Monday, 18 August 2008

The Humans are Dead

I am writing this in response to The Ambling Rambler's blog today Are Customer Service People Dense? (well worth the read) since I had a similarly stupid experience today with my mobile phone service provider. I don't want to post their actual name here so for this blog let's just call them “V-Mobile”.

I've been a V-Mobile customer for years. I really like them. They give fantastic service and have good plans and products. However, one thing I never counted on was the stupidity of their automated phone system.

I needed to give them a call today because I had a simple question about my plan. Logically I figured this would simply involve looking up their phone number and talking to a Customer Service Person. Since they have to handle a large number of calls around the country I imagined that I might get a short automated message followed by “If you would like to speak to a Customer Service Person press 0” followed by “Hello” from a human. Similar to the Woosh system which is great. You pretty much get the option to talk to a human from the word go.

But no. Instead I got their idiotic phone system which took me five goes at to actually find a human to talk to. My last two machine conversations went something like this (although this is MUCH shorter and less complicated because there is no way I can remember verbatim every insane level they programmed into this thing!):

V-Mobile Phone System: “Welcome to V-Mobile. For Prepay press 1, for On Account press 2, for information on number portability press 3”

Me: OK no option for a human so I press 2 for On Account since I have one. So far so good.

VPS: “Thank you for calling V-Mobile. We have not been able to recognise your mobile number. (Well of course you haven't - I haven't been asked to put it in yet!) To allow us to offer you better service please enter your mobile number now. If you do not have this number press #”

Me: I enter my number

VPS: “Please enter you mobile phone activation number”

Me: WTF!!!! This is the number you unlock the phone with when you first get it. I got my phone 3 years ago. There is no way I have any clue what it is now! But there is no way to go further without it so I hang up and try again and this time skipping past the part where you put in your mobile number. So it continues...

VSP: “Welcome to V-Mobile” For Prepay press 1, etc etc etc blah blah (up to the point I was up to before except I select # to skip the mobile phone number) And then:

VSP: "Welcome to V-Mobile"

Me: OK, got it the first time. I thought I was there already!

VSP: “The time is 3.11pm”

Me: Whoop-tee-doo. You don't say! I have my own watch and don't need to be told this but perhaps they could further waste my time by adding a weather report and a news update and any other crap I don't need to be doing right now.

VSP: “For technical support for your iphone 3G blah blah blah ..... please hang up and call some other number. For info on getting an iphone 3G blah blah blah... call yet some other number”

Me: Great I don't have one of those and don't want one either but if the lucky people who do have one get a special number to call great. Good to know. I am now informed should I ever get one. Thanks for the extra advertising.

VSP: “For account information press 1, for Global Roaming press 2, for some other Family offer press 3, TO SPEAK TO A CUSTOMER SERVICE PERSON PRESS 0

Me: Yes! Finally! Thank you God! I press 0

VSP: “If you would like to speak to a customer service person press 1”

Me: WTF! Didn't it register the first time? Maybe they should reword it to “Are you really really REALLY sure without any doubt you really want to speak to a Customer Service Person?”

VSP: “Thank you for choosing to speak to a Customer Service Person”

Me: GET TO THE FUCKING POINT!!!!!!!! I don't want to be thanked for my choice. I want to speak to someone. Preferably this century.

VSP: “To allow us to offer you better service we need to validate your identity. Please enter your mobile number...”

Me: Fuck not this again. Thankfully there is an option to continue on to speak to someone without entering the dreaded activation number. I FINALLY get a human. This is after about half an hour of pressing buttons. And what do I get from the human? First before he can answer my simple question I have to be interrogated for more information...

“What is your full name?
What is your birthday?
Where do you live?
What is your mobile number?


Holy hell. All for a simple 2 second question. What ever happened to the type of Client Service where a friendly person answered the phone and was cheerfully helpful? Also I hate to think what happens if you are a poor unfortunate non-V-Mobile potential customer looking to phone up, heaven forbid without an activation number, to simply find out something before signing up!


Robyn said...

Well - if you have problems with this sort of system with your perfect ears - imagine what someone like me with imperfect ears would have to go through?

I'll stay away from V-mobile completely - I know who you are talking about!!

I had enough problems getting through to the Power company earlier this year with the same thing.

Gah - phone systems piss me off royally. Bring back real humans!

Bron said...

Robyn, you would have been totally lost on their system. That is another reason why they should simplify it.

Anonymous said...

I nearly fell out of my chair laughing, but it's all so true. Probably one of those many services that was outsourced to another country. Oh, wait, no you are in NZ/Oz, so your government hasn't outsourced or have they?

Bron said...

OK I didn't want to mention it but I am in NZ and my call was answered by a very nice man by the name of Mohammad with a very nice accent to match. I am not at all against talking to a foreigners so long as they are RESIDENTS LIVING IN MY COUNTRY!

I am basically anti outsourcing to foreign countries for two reasons. Firstly it deprives NZders of jobs and an opportunity to use and develop their skills for this country. So we are becoming an unskilled nation with people buggering off overseas in search of work opportunities.

Secondly, when I phone a local business I would like to talk to someone who has an intimate knowledge of the product I am talking about and who has some sort of real connection with the business also, that they are a real representative. If you are simply making a call to a Call Centre miles away from where you live there's a high likelihood that this is not the case and that you are simply talking to a professional "Call Centre" person who has no real understanding of what you are talking about and probably moves from company to company depending on who the latest client happens to be.

Unfortunately in order to provide top class customer service it pays to not only have a real interest in the product you are dealing with but an indepth knowledge of it as well. So it is not much good for instance working on a help desk panel for an ISP if you are barely able to operate a mouse and are baffled by technology. The most stupid instance of this I have come across is phoning an ISP to enquire about a technical problem with their mail servers only to be asked "what's a mail server?" Needless to say I sorted the problem out myself. But it's pretty poor when the customer has to figure out a solution themselves and phone back with the answer. But this is the type of thing that happens when employees are mismatched for the task they are employed for and I feel this is even more likely with long distance Call Centers.