One evening @ the service centre

One doesn’t always have to go seeking entertainment, you know. Sometimes, entertainment comes to you or it just happens around you.

This story begins on the day my loyal cell phone of 5 years finally decided to give up on me.

I was quite heart-broken for we had been through a lot, my cell phone and me. I had clung on to it in spite of its many eccentricities, but that day it just stopped working. And I knew that it could not be repaired.

So off I went and got myself a new one, and that too a smartphone. This also meant that I could not use my old SIM card and would have to visit the nearest outlet of my cell phone service provider to get a micro SIM card.

So there I was waiting for my turn to be served and trying to read. But the snatches of conversations that I overheard was too interesting and after about 10 minutes, I switched off my Kindle and listened unabashedly to the exchanges happening around me.

Like this one.

Customer 1: You have barred usage of both incoming and outgoing calls from my phone. Why?
Customer Executive (CE): One moment, Sir. Let me check your account. [After about a minute he continued] There is an outstanding amount of Rs.3456/- against your account sir. Once that is paid, your service will be restored.
Customer 1: Arre ! Nobody told me that I had to pay a bill.
CE : Our records show that we sent you a bill on … And then we have also sent you 22 text messages and tried to call you many times, but our calls were never answered.
Customer 1: Arre ! You expect me to read every SMS and also answer calls from unknown numbers? I am a very busy man.
CE: I understand, Sir. But this was the only way to contact you and let you know of the outstanding amount.
Customer 1: That doesn’t mean you stop providing service. You have caused me business loss worth lakhs of rupees !
CE: We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused, sir. Please clear the outstanding amount now and I will ensure that service is restored within half-an-hour.
Customer 1: I’m not going to pay now. You restore service first, then I will pay. You can  collect the amount from my office tomorrow.
CE: Sorry, sir. You have to clear the amount before we can restore service.
Customer 1: Arre bola na, nahin pay karega ! First restore service, then I’ll pay.

The stalemate continued for about 10 minutes till Customer 1 finally got up and walked to the cash counter to pay. I shamelessly watched as he peeled off notes from a fat bundle of 1,000 rupee notes.

Then there was this one.

Customer 2: I bought a new phone but the SIM is not working on it.
CE: Does the SIM work on your old phone?
Customer 2: That’s the thing, na. It works fine there.
CE: Do you have your old handset with you, ma’am? And your new one as well?
Customer 2: Yes, I have both with me.
CE: Can I see them please? [He took both the handsets and looked at them and returned  both to the customer] The thing is, ma’am, your old handset is a GSM phone and your new handset is a CDMA phone. Your SIM card will only work on a GSM handset.phone.

Customer 2 stares at him in horror and bursts into tears. The CE gets quite alarmed and calls a woman CE to assist him. Between the two of them, a box of tissues and an interested audience watching, they tried to find out what had upset the customer.

Lady CE: Ma’am, can you tell us why you are so upset? And how we can help you?
Customer 2: This was gifted to me by my boyfriend and he won’t understand why I can’t use this phone. He is one anger man [sic]. What am I going to do?

Poor Customer 2. But I also felt rather sorry for the CEs, who had by now rather bewildered looks on their faces and were trying to soothe the Customer.

Then I got pulled into, er… listening to this exchange.

Customer 3: Here is my driving license for ID proof.
CE: [peering closely at the driving license] This license has expired, sir. This cannot be submitted for ID proof.
Customer 3: Toh kya ho gaya? It expired only 2 years back and not like 10 years back. Besides your website says that you accept a driving license.
CE: Yes, sir, we do. But we cannot accept an expired one for proof. Do you have a Pan Card or a Voter’s Card or an Aadhar Card or a Passport? We accept those as well.
Customer 3: Bola na, I have only the driving license. If you don’t want me as a customer say clearly and I’ll go elsewhere.
CE: Sir, we do want you as a customer. But we cannot make you one till you provide us with some ID proof that is still valid.
Customer 3: I’m walking out right now. You people don’t know how to treat customers.

Saying this, he stomped out. And came right back and went straight to the CE.

Customer 3: I’m asking you for the last time. The last time, ok? Will you take my driving license as ID proof or not?
CE: No, sir, we cannot take your expired driving license as proof.

And Customer 3 walked out of the service centre hurling a torrent of abuse at the people working there and swearing to get even at the company. Phew ! What drama.

Just then my turn came and I got busy with getting a micro SIM issued. Also sneaked a look to see if anybody was listening in on my conversation with the CE. ;-) My request was processed quickly, and while I waited for my new micro SIM got activated, I got advice on changing my tariff plan.

That’s when a commotion began.

In marched this person, demanding to see the manager right away. He had an arrogant voice with an attitude to match. The security guard tried to steer him towards the reception counter, but this customer would have none of it. He marched up to the counter next to mine and spoke to the CE there.

