Orange Customer Services: Unhelpful, Rude, Arrogant

Orange Customer Services are unhelpful, truculent, dishonest robots with no concept of customer care.  They’re not my favourite people at the moment.  In addition to the above, I’ve found them evasive, uninformed and unempowered, and the experiences I’ve had are of a team who are de-motivated to the point where they treat customers as an inconvenience.  That’s not good, especially when the company that they represent tries to paint a picture of itself as an organisation that puts customers first

Orange Customer Services
Orange Customer Services

Orange Customer Services Experience

I’ve had a few experiences with Orange Customer Services over the years, and every time I’ve come away from the phone frustrated by the staff who do everything in their power to avoid actually resolving your issue.  Whether it’s a signal quality issue (you’re living in the wrong place / you should have checked the signal quality before you chose Orange), a broadband speed issue (you live too far from the exchange to get the advertised speed), or a delivery issue (we sent it, if you didn’t receive it, it’s your fault).

At the weekend, Orange Customer Services were overwhelmed with angry customers again.  This time:  the decision to raise contract prices by 3%.

Orange Customers were predictably up in arms about that.  No-one likes price rises, especially when wages are being kept pretty flat across the board (I’m pretty confident that one of the reasons why the Orange Customer Services team are so irked about having to discuss the issue with customers is that none of the 3% is being passed onto them).  People also don’t really appreciate price rises when they’ve signed up to what they think is a fixed cost contract for a period of 2 years.

My own issue with Orange is pretty petty.  I called them to cancel a phone about 14 months ago.  I was cancelling because they offer better deals for new customers than upgrading customers.  That’s probably because their primary success KPI is about acquisition rather than retention.  It took about 20 minutes for my call to the Orange Customer Services cancellations team to get answered.  They do this to try and make it harder to disconnect.

I’d had the number for a couple of years, and a bunch of people knew it, so I asked to keep it.  The guy at the end of the phone in the Orange Customer Services team told me that if I wanted to retain the number on a pay as you go basis, I’d need a new SIM. (I don’t know why – a SIM is a just memory chip that can be flashed with any information remotely and unlocked locally with a PUK.  You don’t need a new SIM for a new number.  I suspect it’s to keep your account live long enough to squeeze a couple more days line rental out of you).

I never received the new SIM.  I tried calling to chase it a couple of times, but I’d already wasted enough of my life trying to talk to Orange Customer Services.  So I assumed that my approved disconnection request would be sufficient for me to stop getting invoiced.

14 months later, I found that Orange were still taking the monthly subscription for my supposedly cancelled contract.  That’s partly my fault.  I check through my account statements regularly, but perhaps not in enough depth, although in my defence, there are other direct debits going to Orange for various other services, and this one got lost in the pack.

At the weekend, I was one of the people who received the 3% price increase letter.  A couple of them. So I called and asked why.  The conversation with Mark at Orange Customer Services went pretty much like this:

20 minute wait listening to low bit-rate pop music being told how important my call was

OCS: Hi there, how can I help

ME: Here’s the situation as explained above…

OCS: Well that’s your fault if you didn’t activate the new pay as you go SIM

ME: I never received the new SIM

OCS: It’s not our policy to help customers

ME: Any chance of speaking to a manager

OCS: They’re all busy

ME: Seriously or just y’know, can’t be bothered

OCS: They won’t give you a refund

ME: Put me through to someone who could help

OCS:  I can’t, you’ll need to dial 150

ME: That’s the number I dialled

OCS: You’ll need to call in again, I can’t put you through

ME:  That’s a joke, you’re a fucking telecoms company


OCS: You’re not going to get  a refund

ME: Bye.

I don’t normally say fucking on the phone.  It’s not nice.  but the reaction of Mark was a little overblown.  he must be the only Geordie on the planet who hasn’t been exposed to such industrial language.

So, no luck with the Orange Customer Services Call Centre.  That’s about what I’d expect from them, given previous experience.  Once, they tried to charge me a £100 disconnection fee for broadband because I was moving house and I didn’t want to continue with their service.  Actually I did, but my new house had no existing phone line, so I’d opted to take Virgin Media instead.  That’s another mistake I regret almost daily.

