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A lesson in switching: What to do when your poor service provider doesn’t have your back

Since City Room Rentals was founded, Findlay encountered issues from early on with his mobile provider.
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Nick Findlay, co-founder of City Room Rentals, had a tough time with his mobile provider. Rather than accepting poor service, he took charge of the situation – here’s his switching story.

City Room Rentals is an accommodation provider with a twist. Its online platform matches students with purpose built student accommodation around the UK – but also operates the same spaces as commercial hotels for tourists to make the most of the space.

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Findlay had the idea back in 2014 when he saw a way to make use of the thousands of flats that lie empty at campuses and student accommodation blocks nationwide during the summer months. The idea has been well-received and grew quickly from Edinburgh to become a nationwide operation. The latest city on the books is Dublin, Ireland.

City Room Rentals does not own any of the properties. It partners with universities and national operators and manages their accommodation as a service. In addition, its own headquarters is based in at the Royal Bank of Scotland at Gogarburn, Scotland, as part of the Entrepreneurial Spark programme – so the business has not had to organise any of its own utilities suppliers.

However, the business has had to sort out its own business mobile contracts – and that has not been plain sailing.

Poor service levels

Since City Room Rentals was founded Findlay encountered issues from early on with his mobile provider.
“Every single month, and this is no exaggeration, I would be on the phone querying incorrect billing,” he said.
Findlay also experienced a customer service problem throughout the contract – nobody would take ownership for particular issues.

“You might have John that deals with your initial case, then Michael might phone you back and then it’s Andrea that calls you back the next day. You soon find yourself having to update them on the story over and over again,” he explained.

Driven to switch by poor service

Having made a note of when the contract was coming to an end, City Room Rentals made the decision to switch to O2. It was a good job Findlay kept note of his contracts, however, as no notice was issued to the company and if he hadn’t contacted them the contract would have been rolled over.

In addition, if Findlay had wanted to remain with that provider, he could have been moved on to a tariff that was half the price, but allowing the contract to roll over would have meant paying the same rate for a service that the provider now offered at a reduced rate.
“I find that pretty back-handed, that as a large organisation it doesn’t tell customers what’s available,” he said.

Unfortunately, this is fairly common practice and, recently, there has been a crackdown on these sneaky practices in the energy sector. Larger companies have traditionally lumbered small businesses with rollover contracts without notice. Providers are now legally required to prompt businesses when the switching window is on the horizon.

Poor service: It’s not over yet

By the end of the contract with its first provider, City Room Rentals was set on switching to O2. Findlay had used O2 before, and thought its network was more consistent and the customer service was up to a better standard.

But getting shot of it was not a smooth process – despite calling and giving four weeks’ notice that the business would not be renewing with the provider, by the time it moved to O2 and the sim cards were activated, nothing happened.

It later transpired that the phones also needed to be unlocked, but nobody had informed the business of this during the termination process.

“We were stuck in limbo without any business phones for a period of about seven to ten days,” said Findlay.

All’s well that ends well

The saga with the first provider culminated in the business being handed some compensation – about one month of the contract value.

“But it wasn’t really about the money, it was the time and inconvenience of getting it resolved,” explained Findlay.

City Room Rentals currently has a pay-as-you-go contract with O2 that it is pleased with and, so far, Findlay is much happier with the standard of customer service. The business has also managed to make a significant cost saving by switching.

His advice to other businesses in a similar situation is simple: “Make sure that you’re not tied into something that can’t grow with you as your business grows, and always read the terms and conditions. Make sure you know about the break clauses and terminations agreements – read the small print!”

Overall, you might be surprised how affordable going green is – and in the long run, it might end up being a boon to your business, and your reputation.

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About Author

Letitia Booty

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Real Business. She has a BA in english literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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