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The Joys of dealing with Telefonica

By Mr Grumpy - Sat 8th Aug 2009

Anybody who has been living in Spain for more than a few weeks will know that Telefonica is a dirty word. Even my Spanish friends know that they are a fantastic example of how not to run a company and how to alienate your customers.

After living in Spain for a number of years, and relying on mobile phones, we felt that it was time to get a land line – more for the benefits of having an Internet connection than anything else. My neighbour has an office at the bottom of my garden with 6 telephone lines, and as he only uses 2 of them he said that I could take one of them on for myself ( “Why not get your own line ?” - you might rightly ask – apparently the number of lines permissible at our local exchange is finite and has long since reached full capacity, and as such asking for a new line would be a no-no - at least not until the exchange was upgraded, and they couldn't tell me when that was likely to be ! ).

So with a length of 2 core cable and some hose pipe to sleeve it through I ran the connection across my garden, and with a quick call to Telefonica to tell them to change the payment details on that particular number, everything was up and running.So far so good.

Christmas Gift Lists

The issue became complicated when after a couple of years I wanted to upgrade my line and get Broadband. My first step was to visit the Telefonica website ( which is not in English ) to see if my Number was able to be upgraded so it could receive broadband ( It was ! ) and so I applied for the upgrade on-line. After going through the 5 or 6 steps to apply, the system kept throwing me back out and telling me to call customer services to resolve this. Telefonica provide an English speaking service, and simply by repeating the word “ English “ the automated system recognises this and forwards your call to an appropriate operator. Or at least that is the theory - In practise anybody requesting this service gets sent to the back of the queue and eventually their call is responded to by somebody who more often than not does not speak much English and seems surprised that the client is even requesting to be dealt with in English.( I'm not saying that English people living in Spain should always have the option to be serviced in their own language - just that Telefonica should either offer the service, or not – not a halfway house ) After a number of attempts and still not getting any joy I decided to try to speak to a Customer Services Operator in Spanglish, with a little bit more success, however I ran into 2 Problems :

Firstly, I was unable to upgrade because apparently my Number did not exist. Having made and received numerous calls over the last 12 Months ( And Indeed been paying the Bill ) I stated that I was pretty certain that it did. She went away, calling me back several hours later stating that yes, ok, maybe it did exist - just that my address did not exist. Again , I felt pretty sure that it did having lived their for the previous couple of years. Once again, away she went to check the details and came back a couple of days later to advise me that the address listed was actually the exchange and not my house, and by simply correcting my address then yes, I could upgrade.

Secondly, when the bill came through it was completely different to what I had been advised on the website, so naturally I called up to query this. You can imagine my surprise at being told that the price advertised on the web was a special offer for those who applied on the web, rather than made a call through to the customer services department. Fine, I said, but the system would not allow me to apply on-line and referred me to call the customer services department instead ! - But such rationale is frowned upon at Telefonica and as such I either had to Pay the sum demanded or cancel the service !

Since July of last year Telefonica have lost their status of having total exclusivity in Spain ( As did BT in the UK in the late 80's ) and it doesn't seem to have dawned on them just yet that the vast majority of their clients ( Spanish and English ) will vote with their feet as soon as the various other Telecomms providers make themselves , and their offers known to the public. Perhaps when they have lost 50% of their business they will start to up their game by improving their customer services, and cutting their costs to regain or even keep some of their clients.

I'm a great believer in the saying “ Better the devil you know ... “ , but in this case anybody with a half an idea about customer services and fair spread of reasonably priced products gets my thumbs up !

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