[rant] Bouygues answers #FreeMobile “Lalala, I can’t hear you”

Jan 12, 2012
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I wouldn’t consider myself a “fan” of Bouygues – in fact, in France no one is happy with their ISP, no matter who they have. In conversations, you more often hear “Oh, you have [SFR/Bouygues/Orange], they suck!” followed shortly by a “I mean, I don’t like [not the one you have], but at least I don’t have them.” This is precisely why Xavier Niel’s launch and announcement of #FreeMobile has gotten so much praise – it is a new player in the game. I am a recent Bouygues customer: I was coming off of a “I hate Orange” tirade, and Bouygues has the iPhone 4S in stock when it came out, so I now am a Bouygues user. I took a trip down to the local ‘Bouygues clubhouse’ to pay my bill (long story), and after actually waiting 30 minutes behind a woman with a crying baby constantly saying “yes, but… I want this.” I finally said in broken French “Hi. I need to pay my bill to get my internet and phone turned back on.”

And thus begins “La La La, I can’t hear you”

It was at this moment that I learned that “as of this morning, Bouygues customer service and accounts representatives are unreachable” and according to The Club, they will probably not be reachable tomorrow either. You see, Bouygues may have known that FreeMobile was coming for months, as the buzz has been circling the internet in the same fashion that Bouygues is circling the drain, but now that the announcement is out, they’re in crisis mode – and in an outstanding display of their fight or flight reflexes, they fled.

In a previous [rant], I spoke about how you can turn a user’s bad experience into a user for life – it’s a simple concept really: users who care enough to complain about your product obviously like the concept of your product enough, they just need to be shown that the people behind the product care enough about their customers to listen to them, and they’ll follow you off a cliff.

Following Xavier Niel’s press conference for FreeMobile, in which he said that Telecom companies treat their customers like pigeons, Bouygues published a facebook note simply titled “You Are not Pigeons,” which to me was a good way to say “look, we hear you.” In the email they say “A mobile plan is not just a price for calls, texts, and wifi; it is equally for a set of services,” going on to say that what makes Bouygues special is its 92,000 employees who are ‘there for you.’ Now this is a legitimate point to make, as Free is a mostly internet-based service, with very few stores available; Bouygues’ letter actually had me feeling happy about being a Bouygues customer… until I had to interact with any of their 92,000 employees.

So here’s the follow-up to my prior rant: if you are going to promise your customer’s something and react to a bad situation – citing reasons why customer’s should stick with you – make sure you follow through with your value-added proposition. So here I sit, in my room, with no ability to turn on my internet despite my desire to pay the more expensive price – ironically, I’m currently writing this blog using one of Free’s many wifi spots, using a commonly shared username/login.