Even the big guys get it wrong

I was concerned this morning to find a txt from Vodafone to say that my prepay credit was down to $0 and I would need to top up. Given my 29B plan had only been established four days ago, I didn't envisage that I had used all of either my unlimited txts, 200 minutes or 1GB of data, nor had I according to the smartphone app.

Looking at my detailed usage however, apparently I had spent $198.14 on data since my last top up on 21 April, $64.16 of which was whilst I had been sleeping last night. This is of course a bit strange given I haven't had $200 on my account during the last month and my balance yesterday was less than $10 and my phone was on wifi overnight.

I duly called Vodafone and spent 22 minutes on hold and a total of 33 minutes on the call. When asked "how are you today" my response was the obvious "well, actually I'm a bit annoyed".The very nice lady on the phone told me she knew why and it turns out "we had a technical glitch last night" and that she could see that my credit had been deducted $8.02. I pointed out the discrepancy that the app told me the charge was for $64.16. "As I said we had a technical glitch and I assure you only $8.02 has been deducted from your account," she replied.

Onto the next matter then - why between the 21st and 27th of April was my account showing further charges amounting to $133.98. And yes, according to their records I had been being charged 33c per MB for that period but my balance had not been reducing. This was apparently new and confusing and she had to consult her manager. The result as at the end of my call was that the problem was being forwarded to billing and they would keep me apprised but I could rest easy that no actual money had been taken from me.

I consider I'm a fairly reasonable person and I certainly wasn't rude or nasty to the poor call centre staffer who'd obviously had a morning (or given her accent possibly a night) of calls from concerned customers but if a company tells me they erroneously charged me just shy of $200, the burden of proof that they haven't is over to them. I didn't press the point with the staffer, after all I know my payments over the last month haven't been that high, but if I chose to be litigious I think I'd have at least a 50/50 chance.

The thing is, I've built self-service systems that have exposed complex accounting processes and strange system workarounds where internal processes create transactions which have zero effect on the customer's finances. In those cases, certain transaction codes are hidden from the customer's view. So I'm familiar with odd behaviour of back-end systems and I'm fairly comfortable that what I was being told on the phone is more or less correct. What I'm more concerned with is the ensuing lack of trust I now have in my cell provider at a systemic level.
  • What kind of poor change management processes must they have when rogue code makes it into production and starts to deduct actual money from people's accounts - $8.02 may be small but how am I to know that if I had had $100 credit that it wouldn't have all disappeared?
  • When you find an error that affects a subset or all or your customers why would you not manage that 'event' more proactively with a mass txt and a pre-recorded message offering to call you back. As it was I waited 22 minutes to be told "yes, I know why you're annoyed".
  • What deficient requirements, testing and assurance practices do they have when transactions which shouldn't be exposed to customers are?
Given the amount of time I spent on the phone to log my issue, I really should be presenting them with a bill for $112.50 — afterall they should have paid someone at least that to do some proper functional analysis or data analysis or integration testing or release management earlier in the process, wouldn't you say? I'm hardly inclined to pay for the privilege of being their guinea pig. User acceptance test (UAT) report - FAIL.
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