Having given up on the ability of the Orange Customer Services call centre team to provide customer service, I decided to try their Facebook team.  Orange Helpers. This was no less frustrating:

One look through the public posts on their wall tells you all you need to know.  Orange Customers are unhappy.  Multiple posts every hour about woeful service, ignorant staff.  it also becomes apparent pretty quickly that they don’t operate any kind of CRM for dealing with customer issues via Facebook.

Posts don’t seem to be handled sequentially, and there is no consistency in who responds.  The only constant is the following:

  • Public Post
  • Stock Response to use a Private Message
  • Stock response to private message
  • More customer frustration

There’s no ownership of a problem, and no real drive to solve it.  The impression that the various contributors from Orange Customer Services gives is one of disinterest.  They’ve probably been well trained in evading the issue, and based on experience, I’d venture that the team are measured on how many responses they give rather than how many  answers they provide.

Like all mobile companies, Orange have become a victim of their own success.  When a mobile phone was a luxury, there was a cachet in owning one.  Now, they’re a mundane fact of life, a utility, and with that, they become a grudge purchase.  yes, you can have a shiny new handset, but you need to keep it for 2 years, and you pay a fixed monthly fee to subsidise it which the network can adjust at any time.

Orange are as complacent as any of the power companies have become.  They have an audience who are largely trapped by inertia and the lack of a credible alternative.  They know you’d love to leave, but they don’t care because the alternatives are just as bad.

On Review Centre, Orange get a 1.5/5 score, on Trust Pilot, they get 5.3/10.  They get comments like:

  • Atrocious Service
  • Inefficient Bullies
  • Beware of their Dodgy Sales People

Customers should be the conscience of business.  And they generally are.  The day that companies forget who they work for generally coincides with the day where they start to fail.  When you put people who don’t care about customers in charge of managing those kind of relationships, you lose your conscience.  When you overlook long term relationships  in favour of short term opportunities, you lose your future.

Unfortunately, Orange Customer Services display the symptoms of an organisation that is losing touch.

**Update, 12 03 2013**

Subsequent to my post here, and a lengthy email to the executive office at Orange, a customer service rep reached out to me via Facebook in a far more conciliatory manner, and offered to investigate further.  After a short period of time, she responded that as a gesture of goodwill, they’d refund me the charges I’d incurred, which is great, and I really appreciate that.

While I understand that it’s not in the interests of a company to simply roll over every time a customer feels like they’ve been badly treated.  It shouldn’t take a public blog, emails to the CEO and a tonne of prominent comments on a Facebook page to at least open a discussion with a customer services person.

Companies who want to engage with their customers via Social Media need to empower the representatives to make judgements and resolve issues quickly.  If they’re forced to work within a super rigorous framework and provide stock answers from a very short list of options, then they’re going to find it difficult to do their job to the satisfaction of their customers.

In my email to the CEO of Orange, I drew comparisons with two different businesses: HMV and Apple.  HMV struggled and ultimately failed because they charged more and were less convenient than their competitors, Apple succeed in charging more because they offer a better product (much as it pains me to admit it).

Unless companies are able to open themselves up to change and take on board consumer feedback, they’re missing an opportunity about how they can improve.


One reply on “Orange Customer Services: Unhelpful, Rude, Arrogant”

  1. I heartily agree that they’ve become victims of their own success. They’re now regarded along with the “superpowers” that you can’t really deal without. British Gas, Virgin, BT – basically any utility that you can’t live without, there are a few companies who just don’t understand the value of customer service.

    I recommend going to OfCom with your complaint. Most mobile companies have some form of specialist complaints department (when I worked at o2 and Scottish power if the customer mentioned the ombudsman you had to transfer their call to high level complaints straight away) so see where that gets you. I recently complained to Virgin with no response, so I went to the ASA who are currently upholding my complaint about their broadband service.

    I hope it works out for you – o2 are the lesser of all evils I’ve found.

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