Blog #4: Customer Service

Blog #4: Customer Service

You know how surveys come out now and again letting us know just how much of our lives are spent sleeping or watching TV? Well lets add another – very obvious – activity to this list: hanging on the phone waiting for a “customer service” representative.

The very notion of calling a helpline for “customer service” is anathema to me. I normally avoid it at all costs but on this recent occasion I had no choice – I had exhausted all other options and had to make that call………

It all started when I decided to upgrade the home wifi router to something a little more modern that would be able to cope with the increasing plethora of devices and gadgets around the house. Admittedly I should have done this ages ago as I had been considerably over-paying compared to some of the offers now available – but I suppose the operators depend on lazy individuals like me to make a healthy profit. Anyway, decision was made and new router purchased – self-installation or “plug and play” as they call it with guaranteed no problems.

So a couple of days later the box arrived and I did exactly as instructed – no deviations from the script despite my latent technical tendencies. And guess what – whilst every device could see the new wifi network none of them could get past it and on to the internet. I tried everything possible and the only way to get out and onto Google was by hard wiring-in the laptop. 

The techies amongst you will appreciate that this was a DNS server issue and yes, I spent several hours surfing to arrive at the same conclusion after visiting nearly every help forum available. I now knew what the answer was and armed with this knowledge made the fateful call…..

Now most “customer service” call centres are designed in such a way that it is almost impossible to get through to anybody of any use. The first hurdle is the 17-layer telephone auto-answering system and you normally can’t get by these anymore by pressing “0” – they have cottoned-on to that old trick. But next comes the first-line helpdesk agent – employed purely to go through a standard script that includes questions such as “have you switched the device on?”, “is there a blue light displayed?” and “what was the name of your first pet?”. You know as you’re going through this torture that there is zero chance of them helping you with your problem but you also know that if you don’t endure it to the end, you won’t get passed on to the next level of support. So you grit your teeth and get on with it until finally you hear the words “I’ll have to transfer you to my colleague…..”

….which doesn’t happen straight away. Instead you are subjected to “music on-hold”, which in my case was very inappropriately “Happy” by Pharrel Williams (I guessed that the call centre manager had a perverse sense of humour). Still, after 35 minutes of Pharrel on continuous loop a new voice finally appeared on the line with an accent that was not from these shores.

Two things here straight away – 1. I have no objection to speaking with very bright Indian people and I appreciate why companies have outsourced to save money etc, and 2. the Indian guys on the line are probably much better educated than their equivalents in the UK and it’s regarded as a good job over there. However, you occasionally get issues in understanding as they talk so quickly, and this one was motoring along at 20 words / second and I couldn’t grasp anything he was saying.

I tried three times to get him to slow down – but this only provided temporary relief and he was soon back up to full speed. A conversation that would have normally taken about 5 minutes stretched to beyond half an hour because of endless repetition and misunderstanding. He tried everything he could to restore service and left no stone unturned in his efforts to help me.

And at the end of that? No success in solving the problem and I was put back on hold to be transferred to the next level of technical support and a Geordie came on the line after 10 more minutes of Pharrel…….

Who, whilst being only marginally easier to understand than the Indian chap, at least had the gumption to realise that he was going to get nowhere in trying to solve the problem over the phone. He quickly dispensed with the same checks as the others and reached a rapid conclusion that the router was knackered. After 3 minutes he had transferred me to the despatch department to arrange for a replacement to be sent out. 

What this tells you is whilst the Indian chap goes out of his way to try to solve your problem and considers it his duty to put things right, the Englishman takes a more pragmatic view and will pass the buck more often than not. Not saying that either is right or wrong – depends on the circumstances.

The tale ends here – you’ll be delighted and relieved to hear. The replacement turned up a few days later and I installed it in the proscribed manner and – lo and behold – a super-fast internet service is now enjoyed on all devices. 

But I’ll never back get the hour and a half I spent on the phone – and that makes my running total for “customer service” nearly 6 months so far. I forgot to tell you about the time when the washing machine wasn’t working properly……………..