In my last trip to Germany I decided to purchase finally a prepaid SIM card for my handheld. Since, I travel often to the country, it only sounded natural to me. So, I went in the first shop that was open on a Sunday (e-Plus was my luck) and got one. What I didn’t realize was that I was in for a trip, that if I knew in advance, I wouldn’t probably like to take.

I was assured by the shopping assistant that in 30 to 60 minutes I will have a working number that I can use for phone calls. Well, since I was exploring Berlin, I only got to this when I only got to check it out at my friend’s place. The SIM card was working alright, but when I attempted to call my other phone and see what my number is, there was this voice explaining in German something. I asked my friend to translate and she told me that I need to enter some code. The problem was that I couldn’t find any code in the documents. Then, she looked in the brochure that goes along with the card and she told me to go online and register…

So, I go on the website of the provider and start filling out the form. Apparently only German citizens were allowed to fill the form (so much for thinking out of the box). I went creative and typed any 5 digit number for the postal code. Turns out, I was living in Düsseldorf. What a shock!

Anyways, I got my email right and hoped I will receive the infamous code that will allow me to use the SIM card finally. Three hours later there was still no email and I decided to go to sleep, thinking when I wake up next morning, I would have the code already in my mailbox.  Unfortunately, there was no message from the e-Plus. And we decided to call the service center and get some help.

On the call, a lady explained that I need to think of a 4-7 digit number as per my choosing and enter it the first time I try to make a call. The question is why this was not explained in the SIM card accompanying documents and moreover why my friend, who is a German native, was not able to understand the instructions I was getting on my phone. So much for good service design!

The whole purpose for getting a prepaid card is to get a number quick and dirty. In most cases the user will be a student, unprivileged citizen, international businessman or simply a tourist. So immediately few questions come to my mind:

  1. Why the whole process of starting up the service is so complicated?
  2. Why there are no clear instructions in the accompanying documents?
  3. Why there is no English or any other foreign language messaging or customer service available?
  4. Did the person(s) that designed this user experience actually ever did tests or surveys on usability?
  5. Am I going to continue using e-Plus’ service after I consume all my credit on the SIM card?

The answer to last question is definitely NO. And it is not because I am picky, but because I like simple things to remain as such and hustle free. It is just ridiculous and I am not liking the service design, the bad UX that I got and the fact that someone is not considerate enough.

So, here are my two cents on how to avoid situations like this:

  1. Give appropriate instructions in the accompanying documents!
  2. Keep it simple and straight, so idiots like me would understand right on the spot and not needing to consult the toll-free Customer Service Department!
  3. If you are operating in a very touristy and international city, make sure that you will give multilingual options! Not everyone speaks your language!
  4. When you are designing your service process, make sure that every step is carefully researched and based on how the customer that had no idea previously is using it!
  5. Keep on trying to make the user experience better and better! Simplicity is a key milestone here.

Anyone had the same experience? Would you suggest more steps on making the e-Plus’ prepaid service better?

Logo source: www.eplus.de

Copyright © 2011 Borislav Kiprin. All Rights Reserved.