OK – it might sound like I’m on an anti-Vodacom roll. Not so. But I am left in awe at some of the messy marketing taking place. I was an immediate adopter of Vodacom’s less than brilliant 3G service from inception. At one point in its evolution and in sheer desperation, I tried i-Burst. It was even worse. Other than some artery-popping irritation as the software and firmware upgrades reached version 6.01 and 17 respectively, it’s finally out worked pretty OK for me.
This last weekend was the Vodacom launch of the much-vaunted HSDPA (High Speed Download Packet Access) promising higher download speeds than 3G. I’m presently in Durban on business. If Cape Town is Slaapstad, then Durban is in rigor mortis. That notwithstanding, on Sunday (launch day) I called the Vodacom 082155 data call centre to find out how to migrate my current 3G package to HSDPA. None of the automated options addressed my need. Even though I accessed some of them over several calls in the hope that the sneaky feature of ‘if you wish to speak to a consultant - press zero’ would be hidin’ in the woodwork somewhere. No such luck.
Being the inventive creature I am, I even called the 111 Vodacom customer care number and asked to be put through to a real person at 082155. I got automated options again. I tried again several times over the day, thinking that as potential call volumes dropped, humans would step into the breach. It was not to be.
Intrepid me even went into Durban’s Pavilion shopping centre Vodashop thinking they’d know the story. They didn’t. They’d been told they could re-issue 3G-type modem cards to people who’d taken out contracts only from Feb 2006. We ‘grandfather’ adopters are presently ‘stateless people’ and nobody seems to know what to do with us. Which is seriously dof when you consider that if we immediately adopted 3G, chances are we’d be suckers for more of the same with HSDPA.
There’s a learning here. Why not SMS in advance of launch - on the resident SIM card forming part of the 3G modem - your existing 3G clients to give them a heads-up on the new service and clarify how they can migrate to the new offering? In the same way that there’s never been an SMS advising of 3G software or firmware upgrades, Vodacom is failing its clients on the 3G broadband marketing front. Someone needs to kick butt.
I’ve now run out of energy and interest in finding out about the HSDPA offering. I suppose it’s a case once again of the first-to-market curse pioneered by Bill Gates. All stops are pulled out to get in ahead of the competition. Then the consumer is left to take high blood pressure medication as access to the product or service is shrouded in mystery and the actual offering is ‘de-bugged’ on them. Not nice.Vodafone