First they take our money and then they call center us

Definition of call center as a verb. To confuse and frustrate customers who call for service or support by first questioning their identity, then politely giving them no information of use and then repeating the process at every call without any reference to reality or past calls.

Persuasive words point an accusing finger at me. If I don’t buy that purifier, I am denying my beloved family safe drinking water.

Courtesy and efficiency pour out of their advertisement and the bank’s executive who comes home (“at your convenience”) to help me fill the account opening form. I just need to sign where she points.

At the exclusive shop, on the phone and over email they are so happy to sell me their laptop. I drink deep from the jargon swirl and agree with everything they say.

I am charmed. I pick one of the many options they offer to make it easy for me to pay them. Then they call center me.

Aquaguard Nova water purifier

Pay us, drink pure

Over 20 years I have paid almost 24 times the original price of the water purifier in maintenance charges. Without the cleaning, change of filters and repairs the purifier is just a machine that sucks power and does not pass water.

Maintenance is outsourced. The “technician” who drops in when it suits him knows more about the extras I must buy than why the machine left my family without water for five days. He shrugs my outrage away.

The call center offers copied and pasted words of sympathy and promises action. The next day the same technician calls and asks, “Why did you complain?” The only other time he calls is to ask when he should drop in to pick up the cheque for the annual maintenance. When I suggest he should first come with the part he was supposed to replace a month ago, he ends the conversation and does not bother to turn up. That was a smart call just to check if I remembered the unresolved issue and if I was willing to pay. If I ask him to renew the contract now, he can charge me extra for letting the old contract lapse. How is that for a double whammy?

The head of customer service takes ages to understand what I am trying to say and then promises to take up the matter with the same technician. He sounds both unwilling and unable to help. Apparently, when it comes to customer care, they outsource both the function and the attitude.

I visit their Facebook page hoping for social justice. The response to my anger and frustration is again a set of beautifully copied and pasted words. Each complaint gets one response. That’s all. After all, thousands have beaten me to the page, spewing venom all over the page.

Stained wall with "Like" request

Your money, our way

The bank starts by getting my email wrong. Sorry, an error at the CPC, the centralized processing center. She makes it sound as if she, the bank and the CPC are three different entities.

The executive who is so eager to reward me with a credit card for keeping my money with the bank goes back and changes my telephone number on the bank’s records. The agency that sold me the card is different from the agency that entered my information in the system, which is of course different from the agency that would have called me up to verify the information if the second agency had entered my number right. There is also the CPC. Without that number and the correct email address, I am effectively blocked access to my money. “It is all for your security, sir.” Very reassuring.

A week before my deposit matures, I post a request online (“bank on us, anywhere, anytime”) to transfer the principal and interest to my savings account. Just to be doubly sure, I make the call center confirm that they have my new maturity instruction on record.

On the day the deposit is to mature, all the money disappears. Not trusting the web to net me any answer, I walk to the branch. Ah ha! Not our fault, it is the CPC, sir. Not to worry, we will deliver the cheque in a few days. Meanwhile, you may have to pay a penalty for not maintaining the average minimum balance. The system may lose my money but will not fail to fine me.

Surprise! The money is in my account a couple of hours later. Twenty-four hours later, the reply from customer care promises (1) to investigate why my instructions were not followed, and (2) that an executive from the branch will call to explain. They obviously had no clue that I had received the money. It must have been an innocent accident. The executive called a whole week after the money landed in my account that to tell me that the money was in my account.

I think it is wise to get my money and close the account before the “system” grabs it back.

Red wall with multiple counters to pay them and a broken down phone in the corner to request service and support.

Pay, wait and wait

The laptop arrives several weeks after the promised delivery date. And it dies within three days.

Four months later, call center calls. Hope you are enjoying your laptop and you had a nice experience buying it. No, I am not and I didn’t. So sorry to hear that. Could you tell us what happened so that we can do better the next time? Huh? Where did all my fury-filled, tear-stained emails go?

Nine months later, there is another call. So, would you like to recommend us to your friends? Are you ready to buy your next system from us? I take a deep breath. Then another. Then I put the phone down. Doctor’s instructions.

One doesn’t bend the graph

I could have gone on to buy the next version of the purifier, re-invested in the same bank and bought the latest laptop from the same maker. And told my friends how happy I was with all three. That’s the live happily ever after version.

Instead, I am looking for another purifier, another bank, another laptop brand. They do not know, do not care. One subtracted from millions gets rounded off. It doesn’t bend the graph.

When a CEO hits the dusty roads to feel the pulse of the market, it makes for a wonderful photo opportunity, at least for the house magazine. It must be infinitely more difficult to inject some care and common sense into the call-center-centric systems. Or, is it not worth the cost and effort after the sale is closed and the money is in?

The gurus residing in books and behind podiums advise not to sell a product or service. Instead, find a problem and solve it. Find a gap and fill it. Find a need and fulfill it. Keep finding new touch points with your customers. Use the power of social media to engage your customers.

Reality is different. It is about making it easy for them to take money from you, me and the millions. Squeak later and they call center us.


12 thoughts on “First they take our money and then they call center us”

  1. This post actually tires me… simply because it brings to mind all the instances in my life when I have been at the receiving end of exactly such kindness and the water filter. Gosh! you can say it again. Also,the CNG kit in my car ALWAYS malfunctions after the servicing and then, between the CNG chap and the company workshop, Hyundai in my case, and my own common sense…. I’m close to getting a nervous breakdown.
    The list is endless – the broadband chaps, computer hardware…. we don’t understand what the word ‘service’ means. The only place i get the level of service I like is at my beauty parlor.The girls there are simple homely girls and they are keenly tuned in to the concept – far better than the ‘well-trained personnel’ at call centers…. 🙂

    1. Safe to say that beauty is limited to the parlor; everywhere else we have uncaring beasts? 🙂 Seriously, we are forever a forgiving lot, for ever giving without a hope of receiving any service.

      1. You are right.By accepting low standards of service, we abet their lackadaisical attitudes. But if we were to raise our voices at everything to show our ‘unacceptance’, then we would end up with heart attacks… things would pretty much remain the same. It’s a cultural lack, I believe. (sigh!)
        What else can be surmised if even after reading your FB post,their response is cold water.

    1. I assure you they are not. One simple instance. I posted a link to my article on the FB page of Eureka Forbes. They responded quickly, asking for my contact details to clear the “misunderstanding”. And after that? Zilch! The team that is supposed to market the products is doing a good job. So is the team in charge of responding to FB posts. Beyond that, who is bothered?

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