Customer 4: I am not going to waste my time waiting. Every time I come here I have to wait for more than 20 minutes. I want to be attended immediately this time.
CE: I’m sorry for the inconvenience, sir. But you will have to take the token and wait for your turn.
Customer 4: I don’t care. You have to clear my problem now.
CE: We will be very happy to help, sir. But you have to wait your turn, as there are other people who came here before you.
Customer 4: [and in a voice that went up a few decibel] If others want to wait, that is their problem, not mine. I want to see the manager now.
CE: That is not possible, sir.
Customer 4: Do you who I am? Do you even know who I am?
CE: No, sir.
Customer 4: [he announced grandly] I am Human Rights Vice-President.

By this time, Customer 4’s rants had attracted the attention of everyone in the room, and all were following the exchange very keenly. His announcement was greeted with almost near silence, till one little voice piped up, loudly and clearly, “Mamma, what is human rights? Why is that uncle shouting? Didn’t you say shouting is bad manners?” Needless to say, that while nobody laughed outright, quite a few snickers were heard. As for the all CEs, not one of them reacted. Customer 4 huffed and puffed and went all blue and purple, and after a while went and got his token and sat down quietly.

I asked the CE, who was attending to me, sotto voce, “Do you get many like this every day?” To which the CE replied, also sotto voce, “About 4-5 in a day. We are used to it.”

I always assumed that service centres only provided service. Silly, ignorant me. An evening spent at a service centre showed me how wrong my assumptions were. Service centres not just provided service with a smile (and sometimes indifference, insolence and what not), but also service with entertainment. But, to be fair to the folks working at the service centres, I’m pretty sure it was not entertainment for them. Having heard of only terrible experiences of customers and having had a couple of not-so-pleasant experiences at service centres myself, that evening gave me a chance to look at service centres from the perspectives of those working there.

I was quite impressed with the way they faced and dealt with customers, particularly the irate and insulting ones. Dealing with non-issues and the simplest of problems with the most obvious of solutions, over and over again, patiently without even hearing a simple ‘thank you’ must make this literally the most thankless job ever. It was disgusting to see tantrums, bad behaviour and attitude in adults. And no, I do not believe that they were doing a service to other customers by demanding for “better service”. In my opinion, they only made fools of themselves.

But I definitely have to thank them for one thing: they helped me look at people working in service centres with a new understanding and patience. And yes, also for some entertainment. :-)

Do you have some “entertaining” experiences to share? Tell, tell.

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41 thoughts on “One evening @ the service centre

  1. About the waiting aspect, I also get angry sometimes. Since I don’t speak hindi, I always feel like there’s favouritism, so after I’ve waited a while I get up and act a little upset, then only will they attend to you.
    Sometimes, the CE will ask you to wait and then they’ll forget about you. Its a routine I’m used to. But I never knew Indians got this angry. I usually thought I was the only one who fessed up whenever I have a problem with the CEs.

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    • Welcome here, Ogonisira. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

      Oh we Indians get angry all right, particularly urban Indians. :-) I have also found that you need not be served on a first-come-first-served basis—it depends entirely on the type of issue to be resolved or the service required. I had to wait for nearly half-an-hour to be attended to that evening.!

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    • To be honest, I have never really felt sorry for the people working in service centres, partly because I had never really noticed and partly because my prior experiences have either been good or indifferent. But that evening, I had to wait for a long time and actually had the time to look around and see what was happening around me.

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  2. Fun read! I have seen cases where the customer was charged wrongly for some one else’s calls, and though the CEs arent at fault, the customer has no one else to rant at. So they take the chance.

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    • Nice to see you here after so long, Fire Crystals. Yes, the customer is not always right, and the CE is not always an idiot. Even if it is a genuine case, I really do not understand as to why customers have to behave so badly.

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  3. Four out of five customers turn out to be virulent clowns, right? Well, Sudhagee, four out of five ‘customer service executives’ I have met have turned out to be sick morons! I am not adding it as a counterpoint. Rather, it vividly represents what we have become as a race.

    You have managed to transform those encounters in fine little humourous punches, though!

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    • Couldn’t agree more Umashankar ji. They (only those sick morons) are like parrots, fed with words (training) only which they will juggle. Did I say juggle ? They don’t even do that. There are only mindless repetitions of a phrase from some internal circular. They don’t even apply their brains and see if a problem could at times require a novel (yet perfectly rule conforming) approach or a smart mixture of a few different ones. All one hears is “I’m extremely sorry Sir. We can’t help you” Even after I’ve suggested to them what they should be doing to remain within their rules and also help me. But then I guess they have their limits. Whatever happened to ‘being innovative and customer friendly’.

      A very humorous post Sudhagee. I used to be a banker. Worked at the front desk, (Customer Service) and catered to the needs of mild, understanding as well as completely inaccessible human beings. I’m aware how the scene is.
      Just loved your narration. It’s just ..so fitting.

      My fav. – Customer 2.

      “Between the two of them, a box of tissues and an interested audience watching, they tried to find out what had upset the customer…………………….He is one anger man [sic]. What am I going to do? ”

      ROFL

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      • I guess that all CEs learn to say “no” and “sorry” mechanically and insincerely. And after a point of time they get desensitised as well. This part I can understand. I have not been able to understand why customers have to behave so badly.

