Consumer Cellular Informative - What to expect from Consumer Cellular: The GOOD and the BAD.
PORTLAND, OREGON -- UPDATE: Some of the BAD has been corrected. See comments.
I have recently subscribed to Consumer Cellular wireless phone service. This replaces my previous 6 year relationship with Nextel (Sprint). With Nextel I was paying about $77 a month for 2 phones sharing 400 minutes.
I saw a Consumer Cellular ad on TV and thought I would check them out. I found few complaints against them on a quick Google search. Some of those complaints were baseless as those individuals obviously did not understand wireless billing practices.
I called Consumer Cellular and ordered two phones, accessories, and activation fees for $171. I received the phones two days later. I called them for activation and they ported my numbers from Nextel and I was up and running within an hour. So I now have 500 minutes shared between 2 phones for about $47 per month. And, the best part, NO CONTRACT!
Their telephone customer service is located in the USA. Wait times are usually less than 5 minutes. Customer service representatives are friendly and patient.
Coverage and call reliability have been good. (See AT&T coverage map)
Their online call log information is about 1-3 days behind your actual usage. It is helpful but don't rely on it to avoid going over your minutes.
Their call log detail only shows phone numbers for outgoing calls. They do not show phone numbers for incoming calls. They indicate "Not Available" for ALL incoming calls. This is NOT a "Private" or "Blocked" call issue. You cannot verify any incoming calls that you may be billed for. Not a good thing. The phones receive the caller ID as they should. When questioned about this they claim the carriers are not providing this information. Nextel (Sprint) provided both incoming and outgoing numbers without a problem. Other carriers I checked, including AT&T (which is what they use), provide both.
Another annoying characteristic is they only allow your cell phone to ring for 15 seconds before displaying a missed call message and informing the caller that you have not set up your voice mail box. I did not want or request voice mail and told them during activation I did not want it. They did fix this but only after being called three times about it. This problem re-occurred approximately a month later.
Occasionally I get a "Call forwarding is active" message when placing a call. I have never activated call forwarding. Canceling call forwarding has no affect on this. It happens with both of the phones I have. Customer service either cannot or will not explain this but will only repeatedly parrot a script about call forwarding.
Their email support is in the toilet. They are slow in responding (if they respond at all) and are of little help when they do. They don't appear to pay attention to the details of an inquiry. Responses are generic in nature and don't acknowledge the actual issue at hand. It appears as more of a pacifier type response in hopes you will just go away.
Price is very reasonable and no contract. Customer service, while courteous and friendly, is only slightly better than other cellular carriers. They appear to help but either do not or cannot actually correct anything. Consumer Cellular is extremely poor at resolving technical issues.
DISCLAIMER: These statements are based on the results of my own personal experiences with Consumer Cellular to date. The statements may or may not hold true for any other individual or specific instance.
****************** U P D A T E *****************
September 18, 2009
In the initial review I stated their online call log could be 1-3 days behind. Well, they have now demonstrated this information can be over 10 days old. This is also true of the information they will give you through the automated phone inquiries. Your minutes used during a billing cycle is NOT reliable. What's worse their customer service representatives are not aware of this unless you lead them by the nose to see it.
The following is an email sequence between Consumer Cellular and myself. This should provide a representative picture of the kind of support you can expect from them. It provides evidence that they either do not care or are just plain inept at handling technical issues.
First email - sent July 30,2009
I am a new customer to Consumer Cellular. For the most part your customer service has been quite good. However, I have an issue that I have not been able to resolve through your normal channels.
The problem is the call detail listing is only reporting outgoing phone numbers. Your system is reporting 100% of incoming calls as "Not Available". Please note, this is not a "Private" or "Blocked" call issue.
Before subscribing to your service I scrutinized your website for issues of this nature and saw that you supported "Extended Detailed Billing." Currently this has proven to be only partially true. I have just left Nextel/Sprint and they were able to report both outgoing and incoming numbers. I cannot fathom why the technology you are using would not be capable of delivering the same level of service that most other cellular carriers do.
I require the incoming phone numbers that have not been blocked by the caller to be listed as well. As president of Consumer Cellular I would expect you would have the ability to address this in a more satisfactory manner than your front-line employees were able to do.
Is this something that will be corrected in the near future?
>From Consumer Cellular on August 3, 2009:
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the identification of the incoming number on your statement.
The reason the number is not being printed on your statement is we are not receiving the information in the transmission. To better identity why we are not receiving this information I need to first ask you a few questions.
1. When you receive an incoming calls what does your display on your phone read? Does the Caller ID display on the phones screen?
2. I noticed you have a XX mailing address, yet the wireless numbers are based out of xxxxxx, XX. Are you back and fourth between XX and xxxxxxxxxxx, XX? If you are not back and fourth what zip code do you mainly use the wireless phones?
3. Do you have several people that contact you on your wireless phone are do you have a relatively small group that contacts you on your wireless phones? If a small group could you identify two of the numbers that contact you on your wireless phone regularly?
