Sunday, 9 September 2012

Mi, Three are[n't so] awful [after all]

Update: November 3, 2012

Still no replacement MiFi in the post and this appears to be why - another message from Three. This time they say they don't have any 'handsets or dongles in stock but we will call you when they come in". I called the Three shop in Chelmsford and - of course - they have several in stock. This brings me back again to my original point about how Three could save themselves so much hassle by making better use of their high street network of shops. As I've said before, this could all have been resolved through the shop stocking low value spares.  In this case, why don't they just instruct the shop to release one of their MiFi to me? I could have had it in time for the holiday we've just come back from. At this rate complaint number 3 isn't far away and this time, I'll not only be looking for a straight swap but also some compensation for nearly 6 months without the MiFi.

164 days since unit was sent off for repair.
53 days since first complaint
31 days since second complaint

Update: October 28, 2012

Another call from the lovely people at Three. This time wanting to follow up and ask if I'm happy with the replacement MiFi device the sent.  Trouble is, it hasn't been delivered yet. I'm told this is due to a 'technical issue'. I'm assured that it will be here in 3-5 days - in other words, "we didn't sent it the first time".

Update: October 23, 2012

Success at last but only because of Lee the Three shop manager in Chelmsford.

Three called last night and offered an unreserved apology for all that is listed in this blog entry and a replacement MiFi unit. They had clearly read the blog in detail because they quoted a lot of detail mentioned here.  I'm a bit disappointed that it was only a replacement (which was due anyway) and nothing in addition as compensation but I was happy to at last receive a communication from them and at least I'll finally have the MiFi back up and running again.

The slightly sour taste in the mouth is the fact that it only came after I contacted the Three shop manager in Chelmsford again for assistance. He was great and replied to my email immediately and promised to chase it again for me.  I've emailed him to confirm but I'm 98% sure that Three only got back to me because of his intervention.

Three clearly have had some serious issues with their repair and customer services but I hope someone is listening to customer feedback and will now consider how they can make better use of their high street stores who can help to mop up minor issues before they become big issues.  So often the store has said "That's something we can't help with in store - you'll have to go direct to Three for that".  In fact there are many things the stores can assist with but they need to be given more trust and responsibility by Three.  If that had happened in this case, it would have taken a quick 5 minute visit to the store rather than 5 months of frustration.

Update: October 16, 2012

I have had a reply to my second complaint. It comes within the 10 working day limit which is good but that's where 'good' ends. They think they understand that this must be frustrating for me and then suggest they've tried to call me (not to my knowledge they haven't). They want to 'run some checks' over the phone (charged at 5.1p/min) and then perhaps book it in for repairs!  Perhaps they didn't gather that is what I have already done and after three months, I've got nowhere with that option. So it seems I'm still waiting for a reply to the original complaint which is now clocked at the 24th working day with no response after being promised one after 10 working days.

Dear Mr White
I’m sorry to hear you’re having problems with your Mi-Fi device charger. I understand this must be frustrating for you. We’ve tried to call you on 07963 630044 about this but we haven’t been able to get hold of you.
The easiest way to find out exactly what’s wrong is to run some checks with you over the phone. If required we can book the charger for repairs. If the device is covered under manufactures warranty it can be repaired/replaced. 
Please just give our mobile broadband team a call and they’ll be happy to help. You can reach them on 500 from your Three mobile or on 0843 373 0500 from any other phone (5.1p/min from a BT landline, other networks may vary) between 8am to 10pm.
We look forward to hearing back from you.
Best regards,
Daniel RamThree Customer Services
Here is the email I sent in reply to this one:
This response is unacceptable.  Please re-read my complaint which relates to your failure to properly respond to my first complaint which was about Three's failure to  repair my MiFi device in the first place. 
I sent off my MiFi unit to Three on May 23, 2012. It was returned unrepaired on September 6, 2012 after which I complained. It is now October 16, 2012.  I still have a broken WiFi charging stand and since June, a broken WiFi as well. It is now 1 year since the MiFi unit was purchased and I have only been able to use it for 7 months of that year. It has been 24 working days without a reply to my first complaint and 146 days since I sent the device for repair.
Please locate and respond to my first complaint, taking into account the resolution you asked me to provide.  Returning anything for a further repair is unacceptable following my experience to date with your repair service.
I look forward to your reply and provide a summary of the two complaints and the tracking numbers below for your reference: 
David White 
Complaint number 2 (Tracking reference A00006890541-00020345849)
Failure to reply to complaint number 1 within your stated 10 working days 
Complaint number 1 (Tracking reference A00006890541-00020115878)
Failure to repair MiFi after keeping it for 10 weeks, cancelling the repair and then sending it back unrepaired only when chased by the Three Shop in Chelmsford.

