Thursday, 30 August 2007

Premium Rate SMS Abuse

One of the downsides of running Premium SMS services for customers is having to deal with irate subscribers who feel, rightly or wrongly, that they have been charged for services that they didn't subscribe to.

When a subscriber has an issue, they generally call their network operator who calls up the details of the service provider who run services on a given shortcode. If they get this right, not always by any means, the subscriber calls us.

We, as a service provider, have a dedicated number for these and can quickly cancel any subscriptions and give the subscriber the details of our customer so they can approach them for a refund.

All this is fine if the subscriber acts reasonably, this isn't always the case.

It never ceases to amaze me how people deem it acceptable to scream abuse at people over the phone as if that is going to help expediate matters.

My team are on the front line and no matter how much I reassure them that's it's perfectly acceptable to hang-up on people who act this way, they are still affected by it.

It's grossly unfair that some reactionary little prat with anger management issues can upset and offend people at will with no comeback on them.

It does come with the territory but I wish these people would learn to act like adults. The world would be a better place for them and the rest of us.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to see just how calm you remain, when you receive several unsolicitated sms within 10 seconds, with something likes jokes in it, for which you have been reverse-billed £1.50 each for, and for which you know for a 'fact' you didn't subscribe to. And even when your network confirms that you didn't use your own phone to subscribe to the short code in question, it's somehow impossible that you didn't subscribe to that service, and that there's nothing they can do. And when you track down the company which owns the premium rate number they insist that you subscribed despite the fact you 'know' you didn't, and so on. And then you read the postings of hundreds of others who have been through the same process, so until there is real protection for customers from your industry, you're going to have to get used to angry people who've been scammed sometimes for hundreds of pounds.

Adam said...

I do appreciate your frustration. The industry in general has a terrible public perception not least thanks to the debarcle at GMTV. Unfortunately in any industry there are rogue elements who threaten to destroy things for those acting legitimately.

The thrust of my post was that getting angry and rude with the person who picks up the phone is not the best way to get the situation resolved. They're your best chance of having the service stopped and messages refunded.

Our approach is very simple. From a mobile number, my support team can immediately see a full history of messages that have transited through our system. If this is the case, we can immediately cancel the service and raise a cheque refund for the full amount of the disputed charges. We then on charge that to our customer who is providing the service.

The problem comes when the messages have not transited through our system. Generally people have contact us after contacting their network operator who has scanned the bill and picked one of the service providers for you to call.

In some cases it's not a service that has run through our system that is under dispute but the call centre operative at the operator has not looked that deeply and directed the call to us.

At that point, we're in the uneviable position of having to tell the subscriber that they need to go back to the operator and get the details of the other service provider.

It's not ideal and yes it is frustrating but my team work very hard to smooth over any issues and go beyond what is required of us as an industry participant to ensure that people are treated fairly.

The art of complaining involves deciding what you want to achieve and how best to achieve it. Tearing a strip off whoever answers the phone may make you feel better but is neither productive or fair.