Whatever the New Year brings, Mayo’s county councillors can look forward to some light entertainment when the Operations Director of Eir makes his appearance at the authority’s February meeting. Mr Kjeld Hartog has agreed to appear before the council to answer charges of poor service and unacceptable levels of the handling of customer complaints by the much-criticised telco.
Mr Hartog will presumably be at pains not to repeat the mistakes of his boss, CEO Carolan Lennon, when she appeared before the Dáil committee a month ago. Not only did Ms Lennon succeed in insulting half the population of Sligo by complaining of the inadequacy of her customer care staff in that city, she also failed to assuage the anger of the politicians who lined up to give a thorough kicking to her company.
Perhaps aware of what may be in store for him from Mayo’s elected representatives, Mr Hartog has got his excuses in early. The pandemic, he has explained in his letter of acceptance of the council’s invitation, has been largely responsible for the unsatisfactory nature of Eir’s customer service. Four hundred customer care agents, he said, have been working from home on health and safety grounds, which in turn has impacted negatively on Eir’s ability to deliver an adequate level of service.
It’s a reply that blithely ignores the fact that when Eir scrapped its customer-care service contract with an Indian based firm, to which the function had been outsourced for several years, the service got even worse than it had been – a situation which few thought could even be possible.
Michael Kilcoyne’s withering assertion that if there was an award for the worst customer service in the country, Eir would win it hands down, is fully borne out by mere observation alone. Radio phone-in lines are routinely jammed by customers venting their anger and frustration at their experiences with the telco provider – brutal delivery standards, a dysfunctional customer service, delays, broken promises, and all too often, the sheer inability to even make contact with the company.
The consumer pages of the daily press reflect the same story. Six out of every ten complaints received by Comreg, the telecoms watchdog, relate to Eir.
Eir has had three different owners in the last ten years, and five different chief executives. It is the unloved company in which senior staff cannot wait to get out the door quickly enough, having realised that Eir is an entity which is both unwilling and incapable of fixing what has gone wrong. Long-suffering customers may hope for a little respite in that new EU regulations are set to strengthen consumer rights in the face of unacceptably low service from telecom providers.
But Eir may have more to worry about than the lashing it will undoubtedly receive from Mayo’s councillors.
Around the same time as Mr Hartog will be facing fire in Castlebar, Eir will be defending itself in the Commercial Court against a claim from Virgin Media over its failure to pay a €2.5 million fee in a sports broadcast deal. The parties had agreed to a deal to carry each other’s sports channels, with Eir paying Virgin a sum of €6 million over two years. However, Virgin claims that Eir failed to make a €2.5 million payment due last July, on the grounds that Covid-19 had meant less Champions League and Europa League matches than had been originally planned.
Perhaps, after all, Mayo County Council should go a little easier on Mr Hartog.