Update: October 5, 2012

As predicted I've had another email from Three automatically generated and exactly the same content as the first one (see Update Sept. 28 below). Still no reply to the first promise to get back within 10 days - it is now 17 working days since they made that promise.

Update: October 2, 2012

Still no follow-up email from Three after 14 working days (they promised they would get back to me within 10 working days). So I've put in a second complaint - this time complaining that they haven't replied to me within the timescales they promised. I have my second complaint tracking number. We'll see what happens next. At this stage, it may be worth referring back to a weekend of bizarre calls to Three when it took several attempts to obtain a PAC code and cancel my contract with them.

Update: September 28, 2012

I received an email following my complaint on September 12, 2012 as follows:

Dear Mr White
Thanks for getting in touch.
We’re looking into your complaint and we’ll get back to you within 10 working days.
If you want to talk to us about it before then, please call 0800 358 4916 10am to 7:00pm Monday - Friday. The call is free from a Three mobile, network call charges may be applicable from any other phone.

Nauzad Daroga
Three Customer Services
I am no longer on the Three network so I didn't call the number supplied. I waited patiently for the 10 working days which I believe was up on September 26, 2012. It is now September 28, 2012 and Three have still not got back to me.
It has now been well over 18 weeks/4 months since the fault occurred.

Update: September 11, 2012

I have just managed to complete the Three complaints form at on advice from the guys in the Three shop, Chelmsford.

It took 2 attempts to fill in the form before I noticed it reported validation errors in tiny writing at the top of the form. After that I managed to complete it but referred to this blog entry rather then write it out all over again for a third time.
I eventually obtained the mobile number by plugging the MiFi into the computer and running up the Three software. I missed it out of the form because I didn't have time to run it all up for a third time to get the number again.

Original complaint

Here's a story of a MiFi unit bought from the Three shop in Chelmsford in October 2011.

The unit worked well until May 2012 when the desk cradle stopped working along with the long USB lead. Several checks with a second MiFi unit determined that the short USB lead and the mains charger were both working fine. Advice from the Three shop was that repairs under warranty went through a few days quicker by reporting the fault directly to Three via the website. An attempt to obtain the spare parts directly from spares at the shop apparently wasn't possible. Talking to Three on the phone suggested it would probably be quicker to send the items back via the Three shop in town.  This gave me the impression that there is a general reluctance to commit to faults and repairs as one was palming off the problem onto the other.

I took the advice from the shop as I trusted their judgement more. The person on the phone at Three was also quibbling about the items being covered by warranty at all.  It was within the year since purchase but the warranty slip in the box clearly stated that the charger and USB leads were covered for 12 months, the battery for 6 months and the actual MiFi for 24 months. The cradle was the only item not specifically mentioned so the assumption is that it is either bundled as an accessory (12 months) or considered part of the MiFi (24 months). Either way, it is not a battery so it is definitely covered.

So I reported it to Three via the website, received the confirmation emails and a pre-paid padded postbag arrived the same week. The padded bag supplied was clearly meant for a mobile phone rather than bits of a MiFi but I can forgive them that.  So far so good.  I made a detailed account of exactly which bits I was sending back and why, explaining that I'd tested all the components and determined that two items out of the five were faulty. They went off via the local post office with a receipt dated May 23, 2012. I received a further email confirming that the package had been received and that I'd be kept updated on the repair via further emails.

