Today I sat down to (finally) do my third quarter administration for my business taxes.  Yes, I am running behind…

I went to my personal Vodafone site to log in and download my invoices for the quarter and what do I find?  Oh, you can probably already guess…the site is down for maintenance…until tomorrow morning at 8:00. 

Huh!  I’m sure most business owners in the Netherlands already downloaded their invoices weeks ago.  I’m probably the only one who chose this weekend to do my administration.  I’m probably the only one who is fuming right now and writing a blog about it.  Or am I?

Perhaps I’m not alone.  Perhaps there are other business owners who are trying to assemble their invoices at the last minute to make a rush to their accountant tomorrow morning. 

My first reaction was: ugh, not another hassle.  Vodafone and I have a history.  Then I thought, wait a minute, I want to share my ‘advice’ about how this could be done better.  I searched on the site for ‘complaint’ (‘advice’ only took me to pages where they wanted to advise me on which products I should buy).  You’ll never guess what shows up when you search on the site with ‘complaint’…in the Business tab, nothing! When you switch to the Personal tab, the search engine throws out several links to the Algemene Voorwaarden (General Terms & Conditions)!  Ha.  “Before you complain, be sure that you read the small print in our terms of agreement…” Priceless!

It’s funny in a sad way.  It succeeded, though unintentionally, in making me laugh and defusing my negative emotion.  Whoever designed this probably works weekends at Boom Chicago (a comedy club in Amsterdam). Maybe more companies should use this approach. I still want to share my thoughts on this subject, but now I’m doing it with a smile on my face. I’ve decided that my advice is best suited for this blog, so here it is.

Thinking from the customer perspective: why today? If this is scheduled maintenance, why is it scheduled in a period that customers will be extra active with their needs?  End of third quarter = entrepreneurs doing taxes = <insert lightbulb here> entrepreneurs needing access to invoices from their service providers <ding – ding – ding!>.  And when do busy business owners do their taxes…YES = evenings and weekends! Why did they schedule the maintenance today?  Is it urgent maintenance or did they just not stop to think for a moment which customers would be affected and what impact this might have?  In my case, it frustrates me enormously that I won’t be able to complete my task today.  It’s a small part of what I have to do on the whole but I translate it into “because of Vodafone, I won’t be able to cross this off my list today!”  I’m a list crosser-offer so this is a big deal to me.  If this is urgent maintenance, by all means go right ahead.  BUT, if this is a nice-to-have regularly scheduled maintenance activity, the timing could have been better. 

Managing the customer relationship: communication is a wonderful thing. Why didn’t Vodafone inform customers in advance of this maintenance schedule?  It’s not just a few hours, it’s a whole day.  That’s a long time…especially when you’re a customer who is rushing to prepare her tax documents for her accountant. Vodafone could have and should have alerted their customers to the fact that the site was down for maintenance.  It’s fairly easy to predict that there will be a group of customers who will be working on their business administration at the last minute who will need their invoices.  A little thinking about who their customers are and what the circumstances of these customers could be in this period perhaps would have lead to another approach. I get an sms every time a new invoice is ready, but nothing when the site will be down for a day? Because of the timing, the sense of urgency, at least for me, is higher and my emotions run higher when my process is interrupted. I was counting on Vodafone’s site to be available, and it wasn’t.  I’m sure that somewhere in the General Terms, it makes clear that this is my problem.

Vodafone is one of the nominees for the CRM Awards in the Netherlands.  The above situation is a great CRM opportunity…and in my view not an optional one. This sort of frustration can be avoided.

I’ll be in the audience for the CRM Awards to hear their case. It’s good to know that there is at least a small group of people somewhere in the organisation that is focusing on the customer!  Maybe they’ll be interested in my advice.

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