Would you mind confirming the first line of your address, your postcode and your date of birth?
Thought so. It’s not much of a way to begin a conversation, is it? So imagine how things went last Thursday when Vodafone called up and asked me precisely that. Or go and dig out the recording – around 5pm on 9 April 2009, to 07*** *84100. You may find it enlightening.
“Is it important that I answer these questions?” I said. “Surely as you’ve called me, shouldn’t I be trying to prove you who are who you say you are rather than the other way around?” “What exactly is the purpose of this call anyway?”
And so on. But to each request, the same stonewall: “I can’t say anything more to you until you confirm your personal details to me”. “Not even to let me know if this is a sales call: yes, or no?”. “I can’t tell you that until…”
“Sounds like phishing,” I said, “cold calling and asking me for information. This really must be important…”
Deadlocked, I gave in, concerned that not doing so might result in continuation of a fraud, or loss of future service on that number. Because those are the real and only reasons I want to hear from you like that. If I’m the villain with the stolen phone then I need to be rumbled, so you can shut the line down. That protects my interests. That’s your job as my service provider.
Instead your happy call-centre employee says: “I am pleased to tell you that you’ve been pre-selected for…”
When you play the call back, Arun, you’ll hear that things go a little downhill at this point. Mainly because I’m bellowing along the lines of: “How dare you…”
I cannot quite believe any company could be so stupid as to treat its customers like this. Before the cold calls are made do you pay the faintest attention to the actual relationship you have with the person you’re calling? If you had, you’d realise that my Vodafone number is a £20/month deal, with a one month’s notice termination option. It’s a commodity, for heaven’s sake. I can (and will) go to any other service provider to replace it.
And stupid enough to think that someone needs to be securely authenticated in order to sell them things. Let’s imagine I had been Mr Burglar, heading away from my house with that phone. Would you have cut the line off if the right answers hadn’t been forthcoming? Actually, I’m slightly scared that the answer might even be yes to that one…
What a total waste of my time. And a great way to embed in customers’ heads that it’s perfectly normal to get calls out of the blue requiring ‘essential’ personal information.
Big round of applause to Vodafone for this particular stroke of brilliance. You’re doing the phishers a nice big favour with that one!
I’d love to hear your side of this one, by the way. Doesn’t it seem just ever so slightly crass to you?