Do you have a mobile phone? How do you use it?

Do you have a mobile phone? I’m quite sure your answer is yes. So you might be interested in the following story.

I have had a cell phone for about 9 years and until recently I had been with one provider - Vodafone. That’s not quite correct because originally I had signed up with D2, a German cell phone operator that was acquired by Vodafone a couple of years ago and I’m actually still a Vodafone customer because I have two mobile numbers.

At the time I became a cell phone user you it was common to sign up for a plan which meant you agreed to pay a monthly basic fee and your contract was 2 years minimum. Although or maybe Vodafone is one of the largest cell phone operators they rates in Germany are rather lousy.

For example, the tariff I had subscribed included a minute price of 49 cents per minute for phone calls to national land lines and 0.69 to national mobile numbers outside of Vodafone. So a 15 minute chat would easily set me back more than 10 Euros. Not the best deal to say the least.

Yes, I could have changed the plan or converted it into a prepaid tariff but even then I would have to pay different prices to different phone calls at different times and it would have been complicated to keep the total costs under control. Yes, also could have changed the provider all together and sign up for the first and only mobile phone flat rate in Germany (a revolution?) - Base by e-plus. But who knows how reliable the e-plus network is, it’s the smallest and certainly weakest in Germany. On top of that ? 25 per month is not cheap too and phone calls to cell phones outside of the e-plus network are still to expensive.

So I shopped around a little and found the solution: A British based company founded a Greek: EasyMobile. They are offering the best deal - 14 cents per minute for any phone call to any number (land line or any cell number) at any time. No monthly fees, no minimum charges - as they put it: ‘No frills airtime’. But what’s more, EasyMobile is offering outstanding customer support. To be honest, I have not experienced something like this before.

The thing is that I wanted to keep my existing Vodafone number (an option, that has become available in Germany only a few years ago) and I wanted the transfer process to run as smoothly and easily as possible. And what can I say? EasyMobile has an outstanding system in place that allows you to conduct the entire procedure almost entirely online.

I still had some questions I wanted answered by real people and for such cases EasyMobile offers a ‘live chat’ option. It works great. I had several questions and every time I went online there was a competent and friendly customer agent available within seconds! No expensive calls to support lines, no silly music while being put on hold, no advertising. Great.

At this point it might be worthwhile pointing out, I’m just a new and happy EasyMobile customer, not a sales rep ;-). Oh, and I should also mention that EasyMobile uses the T-Mobile network which has the best coverage throughout Germany.

Anyway, I thought we could talk about customer service in general or about the mobile phone industry in particular. What are your experiences? What cell phone operator or provider do you use? Do you use a plan or a prepaid option? What about international roaming, is that important to you? How many SMS do you send and/or receive per month?

Have you heard of the EasyGroup (EasyJet, EasyHotel, EasyCruise, etc.) which was founded by Mr. Stelios?


PS: To add something positive about my long year provider Vodafone - I’m still their customer and I like most of their marketing materials. They recently have started to run a new commercial which I consider the best one available on German TV at the moment. It seems they have changed their slogan from How are you? to Make the best of now but this should go into a new thread called something like English advertising slogans in Germany?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, question-response: What about the weekly sales report?[YSaerTTEW443543]

I have a cellphone. It usually stays in my pocket. Generally I use it to check my e-mail for messages from clients, and sometimes the stock market. Once in a while I read the news. I could watch TV on it, if I wanted to, but I don’t.

I have no use for text messages, so I haven’t even bothered to learn how to send them. (Although a couple of students I was teaching Czech to told me that text messaging with a Czech friend provided them with excellent daily vocabulary lessons.)

I use Sprint. My plan is a typical one for the US, which means a monthly block of minutes which are consumed at a flat rate when calling any phone in the US. Additional minutes cost 40?, but I never run over. The plan has free calling after 9:00 p.m. and on weekends and holidays. There is no special rate for calling a landline or another company’s phones. A phone is a phone is a phone, except that I might get free calling to other Sprint customers.

When I first got a cellphone, I was mainly interested in the fact that I didn’t have to pay extra for long distance. Now, however, my landline has free long distance at a cheaper monthly rate, and calls to the UK are 6? per minute and to continental Europe 7?. Plus, I don’t pay for incoming calls. This eliminates the reason I used my cellphone at home, but I still need it when I’m running all over the place all day. In the US it can be as much as five or six miles between pay phones, and people don’t stop anymore if your car breaks down, because they just assume you’ve got a cellphone.

If you walk into a Sprint store and sneeze, they will force you to sign a new 2-year contract. If you change your shoes, Sprint will find out and make you sign a new 2-year contract. If you flush your toilet, Sprint will make you sign a new 2-year contract. If it rains, Sprint will force you to sign a new 2-year contract. If grass grows in the spring, Sprint will force you to sign a new 2-year contract.

Sprint’s support online and over the phone are great, but their stores are slightly less efficient and cheerful than the unemployment office.