I should point out at this point that my estimated value of the long USB lead was around 30p and the cradle was probably no more than £5. This is a desktop stand which simply supplies power to the MiFi whilst holding it in an upright position on the desktop.  There are no lights or other technology inside it.  Its the equivalent of the short USB lead built into a moulded plactic base with some rubber feet. The fault with the cradle appeared to be that the USB socket at the back had come loose and a connection had broken as a result.  Almost a job worth investigating myself with my jewellers' screwdriver set and soldering iron but as it was under warranty, why not get Three to address the issue.

A few weeks passed with no news so I called Three to get an update. I had to wait at least 30 minutes on hold and when someone finally came back, the wireless phone I was using ran out of power so I never did find out what was going on. Weeks turned into months and it finally reached September 1 when I received an email from telling me that the repair job had been cancelled.

I tried replying to the email but of course, it was a 'no reply' box so it just pinged back.  I tried contacting Three on the phone but I couldn't progress because it always reached a point in the call where I had to input the phone number.  MiFi units do not have SIMs which have individual phone numbers so I couldn't progress further that way.  Happily, Lee the Three shop manager in Chelmsford was very helpful. He looked up the job on their system and raised an internal job to investigate. He even emailed me a copy of this for my reference - Great work Lee.

On Thursday September 6, 2012 I missed a 'recorded delivery' which I picked up the following day. It contained a brand new USB lead (30p worth), the cradle plus two items I hadn't actually sent them - the shorter USB lead and a mains charger. The cradle was not new and had clearly had stickers removed plus there were some scratch marks around the USB socket at the back - in other words, it looked like they had sent back my original unit.  This morning (Sunday) I tested the items which had been returned from Three. The brand-new USB lead worked fine and the MiFi happily took a charge.  The cradle however did not work at all.  The connection into the socket at the back was loose (just like it was when I sent it off). In other words, the item hadn't been repaired.

This is a place to document the detail of the story and make it public.

My main problem here is not with the Three shop in Chelmsford. I have had many dealings with them and they are always courteous and helpful. The problem is with the black hole that is 'Three online'. You cannot get through on the phone. When you do they don't know what they're talking about. Their warranty repair service is awful. Worst of all is that having invested in high street locations where you can find real people who are very helpful, they don't fully exploit this asset to the customer's advantage. Considering the MiFi which cost around £75 to buy, you have 6 separate component parts - The WiFi and it's battery cover, the battery itself, the desktop cradle, a long USB lead, a short USB lead and the mains charger. Breaking the costs down, I would estimate they are worth £50, £15, £5, 30p, 30p and £4 respectfully.

The Three shop is in the High Street in the very centre of Chelmsford
It would make much better sense for the lower cost items to simply replace them under warranty with new from stock held in the Three shops. The items are smaller so storage isn't a problem. The USB lead is such low value that any other action would cost more. The cradle is worth about £5 and equally it isn't worth repairing. The cost of the delivery to send the items to Three was £6.35 and probably the same to send them back again. £12.70 plus the handling and 'repair' (not so in this case) AND the 10 week wait is not good for Three or the customer. It would have been so much easier to have a 'no quibble' swap at the shop which would have been an instant win for me.

I am now faced with a difficult decision.  While all this has been going on, the actual MiFi unit has gone wrong. It accepts a charge and turns on and off but it will not connect to the Three network so it cannot emit WiFi. It's got to go back along with the cradle but I'm not holding out much hope that I'll see them back before they are 12 months old in October. I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

David White said...

I have just managed to complete the Three complaints form at on advice from the guys in the Three shop, Chelmsford.

It took 2 attempts to fill in the form before I noticed it reported validation errors in tiny writing at the top of the form. After that I managed to complete it but referred to this blog entry rather then write it out all over again for a third time.

I eventually obtained the mobile number by plugging the MiFi into the computer and running up the Three software. I missed it out of the form because I didn't have time to run it all up for a third time to get the number again.