After last year’s run-in with my broadband provider, here is an equally nonsensical situation encountered with my wireless provider. It highlights another core business issue.

My mobile phone (cell phone) broke, so I ordered a new one and it arrived the next day. Handed over the broken phone and started-up the new one. Hold on, where are the 5-years worth of telephone numbers I have accumulated!

Emergency call to customer services, seems I should have backed-up the information onto my PC. OK, so can I have my old phone back? No, our contract states that once the phone has been taken it can’t be returned. Yes, but I need it back, its been less than an hour since it was taken, the courier will still have it. No, it is impossible, the contract states that once taken it can’t be returned. And so it went on.

Emergency call to the account management team, explained situation and asked if they could intervene. No, it is impossible the phone has gone; it will be in a skip with hundreds of others by now. The contract states that once the phone has been taken……

So I call the courier business, can I get my phone back? No, it is impossible our contract is with the wireless provider we are not authorised to return phones. But it must be possible? No, our contract states that…….

This called for drastic measures. I call the courier business again and ask to be put through to the local depot. I get the job number for the delivery and eventually discover the phone will be delivered back to the local depot at 9am the next morning. After a number of calls I get agreement from both head-offices that I can retrieve the phone. Drive the 20 miles next morning and physically pull the phone out of the process. Have to replace it with the new working phone as they are contracted to return a phone to be scrapped else they have to pay a £200 charge!

Order new phone and discuss with courier (during maximum of 4 minutes allowed for in contract). Seems this situation happens all the time, never known anyone who has managed to retrieve a phone before. Has had directors begging to get their phones back but the contract states…….

I imagine the team that designed this process with its strict polices & business service levels must feel very proud. It runs like clockwork. One phone delivered one phone returned, prid pro quo. All accounted for, none lost, perfect, possibly giving an extremely high sigma metric for the Big Y. Some imaginative poka-yoke included, its impossible to return a phone, no rework, simple message to customers, everyone complies.

It’s the unintended consequences that concern me here. The impact on the secondary process metrics and impact on the customer. I get the impression that the process is more important than the customer.

As you all know three data points makes a clear trend, so interested to see if telco’s get a third mention here.

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