsson at the time) and that I won't pay over £30 a month for that service. Amazingly enough they agreed and two days later I was the owner of a new phone and contract with what I would now believe to be the worst service provider I have ever come into contact with."Who are 3?"
Hutchinson 3 were founded in 2002 and are a brand of Hutchinson Whampoa (who are also on the BCUK dirty list for contributions towards the Burmese military for those interested). The main selling point for 3 is that they don't just sell phones, they are selling a product that will allow their customers to access a strong and fast Internet connection and make high quality video calls. They also pride themselves on offering customers HSDPA (High-Speed Down-link Packet Access) although this can be accessed on other networks. Possibly something of a contradiction, but 3 also like to pride themselves on their clear pricing for the service they offer. They believe that many companies have too many hidden charges and have recently joined the cause at cutting call costs to other networks and landlines. It is worth mentioning that 3 have not cut their call charges to help fight towards this campaign, no, they simply suggest you use their Skype service"The Handsets"
Quite obviously with 3's mission statement about wanting to offer the best mobile Internet solutions, all the phones they have on offer are very much geared towards the Skype service, messenger and the Internet.I would say the phones they have on offer are mostly bland and show a very small amount of what is on the market for a decent handset. There is only one Blackberry on offer, and there is an obvious lack of Nokia's, most notably being the 5800 but yet they have chose to stick with the disastrous N series and still advertise the N95 and N96.
When I first took out my 3 contract in 2006 I was still quite naive when it came to mobiles, I wanted a phone that looked good, played music and had a good battery life. I found that with my Sony Ericsson and never had a single complaint about the handset.When it came to renewing my contract I was working for O2 and so had every intention of using my staff discount and leaving 3. However they gave me what I thought was a reasonable offer of £25 a month for 500 mix minutes and texts and had in stock the new Nokia N95. I should add at the time the handset had been on sale less then 3 months so there were no real reviews on what the handset was like, but I liked Nokia's and believed in the hype that this phone was going to be superb and exactly what I needed.
Here is where my first problem came with 3....."Customer Service"
For my first 18 month contract I never once contacted 3, everything worked as it should and I had no need to question the service they were offering. Two months into my new contract with my Nokia N95 and things started going wrong, the phone would freeze for no reason and switch itself off and on at any given time. Working for a mobile phone company I knew by now that there was a very serious fault with the N series handsets and did what I tell my own customers and try wiping the chip on the Sim card, try the Sim in another handset to see if you have the same problem and do a software update. Nothing worked and I was still left with a faulty handset.I decided to call 3 customer services and query their returns process before making the trek to my nearest 3 store. It became clear instantly that the call centre was not in the UK, but the man I spoke to was polite and I fully understood what he was saying to me. He told me to do all that I had done before but after explaining I had done this I was told to go in store and take my handset back for repair.
The staff in store were fantastic, very friendly and gave me a loan phone while mine was sent for repair. I was told my handset would be returned in 3 working days, which I believe to be a huge selling point. 3 days later my phone came back and was declared 'fixed' although there was no note to say what had been the problem, but I guess they just did yet another software update.To cut a long story short, my phone was returned another 3 times for the exact same fault within the space of a month, when finally 3 replaced my handset with a refurbished N95, which I was happy with until a week after using that handset it had the exact same problems- only worse. After calling the customer service number and complaining again, I was offered a door step delivery, which meant they would pick up my handset and return it to me when fixed.
Two short days after the courier collected my handset I had a phone call from the returns department to tell me there was nothing wrong with my handset and that there was nothing more they would do for me. It was obvious I had hit a brick wall and again proceeded to call customer services; the woman I spoke to was less then helpful just repeating all the previous advice I was given and not taking my complaint seriously, which resulted in her releasing the call on me with no prior warning. I called a further 3 times that evening and was finally promised a manger call back within the next 24 hours.24 hours passed and I still hadn't received a manager call so I called customer services again, and after being put on hold for 40 minutes was passed to manager who told me I needed to do another software update, regardless of the the fact I had the latest software on my handset already. He said that he would call me again in 24 hours to see if I had the same problem. Funnily enough that call never came and I decided to write a letter of complaint to their head office.
