Monday, February 7, 2011

Winter in Wisconsin

Not all dark clouds in the Badger State are caused by the weather. The takeover of the Alltel network by Element Mobile in Wisconsin has meant dark days for both some Element customers and the company itself. We reported the challenges in cheese country almost a month ago and the skies haven't cleared yet.

I spoke with Element's Director of Marketing, Dan Kowalke who expressed his concern and appreciation for all Element customers and admitted the process hasn't gone exactly as expected. I wanted to know how many affected users were able to make the transition without difficulties and he was unable to provide an exact number. To their credit, Element has tried several avenues to make amends that include account credits and additional support at Element stores. They also get kudos for keeping the door open for all customers, happy and unhappy, to add their views on Element's own Facebook page.

Mr. Kowalke reported that the transition from Alltel had been planned for a year and Element was proactive in providing new handset guidance to a certain number of their ex-Alltel users. Reading the Facebook wall it looks like they should have been proactive with a larger number of customers. Apparently, Element must address the issues of these wronged customers one at a time, instead of with system-wide updates.

Element has jumped out of the gate with several local promotions which will indeed help them stand out from the national carriers, and some of that work has resulted in new, and happy, customers. But if your phone or Text or Web access isn't working, it's hard to get a warm fuzzy about your wireless provider. Element may lose some business from this, and, as usual, we take the side of the consumers who aren't getting the service they're paying for. But we need more Element Mobile's in the country: local people who are keeping the Big Bad Wolf carriers from our door and are making wireless the locally-responsive business it should be.

If you gotta leave Element to get your service restored now, keep in mind that it'll be Element who, eventually, will be one of those keeping the rest of us from getting ripped off by Big Bad and his brothers. If we just didn't get the 'Element of surprise.'


Anonymous said...

I disagree. Having a national carrier means you will have national coverage and not roaming outside of Central Wisconsin. If your phone breaks while on vacation (because who wants to be in WI all year long) then your not SOL until you get back because there are only stores in Central WI and no where else in the US. For these reasons, I feel that a cell phone company is one of the few things that should only ever be national.

I've heard of people who have been calling and emailing support since Day 1 and heard nothing back. The stores to this day are swamped where you are waiting in line for hours and I've heard stories of people being overcharged, double charged and had money removed from their bank account without authorization. They are also screwing over people who have Verizon because they no longer get 3G coverage in the "Element" area.
Definitely sounds like a local business we want.

The people who still want to support local business are switching over to CellCom and as for everyone else, they are going to USC, Sprint, prepaid providers, etc.

Element is all talk and no do. The "credit" they offered was a measly $25. A simple $25 doesn't even begin to cover the cost of other local business owners loosing business because customers couldn't contact them or they had voicemails that were delayed hours or days. Or owners not being able to make online transactions because they had bad coverage and no working or short working internet. It also doesn't take back the jobs people lost out on (or nearly lost from their employer) because a perspective employer couldn't get a hold of them.

Also every time Element spoke to the press, they blamed the consumer for their problems instead of taking responsibility for their faults or minimizing this to be a "normal" transition when it is far from it.

It wouldn't surprise me if they end up ticking Verizon off to the point where they won't let Element roam off of them any more. (I'd be ticked if I were Verizon, knowing some little nothing company was screwing with my coverage)

The short of this all, Element is bad news and is screwing over the local people and local businesses that they are supposedly "serving".

Oz Andrews said...

Element is really dropping the ball on this. The marketing guy told me their customers are having more problems with "change" than with technical difficulties. With almost 4,000 Friends on the "Dump Element" Facebook page, I now disagree. We still support small networks as often being superior, Element is not among them. This is not a network with an advantage, this is a network with an attitude. Drastic measures could pull their butts out of the fire, but it just may be too late.