Mobile Phone Providers: Optus vs Vodafone


May 30, 2003


The Bottom Line Both companies rate highly in their phone support, but Optus have a store policy aimed at deterring customers.

I've been harassing mobile phone providers recently.

I was with Optus for years and had the problem that I live in a dead zone and have bugger all mobile service at home. Although access does improve if I grab a metal window frame before answering the call. Which does present the problem of running out of hands if you need to take notes, and I can't believe that acting as a mobile phone antenna is terribly healthy in the long term. The lack of service allowed me to wangle a really good deal with the only drawback that it lasts nine months and then I have to remind Optus that service in my area still sucks before they reinstate the deal.

I just hit the end of my current deal and I finished the term of my contract a while back. My mobile is mostly used for incoming calls and I don't make enough outgoing calls to warrant paying even the minimum monthly rate. So I decided to stuff the contract for a joke and go pre-paid

Phonechoice is a pretty good resource for comparing current rates. So I had a look around their site and narrowed it down to two providers. I then gathered some info to take with me to have a wee chat with the phone shop humans.

I have to admit that Optus Mobile customer service rocks, especially compared to the customer service of the bulk of their divisions. The reason for this is that Optus Mobile is a different entity to the rest of Optus.

As a bit of a background, during the Optus sell off, Cable and Wireless kept the mobile division and run all customer service in house. The rest of Optus is owned by SingTel who, aside from being clueless in general, insist on outsourcing their customer service. They have had a massive increase in customer complaints because the outsource team seems to consist of the neurotic, the insane and a fun combination of both. I'm yet to find anyone who has had any joy dealing with them.

Unfortunately great Optus Mobile customer service has been countered by rude, arrogant and ignorant service from their stores. I have had nothing but trouble when dealing with them in the past. So I was expecting the usual level of ineptitude when I hit an Optus store first.

There were two staff members on duty; one was dealing with a customer and the other one was screwing around on a computer with her back to me. After indicating to computer chick that I was indeed looking for service, she reluctantly pried herself off her machine and came to my assistance.

I wasn't too happy that the cheapest pre-paid deal is $30 and it only lasts six months — I did know this from my Phonechoice research, but it never hurts to ask. I don't know how long it will take to use up $30 worth of credit, but I'd like to see first before I decide to get a higher value card later.

On top of the lack of lower end phone cards, sullen computer chick wouldn't even allow me to buy a pre-paid card. I was told to go home, notify Optus that I wanted to transfer from contract to pre-paid and then to come back to buy a card. I wasn't even offered the use of a phone, or even the customer service number, to arrange this in store. Needless to say, I left.

Almost directly opposite Optus is the Vodafone store, so they were my next mission. The two laid back staff members couldn't have been more helpful. It was explained that because I'm swapping providers, I'd need a new SIM card. They have a starter pack for $29.95 including $20 of call credit and it lasts for a year. This is more than enough time to figure out what sort of card I'll need for future use, plus the call rates are lower than Optus.

Recently my mother enquired with Optus about swapping handsets, was told of the different SIM card sizes between her old phone and the one she was considering and told that she would lose all of her phone data. I don't know why this concerned her as she gets me to program her mobile anyway, but she wasn't impressed by the news. Because of my new SIM card, any data on my old SIM would be wiped. I knew this and was quite prepared to reprogram the mobile. Vodafone are either more technically savvy than Optus stores, or at least train their staff, because my old SIM card got plugged into a computer and the data written to the new card. Took a few minutes, no hassle, yay Vodafone.

All I had to do then was give Vodafone a call on their free number and let them know I was good to go. That done, they transferred me through to the portability people who organised for my old mobile number to be transferred to my new Vodafone SIM card. I was informed that there was a backlog and the change would take about 24 hours. Rather than leave me hanging, they suggested I use my old SIM card until the change was finalised. When the provider name vanished from my mobile, I could than swap to my new SIM and be good to go. The change came through in 12 hours.

I then had a chat to Vodafone customer service — who have, so far, proven themselves to be as chirpy and co-operative as Optus Mobile — about setting up the usual security bars and I was done.

So now I'm a happy Vodafone customer who had a pleasant customer experience both in store and on the phone. Optus stores have a lot to learn.

www.phonechoice.com.au

As I'm in Australia and neither of the providers mentioned operate in the US I was at a loose end finding where to slot this article. A big thank you to Arthur.Rubin and shoplmart for directing me to this section.

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