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Topic # 180883 24-Sep-2015 20:47
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As a customer in this present world I am constantly getting frustratedly amazed about what service providers focus on. This post includes a very fresh and representative experience I just had with Spark; it is not just about Spark though, but about the attitude/focus of contemporary service providing business in general.

There is one common thing about the behaviour of most present service providers that I see: they spend a lot of money on lavish presentation of their services while not being worried that the actual services are run-of-the-mill. They invest a lot of money in making their websites look "impressive" to the point of annoyance, while what those websites can actually do does not impress at all.

It is not that I do not understand the reasons which are pretty clear: most people are attracted by the look, not by the substance. Service providers take advantage of that. Their primary (and sometimes the only one) goal is to "engage" as many customers as possible and start charging them periodically. They only worry about the quality of their services as much as needed to not let those attracted go off the hook.

What I do not fully understand, though, is why customers let them get away with that. Why has it become a trend? Are we customers such a dumb flock to shear and not those who dictate what they want?

Anyway, here is my recent relevant experience with Spark. Note that there is nothing special about Spark in the context of the subject; the experience is just yet another one of the same kind happening around often nowadays.

So, I recently switched to Spark from 2Degrees merely because Spark is the only one operator whose signal is available where I have recently moved to. I got their prepaid SIM card and topped it up with $10 with the intention to spend the balance whenever I need using their casual rates. I did not choose any plans/packs or, all the more so, I did not go On Account because I am a very occasional phone user: only a few text messages a month and hardly a few outgoing calls. I need the mobile phone more so that I am contactable, for calling some 0800 numbers and for occasional mobile Internet use.

Since I got connected to Spark about a week ago they have sent me a few unsolicited marketing text messages. I thought "well, this is starting getting annoying" and logged in to MySpark hoping that there will be an option to turn those off. I did not see such an option. What I did see, though, that 40 cents went off my balance. I only had sent one text message after the initial $10 top up, and I thought that one should not have costed 40c according to their casual rate for text messages that I had memorised (by the way, writing this, I tried to find casual rates for prepaid customers on spark.co.nz — 4 minutes and no luck).

So I became curious where the 40 cents exactly went. I opened the View Activity page in MySpark only to find out that I can see it for the last 2 days only:



What looks like a dropdown box on the screenshot does not have any other options apart from "Last 2 days", and the "Show More" area is disabled because it thinks it is already showing all the activity available. The text message that should had contributed to the 40c charge was sent on the 21st of September, 2015 which was 3 days before, and so now there was simply no option to see that.

I thought "OK, maybe I just cannot see the option but that does not necessarily mean there is no one. Let's talk to them". So I opened their live chat and waited around 27 minutes in the queue to start chatting (that was between noon and 1pm, Thursday). Here is the chat transcript:

00:00:04 Spark : Question:Hi Spark. I am looking at my activity here: https://www.spark.co.nz/onliness/view-activity/ and trying to see it for a longer period than the last 2 days, but I do not see an option for that. Is there one?
00:26:55 Eugene : Hi Gemma
00:27:11 Gemma : Hi Eugene. I got your message.
00:27:19 Eugene : So yes, I would like to see some previous activity too.
00:27:31 Gemma : Can you tell me what activities are you trying to check?
00:28:36 Eugene : In particular, I would like to see where did 40 cents go off my balance. I remember sending a text message several days ago, did that one message cost 40 cents?
00:29:41 Gemma : That might be a voicemail. Is that for you running charges or the generated bill?
00:31:02 Eugene : Not sure. Is there any way I can see what exactly I was charged those 40 cents for?
00:34:13 Gemma : Let me check if your bill has been generated.
00:34:27 Gemma : Can I have your account number please?
00:34:53 Eugene : I am a prepaid customer, mobile number ** *** ****
00:35:58 Gemma : Oh I see. This can be checked by our prepaid team over the phone Eugene. Do you want me to book a call back for you?
00:37:02 Eugene : I'd prefer written communication, but if booking a call is the only one option to see what I was charged 40 cents for, then yes please book one.
00:38:05 Gemma : You actually went through to the billing team Eugene and your concern is prepaid which can be discussed by our prepaid team over the phone. Is this your call back number *********?
00:38:29 Eugene : Yes that is correct.
00:40:17 Gemma : I will do that and they'll call in 1 hours, 6 minutes on *********.
00:40:29 Gemma : Do you have other question before I end this chat?
00:41:03 Eugene : No, that was all I wanted to ask. Thank you.
00:41:40 Gemma : Thanks a lot for making use of our Live Chat Service today! Should you require any further assistance please don’t hesitate to open a new Chat. We’re here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

That was already pretty funny. But I did not know that things were just getting started.

At 1:44pm my phone started ringing and I picked it up to hear an automated voice: "Hi. This is a callback from Spark....". When I then pressed what they wanted to start speaking to a human being and listened to their music for about a minute, the human being asked to confirm if I was calling about a fault on my landline.

