Calling in Vain
"Good morning/afternoon/ evening. How can I help you?" And thus starts the long-winded often traumatic process of speaking to a Customer Care Executive from a Call Centre for your bank, telephone company or mobile company (to name just a few). Frankly, I’d prefer the old system any day. Yes, I know some of you may point out that getting through to speak to someone was difficult…the lines were constantly engaged etc. But then, have things changed with Call Centres? Hardly! First you go through an interminable process where a disembodied voice instructs you to press the ’star button’ or ’hash’, then options for English, Hindi and Tamil, and then you have to listen (im)patiently while you are instructed on which button to press to have your queries answered. And finally, comes what you have been waiting for - "Please press Nine to speak to our Customer Care Executive". A sense of elation overcomes you and within seconds you come crashing back to earth thanks to the next message - "Our customer care officers are busy. Please stay on hold" - or "Your wait time is 4 minutes 35 seconds" And then you wait, all the while listening to the bank or mobile company advertising their latest products either through the disembodied voice or by playing a jingle. By then you are ready to shoot someone! If you are unlucky, all of a sudden said voice will inform you sagely - "Due to technical reasons, your call cannot be completed now." You gaze at your watch in desperation and realise that the call has taken up ten minutes and you are back to square one - dial, listen to menu, press buttons, listen to litany of ads…and if you are lucky second time around, you may be able to speak to a human voice. In today’s hi-tech world, the least one expects is high standards of efficiency. No such luck. Most executives have been trained to parrot a precise set of lines meant to soothe irate customers. But very often they are clueless as to how to deal with complex problems because they don’t know enough about the product or the company or complexities arising due to these. They just cluck and reassure you that the problem will be sorted out. If it isn’t, you call the next day and what happens? You get another executive and you are made to repeat the entire problem again, only to get the same standard reassurances. Each time you call you have a new voice and you reiterate the same problem, though some lucky ones finally get their problems solved. Anyway, as these Customer Care Executives say when they sign off, "Have a good day!" That’s all we can hope for in these days of ghostly voices and parrot-like executives!
This article of mine appeared in Madras Plus in 2006. Am just reproducing it here.