Here is a note I sent to the folks at Project Fi at Google. I am not criticizing the Project Fi technology (though in my situation it didn’t really work), but rather the way they mishandled customer service. For one of the richest companies in the world, the investment in customer service seems embarrassingly poor.
Now that my cancellation with Project Fi is complete, I would like to share some feedback.
1. For the life of me I can’t understand why I couldn’t get a payment plan for the phone. With a FICO score of 815 from Experian, a single late payment in 2013, and a history of paying off homes, cars, and consumer credit, this still has me flummoxed.
2. If you look at my history, it took forever to get my cancellation processed. There was confusion over whether my phone number could be reverted back to Google Voice. I spoke to a number of customer service people and had the case upgraded to a manager, Rosanne. Rosanne told me she would complete my cancellation process and transfer my phone number back to Google Voice and contact me when this was complete.
4. Four days later I returned to my Fi account to see it was active again. I resumed trying to Cancel it, found that the transfer to Google Voice option was now available, and I completed the cancellation. Rosanne never contacted me, I completed the transaction instead of customer service, and as far as I could tell there would be no follow-up from customer service.
5. At this point I still couldn’t return the phone to get credit for it. I had to ask for the mailing label and instructions to return the phone. Since I was out $500 for the phone (see #1), this was reasonably important.
6. I returned the phone, tracked its progress myself, and then monitored my credit card to see when the refund had been made. Since #2 I have not had any contact with Project Fi service.
Let me contrast this with two other service encounters I have had.
1. Renting books from Amazon. I rent the book, I received status on my order. I use the book. As my rental term nears expiration I receive instructions on how to return the book with mailing labels, etc. I drop off the book and receive E-mail that Amazon sees that I have dropped off the book and will let me know when they receive it (they track the return label automatically). I have assurance that my return is being handled, that Amazon is aware of it, and that all billing is satisfied. Keeping me informed gives me peace of mind and builds trust in the company to use them again.
2. Warranty work at Apple. My son has a problem with the graphics processor on his MacBook. It is not an uncommon problem. The folks at the Genius bar assess the problem, we note that there is a hairline fracture at the side of the screen, and the computer is sent off for repairs. The service center calls and says: You need a new screen. We exchange photos of the screen before and after shipping, the service center checks, in real time while talking with me, with the representative at the Genius Bar, and Apple agrees that the screen was further damaged in transit and replaces it free of charge. The Free of Charge was great, but it was the diligent communication with me that made the greatest difference.
Project Fi has some interesting technology (though that technology really didn’t work for my environment). But a cell phone provider is much more in the service business than the technology business. Being in the service business means a commitment to customer communication and proactive actions. You need to up your game significantly if you are going to be a serious player in this space or end up as an “experiment” that ultimately fails and is retired.
— Michael Kilian