Losing the plot offline
The nightmare of dealing with a call centre knows no end
“YOUR call is important to us please stay on the line ... you are caller number 534.”
I have been raised to be polite. It’s a faulty byproduct of stiff English upperlip programming and a combination of being taught never to make a fool of yourself.
But even with nerves of reinforced steel one is likely to reach the end of one’s tether trying to get help from any customer care lines. My most recent foray into the abyss happened recently.
Our modem went on the blink because of electric outages — that is another whole story. I see the red light blink and I get a sinking feeling.
Customer care operator number one requires the name, identity number of the account holder. That’s all fine — except he lives in Durban. I ask the account holder to pursue the issue hoping to fob it off on him. He tersely replies he is busy at work and I must just deal with it. We have a war of words on WhatsApp and he says he does not have time for this **** !
I once again call the company now furnished with the account holder’s name, identity, blood type and favourite colour. Operator number two has the enthusiasm of a zombie, her script has been replayed countless times and she mumbles in a monotone.
I explain that the modem is kaput and I now am in possession of the account holder’s number, ID number and DNA. I feel a slight edge creeping into my voice. A mixture of desperation and aggression.
We now play a game called “how can I drive you mad”. This involves using my android tablet to get onto their Internet site. Using my own data of course. I then have to hop between the modem which is in another room and my tablet which is charging via a plug point. My blood pressure is skyrocketing.
I trip over the modem cable and slide across the floor banging my knee on a chair. My elderly father comes to see the commotion. He kindly offers me a cup of tea. “Tea!” I shriek. “I need a frikkin drink!”
The lady again issues a new password and am told to reset the modem. I do this and input the new password to no avail. She assures me she will reset the modem on her side and all will be well.
Ten minutes later the modem’s red light is blinking at me like Satan’s evil eye. I breathe deeply and phone the customer care line again. “We have an unusually high volume of calls. Please be patient ... blah blah ... ” I wait 32 minutes to be connected with a person.
Lady number three is slightly more enthusiastic and we once again go through the rigmarole of resetting the modem and the password. I have spent a total of three hours on the phone to this organisation.
Eventually she agrees to send a technician. At times in this process I have wondered if they are agents of the devil or if I should just take this as a sign that I should go on a socialmedia break, permanently.
While waiting for service you get inane music, adverts and lots of notices encouraging us customers to chat to other customers to find solutions for the problem. I am a little put out by this advice. Why would I ask other irate customers how to solve a problem?
There is some kind of perverse logic here. The banks use it — you get the privilege of coughing up a fortune in service fees so you can do all your own banking.
I digress. The technician arrives, hot and irritated. Eureka! He diagnoses that the modem is broken. How perceptive. He doesn’t keep replacement modems in his large van. I am told to go and buy a new one and then to ring customer care to reset the password.
Fed up, I decide to change service providers. I phone another highly recommended company. Their message says: “We are sorry there will be a delay due to the high volume of customer queries .... ”
Her voice is smug and patronising. She knows there is a queue of dissatisfied customers fleeing from the other provider.
But apparently I am caller number two. I feel excited. Then a buzz and an announcement. I have been demoted to number 14. You really cannot scream at an answering service. I have tried.
That phrase: “This call is being recorded for quality purposes”, is perhaps a slightly veiled threat that one should be have. But I think they tape these conversations and play them back at staff meetings rolling on the floor as irate customers lose the plot.