au KDDI: Bureaucracy FAIL

a.k.a. “We really have no idea how we still are in business, but it shouldn’t last much longer…”

When it comes to services and subscriptions (cellphone, ISP, banks, heroin dealer…), I am a company’s wet dream customer: one that never leaves for a competitor. Not that I develop any particularly fuzzy feeling for whatever nameless corporation happened to have a branch on the right street-corner on the right day, but when it comes to going through endless paperwork again, moving my account data, updating everything: I just. can’t. be. arsed.

Which is why I have been a faithful customer of AU for over 5 years: not because they are great (Docomo is cheaper, Softbank has better phones…) but because I will always endure a sizable share of customer abuse and groundless fees, rather than having to track all my friends and acquaintances to send them my new contact info (and when you think of it: these things have a price too, so I am not doing it all out of pure apathy).

Why won’t I be a customer of theirs for another 5 years, then? Well, read on and learn how a company loses a customer without even noticing it.

This morning, I landed in KIX after a three months research stay abroad, coming home to a mailbox stuffed with a dozen increasingly angry bill payment reminders from KDDI.

Now, as you can imagine, I did not just leave the country in December, hoping my keitai bills would just take care of themselves during my absence: back then, I dutifully went to the AU shop and sat through yet another endless paperwork session to set up automatic bill payment through my bank account. I also informed them I would be out of the country until March (no way to put my account on hold, of course) and made sure there were ample funds on my bank account.

Just around the time I did that and probably while I was busy getting on my way to the airport, AU decided to send me my monthly bill for December. Which arrived a few days after I had left for the Winter, and sat in my mailbox until my return.

To be honest, I had suspected this would happen. Even envisioned the possibility that, by some unfathomably dysfunctional bureaucracy, it would take a while (and perhaps a few sent reminders) for a human at KDDI to check my account and realise that they had all the info needed. Meanwhile, the prompt automatic payment of all further bills would show even the most stubborn software program that I wasn’t on the lam.

This, of course, is not what happened.

When I showed up at the local KDDI AU shop, holding a dozen reminders for my unpaid December bill and two mail receipts confirming that the money for January and February had been successfully charged to my account, I was informed by a very apologetic – yet unmoved – employee, that the line had been closed and the phone number released. No amount of pointing out the ridicule of the situation and expressing polite indignation at the fact that my account was still being charged for two extra months of a line they terminated (with fees, of course) did get me anything more than a few look of deep embarrassment.

And just like that, I was on my way to the Softbank store.

Not complaining here: while perfectly content with my two year-old keitai, I can certainly find a use for a brand new iPhone. You would just think that AU, as a company, would kinda try to keep their customers (its stagnating line of phones sure won’t).


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