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Friday, January 2, 2009

Massacre of Customer Service

Murder and Death of Customer Service

Did you ever experience good customer service any where, by any one, any time?

Who so ever says "yes" to this question must be hallucinating. Frankly, I always desired for it but was hopelessly searching for it till lately.

And yesterday, there was the final blow- the customer service was finally murdered and died a glorious death. For me, at least.

I was to cancel my credit card with one of the credit card companies. I decided about doing so, because the (useless) credit card company charges me credit card renewal annual fees. I now believe that in fact, rather than charging me fee for that plastic piece, they should pay me annually because I make money for them. So, I got philosophically aroused yesterday, finally. I picked up my land line phone (I still trust the land line phone since I get a dial tone there, it works without need to charge it at all unlike it's younger brother "cell" who just stops working and becomes useless if I forget to charge, it works without electricity or power, it does not send me prompts like "network is not available", the voice still sounds like that of a human being on both sides of phone- does not break or does not feel like that of robots or ET etc).

It was one most nightmarish experience, telephoning that credit card company's Help Line or BPO or Call Center or Customer Care Center (is there any other nomenclature?)- what so ever fancy names they give these days for "not providing the customer service" from the real service professionals of the company. The companies have ganged against us poor customers and have totally stopped us from directly dealing with the company's own customer service experts. However, when the company wanted to sell me it's goods and services, every Tom, Dick and Harry of the company was talking to me personally to palm off their products to me at a huge price, as always. Every one from CEO of the company to the salesman of the company directly talked to me, was so sweet, entertained me and finally fooled me in buying things from them with lots of talk of customer service also. In the excitement of buying, I forgot to ask them as to whom to contact for after sales service and they never told.

Well, let me get back to this horrendous telephonic experience with that call center. First, it took me several hours to figure out which telephone number to call for getting in touch with the customer service guys. Once I got the number, I dialled it again and again but it was engaged. It took me another half hour to finally get a ring on the other side. I thought that some one would warmly welcome me personally. But all I got was a recorded human voice, painfully professional in style and accent. I would have been happier being greeted by a live human being, howsoever plain. It totally put me off. Then, it (the recorded voice) rattled out some 8 or 9 options on what am I supposed to do as the next step- like it said, "press button 1 for this, press 2 for that and press 3 for something else and 5 for............and 9 for customer service executive". Since I forgot everything that was rattled out by the time I came to know about the use of number 9, I decided to press 9 in desperation.

In the mean time, I was dreaming that with within next two to three minutes I would be finishing my business with them and could concentrate on my own business. But that was not to be.

I heard another recorded voice saying that I should punch the credit card number using telephone keys. These days I get terribly confused with numbers. There are hundred of numbers with me: telephone numbers, credit card numbers, debit card numbers, passport number, income tax card number, bank account numbers, id card numbers, ATM card numbers, zip codes, complaints registration numbers and more numbers and yet more numbers. And all of them are miles long. Yet, with great difficulty I carefully pulled out the right credit card and punched its mile long number into the phone.

That was not sufficient. Another recorded voice asked me to punch my date of birth and zip code. I always tend to forget these two things. I did punch those two numbers too, after referring to my ready reckoner of numbers, which I always keep on my person these days.

Now having done this Himalayan task of punching endless numbers, I was looking forward to meet my dear customer service executive (of that call center, surely not of the original company that sold me the credit card so sweetly). To my shock, the next recorded voice announced that all of their customer service executives were busy with other calls (this is because they recruit lots less people than are really required to provide prompt reply over the phones and the technology is dismally inadequate and incompetent too). The recorded voice also said, "It will take 16 minutes 23 seconds before a customer service executive comes on line for you". I almost started admiring the exact prediction about the wait period. What technology!! But soon reminded myself, "Don't get drifted away from your original mission of sorting out your own problem".

During this 16 minutes and 23 seconds wait, I was compulsorily bombarded into my ear all sorts of advertisements and announcements of the company shamelessly. We make out so much about the spams on the Internet unnecessarily when here I was receiving spams after spams into my ear (same things happens to me on the 150 channels of television every five minutes when I am showered mercilessly all spam ads and same thing happens in the news papers and through the postal direct mailers etc). The recoded voices also suggested, "Why don't you send an email to us about your complaint etc". I thought that if I take the course of email to get my problem addressed, I would end up not solving my problem sine die. So I hanged on.

Finally, 16 minutes 23 seconds elapsed. That to me, looked like a few years literally. Now came the voice of my dear customer service executive, "I am so & so and what can I do for you sir?" I knew that it was her fake name and she was faking on her courtesies too. It felt as if she was reading directly from the manual that was given to her. Any way, that is none of my business.

So I explained to her that no other credit card company charges the annual renewal fees for credit cards and so, you should not do it too. I am your customer for past many years and I would appreciate if you fall in line with the current practices. I was expecting that she would reply, "Let me check up what can I do for you in this respect" and was expecting to hear, "It's OK, we won't charge you that fee here onwards. Thanks for being our customer". On the contrary, I heard her saying, "Sorry, that's our company policy. you will have to pay the renewal fees". I was not expecting this and so got a bit worked up and threatened to cancel my account with them and she happily replied, "OK, will cancel your credit card account with us. But I need your wife to talk to me since yours is only an add-on card and your wife is the first card holder". I assured her that it is perfectly OK with her to cancel the card. She has already instructed about it to me and she has her concurrence. The customer service executive won't buzz and demanded that my wife be brought on the phone.

I just could not bring my wife over the phone that time since she had gone out of home for some work and so was not present there, then. I explained the customer service executive about this and requested to cancel the account; after all it's the same thing whether my wife tells her or I tell her. Additionally, my credentials were also already checked by making me punch so many endless numbers on the phone machine. And I told her about my plight in getting through to her after crossing few thousand hurdles over the phone. She showed no pity on me. She was not willing to listen to me any more and in absolute finality declared , "If you have to cancel this account, ask your wife to speak with us."

Now, I shudder at the thought of my wife going through the same appalling experience that I had just gone through.

That day I mourned the demise of customer service.

Read the “inside” stories of the corporate sector at: (Management Anecdotes)

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