If you think that Proximus, now Belgacom mobile (the Belgian nationalized mobile phone company) is bad try this for size! The following story is a good example of designing a credit procedure that touches the customer and alientates them right from the start.

Recently I started a new assignment in Germany and so needed to buy a German SIM card for my mobile Phone. I chose T-Mobile (the biggest supplier in Germany). The following describes their approach to customer awareness and demonstrates the internal workings of their business processes:

1 Visit T-Mobile Shop in Leverkusen
a. Wait 30 minutes to be served
b. Friendly assistant (speaks only a very little English)- OK
c. Explain my needs – business use, lots of international calls etc., give permission for them to take as much from my account or from my Master card they need to cover my bills.
d. Walk out with Sim card
e. 2 hours later active.
2. All contracts, letters and bills in German
3. Cannot set up my answer phone – do not understand German (I speak Dutch and English but these are not options)
4. Visit website – no website in any other language than German
5. Get help – someone calls and I am given a special number, obtain the option for my outgoing answer phone message in English!
6. (Two weeks later) phone service stops working – German message, don’t understand it – get help. Message says “Use another phone to call this number.”
a. My German friend calls the number : they refuse to speak to her because she is not me!
b. We ask for English customer support – not an option!
c. A colleague then calls telling that I do not speak German so please speak to talk to them instead, eventually they agree.
d. Phone is cut off because I have spent 260EUR on international calls, Remedy:
i. I must go to a post office and pay in 260EUR in cash
ii. Obtain a receipt
iii. Fax the receipt to a special number
iv. Phone will be re-connected
e. Go to bank – obtain cash
f. Go to T-Mobile shop to pay in cash and to tell them to increase my credit.
i. No one speaks English
ii. Cannot pay my bill in the shop – must go to Post Office
g. Find Post office – pay in cash – must pay 8EURs extra for paying in cash
h. Send Fax and letter
i. Phone re-connected quickly – but for how long?
It seems incredible to me that such a high technology company cannot contact the customer prior to their credit limit being reached, that they cannot inform the customer in advance what their credit limit is! That customer’s cannot pay in money in their own shops!
Proximus (covering a client base of a fraction of the size of T-Mobile) has customer service and a website in four languages, it has shops in every town that are open right through the day, they will take your money and they treat you with respect. + their technological options seem way ahead of T-Mobile re their answerpohne (T-Mobile have no delete message, save message or auto dial caller options.
I am NOT a typical Brit that expects everyone to speak English, but I have just arrived in Germany and have not yet had time to learn the language and I cannot believe that there are no other people living Germany that do not speak German either?

I think we should invent an award for the worst business process ever – any contenders?