Saturday, June 04, 2011

Not So Much A Career As A Calling.

Call centres are the bane of our lives. The very name conjures up feelings of frustration, annoyance and even rage. Sadly this is because the 'bad' ones remain in our minds far longer than the 'good' ones.

If we ring one and get help in an understanding and acceptable way, we rarely talk about the experience with anyone, a bit like when we get a good restaurant meal with great service.

But when we come up against a call centre which leaves us fuming and wanting to kick the cat into next door's garden, then a bit like when we get a steak that could double as a shoe insert and a waitress who could curdle milk, then we want to tell everyone we come into contact with.

And so the stereotype continues.

I'm afraid I have NEVER EVER had satisfaction from a foreign call centre....and I think you know just which foreign country I'm talking about here as I really don't want to come across all racist by mentioning it. India.

But when money is the driving force and you can hire a room full of Indians in Mumbai for the price of two Englishmen in Bristol, then you can't blame the companies that do so. Well actually you can blame them, or at least their policy makers, as it has to get to the stage where poor customer satisfaction and even losing some customers far outweigh the financial benefits of hiring the very people who are driving those customers away.

Of course the reason for this post now is because I've had to ring the Virgin Media call centre over the last few days and although I've always praised the customer service staff at VM, that was because I'd never had to ring with a bill query. When I picked that option from the multiple choices presented, my heart sank when I heard the call centre voice at the other end.

More than anything else, I hate having to listen to people reading a greeting from a script. From the get go, it gives me the feeling I'm going to have to struggle to be understood and that's exactly what happened. I always make a point of recording these calls as they make a point of telling me so are they. In the past I've been promised things which never came to pass and when I remind them the promises could be recalled from their recording of the call and they say the recording is somehow not available, I tell them they can have mine. It's amazing how quickly their attitude changes.

The English language must be a nightmare to learn. Many English people haven't mastered it. We have words and phrases that can be interpreted several ways and few foreigners can come to terms with this. The thing is, we struggle to understand them but they plough on regardless as if WE are the ones with the problem. And in a way we do. A problem with THEM.

My monthly bill from VM was £190. That's for my phone, broadband and cable tv. £190 !! You can imagine why I was ringing them. Yes I was returning my services to as they were before I left the country last November so as VM charges a month in advance, I was expecting a much larger bill than usual.....but not for £190. The first guy was obviously a trainee as I could hear someone helping him with his answers and he kept saying he had to leave me to clarify something.

At one point he told me £89.50 would be credited to my bank account. Remember I have it recorded so that's a fact. That's when I should've said thank you very much and ended the call. But oh no, big gob had to say...."I only got the bill 30 mins ago and it doesn't get paid by direct debit for 3 weeks so no money has actually come out of my account yet. I just need a new bill." This appeared to throw him completely and he said he'd have to investigate further and I'd get a callback in the morning "within 3 o'clock"

"What does that mean," I asked.

"I mean you will get callback within 3 o'clock."

Noting that it was now just before midnight and he'd said I'd get a call in the morning, I understandably wanted to be sure I wasn't going to get a call within 3 hrs, at 3am !

"I don't know what you mean by within 3'oclock," I said.

"I mean we need to investigate further and you will..............."

"No,no,no,no,no. I understand I'm going to get a callback but 3am or 3pm ?"

"Yes a callback within 3'oclock.

Sighhhhhhhh (clearly audible on my recording). "Do you mean 3pm tomorrow ?


"Ok bye"

You see, this is what I mean about the nuances of our language. He wasn't far wrong but just enough to be really annoying when I was already annoyed enough by first the bill, and then everything that I'd been through already talking with him.

Needless to say I never did get that callback "within the 3'oclock" or any other time. Not even 3pm Mumbai time. I did try again the next day but got a much more assertive Indian woman who bombarded me with details and amounts in a high pitched monotonous voice that had me on edge from the start. I tried so hard to not just say I needed to speak to someone who could both understand and speak English - mostly as I doubted there was one at that call centre.

So rather than stress myself out again, I'll just pick another dept choice from the initial phone menu and right now I'm thinking of the 'leaving Virgin Media' option. I got cable when it first came to my area so many years ago I can't even remember. Companies have come and gone from Bell Cablemedia to NTL to Virgin Media and I've remained loyal and not left to join Sky or any other competitor. But I'm not sure I want to remain with a company who put financial savings (for them) over customer satisfaction by outsourcing call centres abroad.

It rarely works, people.

Thank you for reading my blog. Is there anything else I can help you with today ?


Daphne said...

I think the question is whether any company that puts its call-centres abroad is doing it to a) save money or b) improve customer service. And I think we all know the answer. Sometimes the problems are tricky enough to understand without struggling with language problems as well.
And I LOVE the fact that you record THEM. I think we should all start doing it.

Anonymous said...


Call and select the leaving option. You will get the UK retention department. They are most helpful and efficient.

We now have a good monthly discount from the standard bill.

Last time I called they not only sorted the problem, but gave us a nice credit on the account.

from a vm phone call 150, press 5
to save listening to the options.

Most Recent Awards

Most Recent Awards