Three Fails To Delight The Customer

For as long as I can remember, we’ve had it instilled into us that we must satisfy and ideally delight the customer.   As agile practitioners, customer satisfaction and delight sit at the core of what we are trying to do. I was recently reminded of this by Three, the Mobile Phone company, who I have been with for several years.

Sometime back I took out a SIM only deal which came with a call allowance and all you can eat mobile data.  In November last year the locked in period ended and I was free to carry on or leave – I simply carried on.  Earlier this month, I received a letter from Three saying that my contracted period was over and I could choose one of the following:

  • Take a new deal with Three for a fixed period and pay more each month (although I would get more minutes)
  • Go onto the standard pay as you go arrangement – which means paying a lot more each month
  • Leave and go to a different provider

The thing is that I was happy on the deal I had for the amount I was paying.  Now if Three wanted to move me onto a different deal that was the same price but had more benefits, then I would be impressed.  If they had come up with a deal that cost me the same or slightly more but solved a problem I didn’t know I had then I would be delighted.

I called Three and over a forty five minute period was passed to five different people who having heard my complaint either said they couldn’t help or tired to help but couldn’t offer me anything useful.  In the end I had reluctantly took a 12 month deal which was the same price with slightly less benefits – largely because I don’t have time to shop around and look for better deals.

I then wrote a letter to the Three CEO (Dave Dyson) was contacted by the “Three Executive Office” (who as far as I can tell have no direct involvement with Mr. Dyson).  They apologised for being passed around but essentially restated their position set out in the letter; I was offered some token compensation for the poor response in the 45 minute call.  The gent I was corresponding with stated that because the dispute fell outside the requirements of Communications Act2003, then were not prepared enter into alternative dispute resolution service.   Three has not explained why I couldn’t carry on with my existing deal until I was ready to leave it (either because my needs changed or Three tempted with another deal). They just don’t can’t understand what they’ve done wrong!

There we are then, a happy customer who is now a very unhappy customer, but the complaint has been dealt with by the stated processes and people, it meets the regulation – tick those boxes, job done!  This would be a fantastic example of how do everything wrong in a academic course.  I actually wonder if Three has a mission statement to upset as many customers as possible.

From Wikipedia: Customer delight is surprising a customer by exceeding his or her expectations and thus creating a positive emotional reaction. This emotional reaction leads to word of mouth. … Those front-line employees are able to develop a relationship between the customer and the brand. (Customer delight – Wikipedia)

To get this back to Software; Agile teams seek to to under promise and over deliver in each Sprint or Increment.  We listen to our customers and understand what they would like to do.  We then find ways to achieve this and possibly go beyond what they thought was possible (as long as this adds real value) which delights our customers.  Where we can’t do things,  we explain and enter into dialogue.  This helps to generate understanding (on both sides) and trust.  This in turn has customers talking positively about software development (becoming advocates) and wanting to engage with us (how many times have you heard people who just want to do the day job grumble about unresponsive IT teams).
Sometimes it’s easy to forget this message in the mist of a difficult project.  My experience with Three reminds me that we must never take our customers for granted and always try to impress.