UK network EE, the country’s largest carrier, has upset many of its subscribers by introducing a priority answer service, letting customers calling its helpline telephone number jump the queue by making a small payment. The system works a little like a freemium game, letting people get ahead if they spend some money. Callers faced with a long wait can pay 50p (about $0.80) to leap past everyone else, and be next in line when an operator becomes available.
Sounds pretty good, and a handy way to beat an annoying queue if you’re in a hurry, or are simply happy to pay the extra charge to not have to listen to whatever awful muzak is playing at the time. In a statement to the Telegraph, an EE spokesperson said the priority answer system was another step in the network’s quest to “set the highest standard for customer service in the telecoms sector.”
However, many EE customers don’t share the same view, calling the service unfair, and in some cases, disgraceful. The Telegraph’s report pulls some quotes from Twitter, which include threats of leaving the network, and demands that all customers be treated equally. EE hasn’t helped itself by saying it’s introducing features like priority answer to raise money so it can continue to improve the service. In 2013, despite reporting pre-tax losses, it saw profits increase by 10 percent.
It’s easy to see why this has caused a stir. Subscribers should be treated equally, but the option to jump a lengthy queue is very tempting, but should everyone start paying up, would there still be a benefit? More concerning is the precedent EE’s move may set, as other networks may quickly follow with their own versions of the service, potentially making telephone helplines an even more frustrating experience for those unwilling to pay for first class treatment.
The priority answer system is available to any EE customers on a contract or a Pay As You Go plan now, and can be used between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.