"No" I said to him calmly and explained that all I wanted was to know where my 40 cents went and, if possible, to be able to know that without having to go through these calls. "I'll get you to the right team then, stay on the line".

After another minute of music I was finally speaking to a member of the right team and here I got partial success: he finally told me where the 40 cents went. The message I sent happened to be a long one and hence split into two messages each of which costed 20c. Myth resolved. At least that wasn't voicemail that Gemma suggested and that I did not setup or asked to be charged for.

But then, how about being able to see that online myself? Is that true that prepaid customers can only see the last two days of activity?

Answering that question, the guy said that I needed to install an app and add a plan to see the activity I wanted. "But I do not need any plan! I only need casual use" I told him, to which he replied "you can try MySpark". I said "that was the first thing I tried and it only shows the last 2 days of activity", to which he had to admit that the only way I can check my activity for any period longer than 2 days is to call and talk to them.

"Now it's all over" I thought. And I was wrong.

At 2:40pm my phone started ringing again and the same automated voice offered to press "1" to start speaking to them. "Why?" I thought, and just ended the call.

Five minutes later the robot called again. This time I understood that to kick it off I had to do something different than simply ending the call, so I listened to it and learned that pressing "9" does the trick. So far it looks like it worked.

So, here is my summary of what Spark could spend money on looking at to make customers happier instead of making its website so annoyingly blue/purple and useless:

 

     

  • Why am I receiving marketing texts from Spark and why there is no option to turn them off in MySpark?
  • Where are the prepaid casual rates on the website? How much time on average one would need to spend on the website to find them?
  • Why only "Last 2 days" option is available on the View Activity page in MySpark?
  • Why did Gemma ask my account number? She already had (should had) my mobile number because I provided it in the form I filled to start the chat;
  • Why Gemma could not see and tell me where my 40 cents had gone?
  • Why did I have to first hear the automated voice calling me back instead of a real person right away? I understand that Spark does not want to waste operators' time on customers who are not available to speak to right away, but this makes me feel that it is not me who is the customer here but Spark!
  • Why did the first person I spoke to during the callback not know my problem and asked if I had a landline fault?
  • Why did I receive the subsequent callback if all I wanted was clarified during the first one?
Getting back to the actual point of this post, I am just thinking that posting posts like this should contribute to getting service providers change their focus and making things better for customers.

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Stu

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  Reply # 1393945 24-Sep-2015 21:28
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I have removed some rather rude and/or unnecessary posts. If you haven't got anything helpful to say, please keep the comments to yourself. Come on folks, there's no need to be nasty.




Keep calm, and carry on posting.

 

 

 

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  Reply # 1393951 24-Sep-2015 21:36
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Jase2985: skinny use sparks network so your comment is incorrect

Thanks. I did not know that.

michaelmurfy: SMS messages on Spark always have been 20c per message. Go to Skinny.

Skinny's casual rate for texts is 20c too. Their cheapest pack is also the same price as Spark — $9. What's the point?
I am only sending 1-10 text messages and making 1-3 minutes of calls every month.

 
 
 
 


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  Reply # 1393956 24-Sep-2015 21:49
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I have removed other posts. While some may think it's a 40c fee and easily explained, I understand the post is about how hard it is to get some information out of telcos sometimes.

I couple of the replies I removed were clearly confrontational. If you have nothing to contribute, don't.


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  Reply # 1393965 24-Sep-2015 21:58
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Any automated sms messages should be able to be stopped by simply replying with STOP

They really should tell you in the message, but that'd kill the marketing.




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Reply # 1394503 25-Sep-2015 17:20
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The party is not over yet laughing.
I just received a really awesome email from Spark:



andrewNZ: Any automated sms messages should be able to be stopped by simply replying with STOP

Can anyone tell for sure if that works? And will the message cost anything?



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  Reply # 1394517 25-Sep-2015 18:00
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This morning my flatmate got an account from Spark for a old orphaned legacy mobile account which they let her keep after quitting the phone line years ago. She'd made probably 10 calls, and the same number of texts, and was charged $40, so I suggested she switch to a $19 prepay. She went onto the Spark site, and was completely flummoxed. The trouble is, although she uses the computer daily -- for email, banking, contacting contractors etc, and recently planning a world trip, she only ever uses a browser. So for her, the normal tools that computer applications use to make things easy, such as tabs, drop-downs, hovers, etc mean nothing to her.
So whereas it seems to be a sensible way to go to make a website as if it was a Windows application, it doesn't really work for everyone. The trouble with Spark is just that they try to do too much on their site, so there's no really clear pathway through it. It's grown like Topsy, and they just seem to add stuff all the time.
I don't blame them for that, all the major telcos do this, and the bigger they are, the more of a mess their sites get. I'm with Vodafone, and today I rang them with a simple query, and on the single call I spoke to three different people. This is just the way they seem to work now, and I'm getting used to it. In their defense, the call went through immediately, without even ringing once, so that's a plus these days.