A week after sending my letter of complaint I received a call to say that they were willing to offer me a Sony Ericsson W880i as a free replacement. I was extremely angry at this offer as my contract states they must replace the handset for a model of the same value of more, it's fair to say the W880i is far inferior phone to the N95. Again I spoke to 3 managers, all who were unwilling to help and seemed incapable of differing from the script they are trained to read to customers, so I asked for a deadlock letter to give to Otelo and was refused.After 12 weeks of sitting with a faulty phone and still not getting anywhere, I called Otelo who helped me draft a letter to the Head Office in Glasgow. After 4 weeks waiting for a reply I was called by another helpful lady who offered me a free months line rental and a free N95 8GB. I was thrilled to finally get somewhere and didn't have a single problem with my handset from that point onwards.
"Canceling the Contract"A month before my contract ended and I started getting disruptions with my service and decided to take a new contract with O2 and finally make use of my staff discount. I was more then aware of disconnection fees and was willing to pay these with my final bill, at this point I would have paid anything to leave the company.
On calling the disconnections department and asking for a PAC code to transfer my number to another provider I met yet another barrier. Apparently I was in breech of my contract to transfer my number and had to either upgrade or see out the remaining month of the contract with them, something I know to be totally untrue. It would be naive to expect not to have been offered any type of upgrade offer, after all what type of a company likes to loose business? But after continuously telling the sales representative that I already have a new phone and contract with a staff discount they could never beat, I kept being bombarded with offers. After an hour of arguing (again!) that they could not beat my new contract and could in no way offer me anything that would ever tempt me to stay with 3 for another eighteen months, I was granted my PAC code.I was told that my termination fees would total roughly £8 as I had paid my line rental a month in advance. Happy in the knowledge I would have no nasty phone bills or ever have to deal with 3 again, I transferred my number to O2.
Two months later and I find myself with a bill through the post from 3 for £28 in termination fees. I instantly call them to argue my case but am told time and time again that I owe this money, with no word of why or what dates they are charging me between. I politely asked for a detailed copy of this bill to be sent to me which states the dates I am paying for, when I am informed they also took a direct debit from me the previous month.I asked for the call to be listened back to as the customer service advisor was incapable of giving me the correct advice (even telling me I made a call from my 3 Sim card two days ago?!). Again after an hour spent arguing my case I was granted my wish for the call to be listened to and to receive a call from a manager within 48 hours. I didn't hold high hopes at all of receiving this manager call, and after 72 hours of waiting I call to be told there are no notes on my account to back up my story that I requested this manager call and that a manager would not deal with my complaint and to just write in.
"Conclusion"Without a shadow of a doubt 3 are the worst company I have ever had dealings with. It's my job to deal with customer complaints on a daily basis and find it incredible that a company with such low customer service values can stay in business.
Be it due to a language barrier or lack of training, but the customer service staff only seem to be able to read from a script and my problems always arose once I differed from this script and asked questions of them that they found impossible to answer. I have felt ashamed of myself so many times calling this company, having to raise my voice as they continue to talk over me and not listen, and be the general type of customer I despise just to have my voice heard.The retail staff have always been more then happy to help, they understand and sympathise with the difficulties customers have on the phone to customer services and have always tried their best to help me.
The tariffs always seem appealing as they seem so plain with no hidden charges. However in my experience with a low price you can expect low expectations. For £25 a month I was only given a mix of 500 minutes and texts, which is no longer compatible in today's market, I was refused the option to change tariff and I ended up having to pay an extra £5 a month just for some decent Internet allowance.Coverage in my area is poor, despite the fact according to 3's web map showing I am in a strong 3G reception. The mobile Internet would constantly cut off or take ages to load and calls would appear with the message 'disconnected' due to loosing reception, a problem I have never had with any other phone or network provider.
Overall I would encourage people to avoid this company like the plague, regardless of the intriguing offers they appear to have.SLB
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