Recently I wrote a blog post about my trip to Hong Kong, Singapore and India. Before taking off, I made sure that I purchased a cell phone plan – Talk & Text Travel Pack – for all my communication needs, while away. After two days of merrily roaming the streets of Hong Kong, it dawned on me that my travel pack did not include coverage for any data usage; and my 2GB data plan did not cover my usage outside Canada. By simply checking my emails and availing of location-based services like Google Maps, I was using copious amounts of data while “roaming.”
The cost of my oversight was $1200! The fault was completely mine. I should have known better. After all, I am in the industry.
Feeling a little sheepish about the whole fiasco, I decided to do a little digging. I quickly realized that “whopping” is a relative term. The Internet is rife with horror stories pertaining to excessive bills tied to international roaming. A lady in Australia was billed $148,000 by Telstra, the local Telco, for charges that she incurred while roaming in Italy. My pains pale in comparison!
So, is there a better way for businesses to handle situations like these? Do companies have an obligation to warn customers as they make these mistakes, especially, when keeping quiet is more profitable? Should businesses operate without the right level of transparency when it comes to services that are often, not as clear-cut as a product – a car or television? Is it possible to trust a company that is not transparent in its policies and commitments? When was the last time you got a refund for a billing error that you were not aware of, from a telephone company or a supermarket? We are living in a low-trust era where Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff and Rajat Gupta are still fresh in our memories. Businesses that proactively engage to resolve customers’ issues, even at a cost, will have a higher chance of success. Or, would a sign outside the building like this one do?
Going back to my cell phone bill, a warning message from my service provider indicating that I was incurring unusually high data roaming charges, or even a cap on data roaming would have limited my exposure. That would have been transparent behaviour on the part of the company. My trust in them would have increased. They chose to treat it as the customer’s problem. Surely, no company can plan for all their customers’ mistakes and negligence! But then, why do Amazon and Apple warn customers when they are about to purchase an item that they have previously purchased?
Customers are increasingly connected. Opinions and reviews on social networks often carry more weight than a print or a television advertisement from a company. In a connected world, no company is immune from public opinion and its related fallout.
Transparency in business dealings would be a good starting point!
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