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  Reply # 1394571 25-Sep-2015 19:52
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Greendrake:
Can anyone tell for sure if that works? And will the message cost anything?




you are sending a text message so it will cost you what ever the cost of a text message is on your plan (pre or post paid)

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  Reply # 1394577 25-Sep-2015 20:01
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andrewNZ: Any automated sms messages should be able to be stopped by simply replying with STOP

They really should tell you in the message, but that'd kill the marketing.


Premium message require details of how to unsubscribe to be part of the message to comply with TCF regulations. Non premium message do not.

All messages whether premium or non premium will respond to 'stop' to unsubscribe, and have to do this to comply with TCF regulations. This has been the case for the last 15 or so years since the beginning of SMS marketing.







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  Reply # 1394585 25-Sep-2015 20:25
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Jase2985: you are sending a text message so it will cost you what ever the cost of a text message is on your plan (pre or post paid)

I have always been using prepaid, and what I can remember from my experience with other mobile operators, sending text messages to the operators' short numbers for the purpose of turning something on/off or confirming something has always been free. And this does make sense — sending such messages you are merely changing your settings (versus receiving services).

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  Reply # 1394627 25-Sep-2015 22:54
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You can blame Google for why the spark website looks the way it does. As it has been optimised for viewing on both desktop and mobile devices. Links can be a pain to click on when you are using a small screen. And Spark would have done every trick possible to improve the Google search ranking of their website. Especially important as the word "Spark" is a generic word. And Google downranks websites that are not optimised for viewing on mobile devices.





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  Reply # 1394673 26-Sep-2015 06:56
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toprob: This morning my flatmate got an account from Spark for a old orphaned legacy mobile account which they let her keep after quitting the phone line years ago. She'd made probably 10 calls, and the same number of texts, and was charged $40, so I suggested she switch to a $19 prepay. She went onto the Spark site, and was completely flummoxed. The trouble is, although she uses the computer daily -- for email, banking, contacting contractors etc, and recently planning a world trip, she only ever uses a browser. So for her, the normal tools that computer applications use to make things easy, such as tabs, drop-downs, hovers, etc mean nothing to her.
So whereas it seems to be a sensible way to go to make a website as if it was a Windows application, it doesn't really work for everyone. The trouble with Spark is just that they try to do too much on their site, so there's no really clear pathway through it. It's grown like Topsy, and they just seem to add stuff all the time.
I don't blame them for that, all the major telcos do this, and the bigger they are, the more of a mess their sites get. I'm with Vodafone, and today I rang them with a simple query, and on the single call I spoke to three different people. This is just the way they seem to work now, and I'm getting used to it. In their defense, the call went through immediately, without even ringing once, so that's a plus these days.

 


I think the worst aspect is when you're trying to find something more than just the basic - want to find the price of a phone call to Australia for a given plan? no link from the plan to the faq at the bottom and when I go to the faq at the bottom there is 'Calling International Top 5 - 91c/Min' but what constitutes the top 5 countries? no link is given and/or countries listed. I then go to broadband, put in an address and there is no way to 'add national calling' option anywhere as I see it. I really have to wonder how many people ring up Spark or Vodafone asking questions about services that could be easily addressed by having the information in a easier access format.




Laptop: MacBook (Intel Core m7 1.3Ghz, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD)

 

Desktop: iMac 5K (i7 4.0GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD)

 

Smartphone: iPhone 6s Plus 128GB

 




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  Reply # 1394730 26-Sep-2015 10:10
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kawaii: 
I think the worst aspect is when you're trying to find something more than just the basic

Exactly. This is the thing.
And it is the current trend, not just Spark. Websites are made to be presentations/hooks versus information sources or useful tools. Very annoying. Perhaps most people are not annoyed though, otherwise it won't be happening.

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  Reply # 1394759 26-Sep-2015 10:59
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Skinny's self service is superior to Spark's, because they made it possible for the customer to do pretty much everything = less calls, less CSR's needed

You can view your usage for the past few months, you can even do things like move your number to another SIM

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  Reply # 1394777 26-Sep-2015 11:14
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Aredwood: You can blame Google for why the spark website looks the way it does. As it has been optimised for viewing on both desktop and mobile devices. Links can be a pain to click on when you are using a small screen. And Spark would have done every trick possible to improve the Google search ranking of their website. Especially important as the word "Spark" is a generic word. And Google downranks websites that are not optimised for viewing on mobile devices.


A bit off topic but to make it clear, Google doesn't rank entire sites based on mobile usability, it ranks pages.


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  Reply # 1395782 28-Sep-2015 14:13
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andrewNZ: Any automated sms messages should be able to be stopped by simply replying with STOP

They really should tell you in the message, but that'd kill the marketing.


According to the spam act - the ability to unsubscribe from spam should be in the same medium as you received it.

Spam should also contain
  - who authorised the spam message,
  - who sent the message
   - how to unsubscribe
   - a valid unsubscribe link that is valid for at least 14 days (from memory).

Try fitting that into a few chars in a txt msg. Maybe all txt spam should be reported to the spam.org.nz crew as illegal?







nunz

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