Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

Stellar Customer Service From Vodafone NZ

Yesterday, Vodafone NZ ran a treasure hunt, hiding 20 HTC Magic phones throughout the country. Being in desperate need of a phone, I went on the hunt. Because of a spurr-of-the-moment decision it became impossible for me to even attempt to win the phone, being excluded as a wheelchair user. I was rather disappointed, to say the least. But that is not the important bit. The important bit is that Vodafone turned around and found a fix in less than 20 minutes from being alerted to the problem. They went above and beyond, and I want to thank them.

Vodafone logo
Thank you Vodafone

The hunt for the Magic in Palmerston North was to start at 2:00pm on Friday 19th of June. A couple days prior to that, I contacted Vodafone to ask for clarifications on the event. I wanted to know if it had to be an actual "physical" treasure hunt or if it was to be a virtual, online one. I also wanted to know if it was to be a physical search, if the phone would be hidden in a wheelchair accessible location. Tessa Robertson, Head of Marketing, PR and Events for Vodafone, responded and said that it was a physical search, and that the phones’ location would be wheelchair accessible. All good!

The website gave an indication of the general viscinity where the phone would be found. I headed that way and at 2:00pm, I received the TXT clue:

"Want to learn about rugby in Havana?"

I was literaly around the corner from the Rugby Museum (which is, if you haven’t been there already, a wonderful place to explore). I kept driving, turned the corner, pulled over next to "The Rock" radio station car. The Vodafone rep was talking to a couple people. I yelled something like "wait", but I don’t think anyone heard. I unloaded my wheelchair as fast as I could, transferred to the chair as the other people were being lined up. Had to weave around a car to get to a part of the sidewalk that had a curb cut, by the time I reached the Vodafone and the The Rock rep, the race was half-way run.

Had I not been reliant on a wheelchair, I would have been able to bounce right out of the car and be with the others before they were even lined up for the race. And I could have actually taken place in a footrace. But such was not the case. A couple of the onlookers did express the opinion that "it wasn’t on".

I went back to the car. I rang home to say I hadn’t gotten the phone. The phone’s log shows that the call was made at 2:03pm. All that happened in less than 3 minutes!

While I was driving back, @elpie tweeted about my missing out, and why. A bunch of people who follow both her and me agreed that it wasn’t on. @VodafoneNZ immediately responded and said they were looking into things.

I arrived home, tweeted a couple tweets about it, then emailed Tessa, with a CC to Paul Brislen, who handles the @vodafoneNZ twitter account, explaining what had happened. I do apologise as on reading my email again this morning I realised it was more abrupt than it could have been. I can only say that I was rather disappointed of missing out because of an "access" issue after I’d been told there wouldn’t be such issues.

And here is where Vodafone went above and beyond. Within 20 minutes of the first tweets by @elpie, @vodafoneNZ was tweeting that things were taken care of and that Vodafone would give me a phone! A few minutes after that, I received a confirmation email from Tessa.

I am humbled by the support shown by my followers on Twitter. I am thankful to Tessa Robertson for her offer of a phone. I am impressed by the level of customer care shown here by Tessa and Paul, and by extension, by Vodafone.

What happened in front of the Rugby Museum was not planned. It wasn’t even an oversight on the part of the event organisers. It came down, I think, to a spur of the moment decision made without considering the implications, by the people on the front line. I don’t remember who said this, but "Even the best battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy". Shit happens. It’s unfortunate that I was the one to step in it.

Vodafone did not have to resolve this by giving me a phone. But they are.

Thank you. I wish more people understood customer service the way you do.

6 thoughts on “Stellar Customer Service From Vodafone NZ

  1. Wow Nic, that is good customer service!

    Since you inquired about the accessibility, there was not an intent to exclude. Even the best laid plans can go awry and their soluton was one of acknowledgment of this, and ultimately inclusion.

    It’s nice to hear good customer service still exists.

  2. The true test of any company is how they act when something goes wrong. This is a very good example of how problems SHOULD be dealt with – quickly, efficiently, without fuss.

    Not only did Vodafone get the opportunity to show a problem being righted (which reflects overall on their customer service) but, for the cost of a handset, they gain from you both brand-loyalty and brand-advocacy.

    Beats me why so many other corporates don’t follow such examples. Maybe they don’t employ people who can make decisions – or don’t allow those who can to do so. Who knows?

    Great outcome, anyway.

  3. Good result, and I add my kudos to Paul for his prompt customer-based response. As you say, he didn’t have to get you a phone, all you really wanted was a positive response. That he did get a phone for you is exceptional customer service and, no doubt, welcomed by you (though @elpie might have a few choice words).

    BTW I think the quote was Bizmark

  4. Nice to have faith in customer service restored. Great job @vodafone! And great job Nic for giving good examples how we have an incomplete perception of what is accessible to all

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