        Glad you liked this post, Anupam.

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    • Well, every action needs to have a reaction, right? So “virulent clowns” need to be balanced by “sick morons”. Yes, this is only an illustration of what we have become today: impatient, rude, angry, and of course an “I, me, myself” syndrome.

      It was entertaining definitely and the way I have written is perhaps humourous, but the aftertaste is not.

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  4. Guess it’s one of those things that works both ways. The customers have their own stories and the customer care people their own. In my experience I’ve had some great customer care but also some really bad ones as well which has made me raise my voice and create a scene ;-)

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    • Creating a scene works, sometimes, Raghav. I have done it once or twice myself. But I did not see the need for an attitude in 3 of the 4 instances narrated here. All of them had a an exaggerated sense of self-importance and no real or genuine case for creating a scene.

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  5. How any of us will have such experiences to tell in such an entertaining way? none. I do get to see some drama , but forget about it, the moment I walk out. Next time I am going with the notebook! I too need tow rite good blog post , ha!

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  6. lovely post, Sudha… i have had a few entertaining situations at service centres too, but more often, it is the ‘customer service exec’ who is the idiot.. and i have done my share of the shouting too…. that said, one comes across such interesting conversations everywhere…. we just need to be in the humour to sit and enjoy it

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    • The CE may be an idiot most of the times, but that does not given the customer the right to throw an attitude. I feel that makes the CE more mulish and diffident.

      And you are so right, Interesting conversations happen all around us all the time—one just has to be open to listen to them and see the inherent humour. I am planning one on bus commuting tales :-)

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  7. Lol!! Was a fun read! Can empathise with the CEs, having worked at the airport and managed petulant passengers :) who then go on to complain how bad the airline staff are!

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  8. That is the lot of the front desk – that all the irritation and anger at the company they are fronting for gets turned into abuse of them. After all, if I get angry with Reliance’s services, I cannot call up Anil Ambani and yell at him, can I, even if it is his policies that created the problem for me :) Whenever I feel the urge to feel sympathy for the person who is being subjected to my vituperation I stifle my compassion. After all, that is one of the standard gimmicks based on which shoddy service and plain outright cheating have been foisted on the Indian Public – by playing on your sympathy for the poor downtrodden soul who is your only recourse to vent your anger.

    That said, I do agree that we have a lot of people with a sense of entitlement far larger than their poor bodies can hold and when it expands to fill the space around them it does create a lot of fun except for those who are expected to deal patiently with them :)

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    • I understand your point, Suresh, as I have been subject to shoddy service a few times myself, and while I may not have ranted, I have definitely raged at them. My pet targets are the customer service people on the phone. Grrr

      But that evening at the service centre, it was all about bad behaviour. I do understand work and life stressors, but that does not give anyone the right to behave the way they did.

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  9. Looked like a scenario from Delhi…loud, jugadu types…When training fresh youngsters for customer interface, it is important to drill into them that they are the “face of the company” , that there is nothing personal in the rants. From your excerpts looks like the CS did a good job1

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    • I don’t think that such scenarios are confined only to Delhi. One can see this happening everywhere—with the unique local flavour thrown in.

      The Customer Executives did a good job, but I wish for a change, they were not so polite and had just showed the rude people the door.

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  10. Poor CEs, I laughed and laughed, the way you have narrated the entire scenario, which almost brought the characters before our eyes. However slight discomfort trails, thinking where we are heading, our arrogance and impatience towards simple things in life, lack of acceptance of mistakes/drawbacks of self. etc and etc.. The highlight is the expired licence, it takes my thinking to a different tangent altogether….But I am forcing to curtail my trail of thoughts here…..

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  11. Most of the customer service reps especially those on phone will tie you up in loops requesting for needless information and giving answers that make no sense. Besides, they eat up so much of your time. I can imagine that customers can be a handful too. But, something really needs to be done of these CSEs.

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    • Yes, something needs to be done about the Customer Service Executives (CSEs) especially the telephone ones.

      About a week back, I had to call the helpline seek help for some feature that was not working on my cell phone. The CSE could not understand what my problem was and after going around in circles, came up with the advice to format my phone ! I was aghast. After telling him what I thought of him and his help, I put the phone down and did something that I should have done in the first place.

      I went on Twitter, searched for the same company’s twitter help, posted my query and in less that a minute, I got the solution, which did not involve formatting the phone. :-)

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  12. I recall an incident in which both the CE and the customer lost the plot. The result was a fifteen minute farcical exchange of words which was a welcome diversion to a group of Mumbaikars wilting on a muggy May afternoon. I will share it one day. Needless to add, both sides claimed moral victory.

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  13. The customer Reps’ agony apart, the post made me laugh with each encounter. I haven’t seen or done in person, but over the phone, there are many a times I blasted them and of course that was the saturation point of my patience…I wanted to write a post on how mad they made me and how moronic they could be.

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    • As I mentioned earlier, not all CEs are idiots and not all customers are rude. And I think you should write about your experiences—we could all do with some laughs :-)

      Like

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