If you could answer the above questions we could give you a better idea of why the incoming numbers are not being identified in the transmission we receive. I am avaible by phone at 800-686-4460 or simply reply to my e-mail with the information.
Again, thank you for your e-mail and I look forward to addressing your questions raised in your e-mail.
To: Consumer Cellular on August 18, 2009
We spoke on 8/3 at 12:15 CT. At that time I provided you with the answers to your questions.
Recapping those answers:
1) Caller ID appears on the phone as it should.
2) Primary use zip code is 00000, xxxxxx, XX.
3) (000) 000-0000, (000) 000-0000, (000) 000-0000
You stated you would follow up on this issue within a week. It has now been two weeks. I have seen no results.
On 8/17 at 9:15 AM CT I called and spoke with Michelle. This was in regard to both of my phones only ringing for 15 seconds then indicating a missed call and informing the caller that the voice mail had not been set up. I do not have nor do I want voice mail. Last month it took 3 phone calls to customer service to correct this issue. Now the problem has reoccurred. Michelle did ask me how long I wanted the ring to last. I told her one minute would be ideal. She advised me that it should be corrected within 24 hours. As of 8/18 at 9:15 AM CT the ring time is now 30 seconds on both phones but it still refers to a voice mail box that has not been set up.
Another issue is on the weekend of Aug. 7 while we were in Bristol, TN both phones would indicate "Call forwarding is active" prior to placing any call. I have never set up or used call forwarding. Even after going through the menus and turning off call forwarding and it indicating success in doing so the problem persisted. At the present time the phones are not doing this.
When I asked to be transferred to you Michelle stated at the time you were not in and had sent you an email to call me in reference to the failure to log incoming call numbers issue. No call was received.
I do hope these issues can be resolved quickly and permanently.
I have posted an informative review about Consumer Cellular on the my3cents.com consumer website. Updates will be made as they are warranted. Hopefully they can be of a positive nature.
>From Consumer Cellular on August 18, 2009:
Thank you for your e-mail.
I had left you a phone message last week to give you a status.
I talked to the technical folks and they said another week or so to research the issue.
I will follow up as soon as I have an answer for you.
To Consumer Cellular on August 25, 2009:
Another week has passed. Still no results. I almost did not send this but on the other hand things don't get fixed by sitting passively by.
First it was "within a week" (per our phone conversation), then it was "may take two weeks" (per the answering machine message you left), and now it's "another week or so" (per your last email).
With all due respect, Mr. xxxxxx, this has all the earmarks of stalling and hoping the customer will just go away. Someone of technical competence should be able to resolve an issue such as this within a matter of hours - not weeks.
It is particularly disappointing to bring to your attention the other issues I have experienced with my service and no offer of explanation as to why these problems exist or why they have failed to be properly corrected and are re-occurring. Not even any form of acknowledgment.
In all of this I have not asked for any special treatment or exceptional service. I only ask to be provided with what should be considered a normal level of service in the industry. Each of these problems degrades what would be considered normal service and should have never been an issue in the first place.
>From Consumer Cellular on August 18, 2009:
I am sorry you feel I am stalling.
The technicians are looking into your situations. As I said all along I will keep you updated as information comes in.
Many factors go into delivering calls and the call data. You have provided valuable information that was passed on to the technicians.
You will be the first to know when information comes back. I had said from the beginning these issues take a while to research.
To Consumer Cellular on September 10, 2009:
Over a month and a half has now passed. You have failed to produce any results. It has become painfully obvious that Consumer Cellular either is technically incompetent or simply does not care if issues get resolved. My experience thus far has shown your "100% Satisfaction guarantee" claim applies only to Consumer Cellular's satisfaction, NOT the customer's.
The following is taken directly from your website:
"What do I do if I don't recognize a number on my bill? What if I did not call a particular number?
The usage list is simply a record of incoming and outbound calls. If you do not recognize a number, the best thing to do is call the number from your home phone to verify whose it is."
If you have no intention of providing incoming call numbers you should correct your website and stop misleading potential customers (as you did me) as to what you can provide when in reality you are not capable of delivering what you claim. Other carriers, including AT&T, do not seem to have difficulty providing this information to their customers.
In addition, I am finding what you do report in the usage logs are random, out of sequence calls. I have seen it as much as 10 days out of date. Under these conditions I don't see how you can expect a customer to have any confidence in your billing accuracy. From a customer's perspective your call tracking methods are grossly inadequate. You even state on your website the billing information is not the same as the usage information.Why not? Customers should be able to see the same source of information that you are using to bill them with. Anything less is suspect and breeds distrust.
Specifically for Mr. yyyyyyy: (To whom this was originally addressed) It does appear you have now become so large that you no longer need to concern yourself with your customers or their satisfaction. As is typical with large corporations its customer service is inversely proportional to its size. The bigger you get, the poorer your customer service becomes.
Cynical? Unfortunately, yes. Precipitated by Consumer Cellular's inability and/or refusal to correct what should have been a simple issue.
Your disappointed customer,
cc: my3cents.com UPDATE