O2 nano sim fiasco

After the iPhone 5 was announced on 14 September, as widely anticipated, O2 were initially tight-lipped about their plans to roll out nano SIM cards to existing O2 customers, like myself, who chose to pre-order their iPhone direct from Apple. Perhaps this is to be expected since until very recently they didn’t know for sure when the new model was going to launch or whether it would indeed require a nano SIM.

However I was pleased to hear the announcement yesterday that nano SIMs would be available from all O2 stores that afternoon. I visited the Rugby town centre store shortly after 1pm and was told that they did have them in stock, but they weren’t authorised to release them until Friday. I thought this was a little strange, but perhaps the news from O2 HQ was a little slow to trickle down to the stores.

When I got back to my computer, I started a live chat with a customer service agent on the O2 website. After a bit of to-and-froing, the agent told me that O2 had originally planned to release the nano SIMs on that day, but this had now been postponed to Friday 21 September, the iPhone 5 launch date. I asked the agent to request that the website and Twitter feed be updated with this development, and he assured me that this was already in hand.

I also decided to tweet the official O2 Twitter account to find out what was going on – I seemed to be getting mixed messages and wasn’t sure who was right. Their reply was that all stores were providing SIMs from that day (Monday) and the confusion should be cleared up now.

However when I returned the store today, the staff there were still adamant that I couldn’t have my nano SIM until Friday. In fact they were now saying that they didn’t have any, a blatant lie given what I’d been told previously. I tweeted O2 back to let them know that the issue was still unresolved, and also embarked upon another live chat. This time I explained my difficulties obtaining a nano SIM from the store and asked if the agent would order one to be posted out instead. He replied with “Ok”, then said it would take a few minutes to sort out, and finally came back and said that I could actually pick one up from any store and sent me a link to find my nearest store!

So I phoned the recently-opened store at Junction 1 Retail Park. Someone answered almost immediately and said that they did have nano SIMs available to hand out to customers. I went down to the store, and within five minutes had the new nano SIM in my hand. Akmal, the member of staff who served me, even processed the SIM swap request for me. The new nano SIM is now working in my iPhone 4 (using the included adaptor) ready to switch over to my iPhone 5 when it arrives on Friday, rather than me having to queue up on launch day for a SIM, assuming there were any left.

Judging by some of the comments on Twitter and O2′s own community forums (here and here), I’m far from the only person who’s had trouble getting hold of a nano SIM from stores. It seems that O2 head office and the stores aren’t singing from the same hymn sheet in some cases, the end result being a lot of frustrated and dissatisfied customers.

Before announcing the release of the nano SIMs on the web, O2 really should have made sure that all stores were geared up (and staff sufficiently briefed) to start handing them out. Even better, they could have enabled online ordering, like they do for micro SIMs currently: that system works beautifully; I used it a few days ago to order a micro SIM for my wife (who is inheriting my iPhone 4.)

Obviously I don’t have first-hand experience of other network operators’ nano SIM rollouts, but I can’t imagine they’ve been as shambolic as this, and although the eventual positive outcome at the Junction 1 store went some way towards renewing my faith in the company, the overall experience has made me think twice about blindly renewing my O2 contract each year, given that their customer service appears to have taken a nosedive of late.