Saturday, March 18, 2006

Part Four

This is where we went surreal, up to this point we had been mildly frustrated, but to be fair to all involved it wasn’t Sharon’s fault that the world had passed her by and that she was unaware of annoying little things like upgrades, updates and new OSX. It wasn’t the fault of the little G3 that it was growing old and had served its purpose and could no longer keep up.

But when a company, whose main purpose for being in existence, is to provide phone lines to customers, (note that – phone lines is what they sell – customers are who they sell them too – it’s not a difficult concept) can’t actually do what they are being paid for. Having spent possibly millions telling a nation how they provide wonderful new fast sexy broadband, forget the others, come to us, we have what you want. When they can’t do it I think the customer has the right to start getting a little tetchy.

We dialled a number, we listened to messages telling us that maybe we should consider going to the Bee Tee website to seek assistance (well not really because if we … forget it)

(do they not realise that 90% of the customers calling a helpline dedicated to broadband support will be having problems connecting to the internet and therefore while they would love to have a look at the Bee Tee website unfortunately that is not possible right now … which is why I am calling the …oh forget it)

So we call Delhi – not our choice obviously but Bee Tee along with numerous other companies has yet to catch up with the rest of the population in realising that offshore call centres are a really bad idea. Not just ‘unproven’ or the ‘jury is out on this one’ but an absolute annoying frustrating waste of everyone’s time.

Over the next few days we speak to a multitude of people whose grasp of English is worse than my friend’s three year old daughter. The first problem we had was that every single person who eventually answered our call does two things. It takes at least three attempts for them to take down a phone number correctly, something you would think would be a basic requirement of anybody employed by a phone company whose first enquiry is always going to be ‘what is the number of the phone line you are having problems with?’.
The second thing they all do without fail is ask you loads of questions before they ever ask why you are calling. You are paying for the call and you called them, so basic protocol demands that you should have the right to intervene with your enquiry at some point in the first five minutes.

Now we all suspect, and some of us may know without any shadow of a doubt, that most call centres provide their staff with scripts. The first time you are assured that they are doing their best to assist you and that they understand your frustration is quite comforting. After the tenth time you are begging them to skip to the page titled ‘dealing with suicidal customers’. They tested the line countless times, assumed it was a problem inside the house, sent a new router, told us on three different days it would take 48 hours to solve the problem (standard lie response from script 64b possibly?), every single time we were asked what the lights on the router were doing.

Quite a few times we would answer all the questions only to be told that there was a fault on the line, when we pointed out that we knew that, hence the reason for the phone call, because we had no broadband and we figured the people to call was the Bee Tee helpline. We were met with a stunned silence. Off piste for a Bee Tee employer is telling them you know something and they find themselves at the end of the script with no words left to recite at you.

We had the phone on speaker so we could both be entertained by the scripts that had become as familiar as old episodes of Fawlty Towers. The biggest problem was the accent, someone the other end would chatter away and we could tell by the questioning tone at the end that we were supposed to respond but we would look at each other and not have a clue what we had just been asked. Not a single word was comprehensible to us. What amused us was that if we summoned all our reserves of patience and politely point out that we actually hadn’t understood a word of what they had just said and could they speak a little clearer please they would repeat the question making no attempt to slow down or make it clearer. Changing the subject and talking about something we wanted to know about seemed to do the trick.

On the sixth day, late evening, the broadband line became active – no warning - it just started up. Sharon happily went about her business, we managed to setup her email accounts, surfing websites willy nilly, dizzy with the thrill of being finally online.

The next morning it was off again. So the process starts again, lots of phone calls, lots of listening to the same old scripts, lots of assurances that it would be sorted out within the next 48 hours.

A couple of observations at this point, things we have concluded as a result of conversations held while waiting for phones to be answered.

Why does a phone company have such a bad system for dealing with callers, is it not reasonable to expect this would be something they could get right, if only as a good example to the rest of us

There is little point in reaching a human being if they are programmed to respond like a machine, you may as well have a machine.

The occasion when we called and pressed a sequence of menu choices that led us to a voice saying thank you for calling Bee Tee then hanging up was a moment of pure utter madness. Do they really think people call just to enjoy Bee Tee’s menu system?

To wait 8 days from the moment of activation for a line to work and to not be offered a refund as a matter of course and then if you do want to complain ask you to write in even though you are a phone company is weird.

And finally, and for me this is the funniest thing to discover, it seemed that Sharon in her endless conversations managed to stumble on what seemed to be a little known fact. It appeared that no matter how long she talked to the person and no matter how unhelpful they were being they are not allowed to terminate the call in any way until the customer has reached some level of agreement.

So once Sharon stumbled on this fact she amused herself by not allowing the conversation to reach a satisfactory conclusion, whenever she was asked a question like ‘Is that OK?’ She would reply ‘well no not really because I still don’t have a broadband connection and you are being very unhelpful’, and off they would go again explaining the why and the wherefores, round and round in endless unhelpful loop. Pointless but quite amusing.

Eventually it came on and has been stable ever since.

1 comment:

Rach said...

Wow - an epic series of entries!!!
I always found the best bet when I had a problem with some BT service was to call pab! Unfair perhaps, but he was always very helpful! :)

Recently I had someone from a credit card company call me...and from the accent I guessed India. She was obviously trying to sell me some other kind of add on service, but I couldn't understand what she was saying - after the third time of saying "I don't understand" and having her read the same line of script with the indistinguishable words I gave up being nice & informed her I didn't want it.

The joys of call centres!

Hope getting the new iMac all set up and happily surfing goes more smoothly!

Rach