Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

When I switched Internet Service Providers (ISPs), I had no idea what I was getting myself into. When I filled in a requisition form, the person told me that the connection would be done within 3 days.

The engineers from Airtel came the next day. They did their job installing the cables, etc. and were on their way. The next day another engineer came over to do the networking-related work and configure the modem.

Their work was impressive. Cables were not left lying around and were fixed properly. They even cleaned up while they were leaving, something you don’t see often in India. The engineer clearly explained the devices and gave me a text file with the necessary information. They demonstrated the speed of the Internet connection as well. After they were done, a customer service person called to check if I had been given all the information.

I was already impressed but then it got better. A few days later, another person from Airtel came in to audit the installation. He checked the connections, the way everything was set up, and gathered my responses to some questions. He mentioned to me that they wanted to ensure that the installations were done properly so that the customers wouldn’t face problems (and consequently complain).

Having come from a provider with a less than stellar record, this has been impressive. I know I’m probably jinxing it but I’ve not had a single outage so far. Airtel’s installation is a great example of doing things the right way and of doing things to delight the customer.

Boy, am I glad I listened to my friend and picked Airtel!


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My Internet Service Provider (ISP), Sify if you must know, doesn’t like me. I’m sure it’s not personal but that’s the message I get when they hang up on me, after making me enter a bunch of options and a ten-digit mobile number. It’s not a one-off incident either: this has happened to me more often than I have been connected to a customer rep. I’m not kidding.

I’ve spoken to Sify’s customer reps when I did get through but that doesn’t seem to have any effect. I’ve even written to the head of the customer service division at Sify, but apparently they’re too busy to respond to me either. And this seems to be a problem that they are aware of because one rep told me that “because of high call volumes, you may have problems”. He also said that if I was disconnected that Sify would recontact me but they never have. Now, Sify is part of the Satyam group which has been in the news for the wrong reasons. So, irritating customers is not the best idea for their business.

I cannot understand why Sify refuses to get it. Search for “Sify broadband” on Google and you’ll see the number of complaints that people have. Yes, leaving this ISP is an option but sometimes there are reasons why you have to stick with a provider (coverage, for example).

And, the funny part is that if I want to get a new broadband connection, Sify will put me in touch with a customer rep easily. No need to enter a phone number or anything. For existing customers, they make you jump through hoops. Here are the things you have to do, if you are an existing customer.

  1. Dial Sify’s call centre number.
  2. Listen to recorded message and press 1 for English
  3. Listen to another recorded message and press 2 for “existing customers…” (New connection customers stop here!)
  4. Listen to another recorded message and press 1 or 2 depending on whether your query is “non-technical or technical”. (I’ve written about this in another post)
  5. Listen to another recorded message and then enter 0 followed by a ten-digit mobile number.
  6. Pray that you’re connected to a customer rep and not disconnected.

What do you do in such a situation? I’ll be switching to a new ISP soon, but I wonder about the many people who will still be customers of Sify. Some may not be able to move. What do they do? My recommendation is to complain to the call centre people, to write emails or letters to Sify, to write to newspapers, share experiences on forums (like MouthShut.com) or blogs, or even contact the consumer courts (if you’re really ticked off). If enough people complain, companies will be forced to take notice.

That you have to do so much to get yourself heard makes me sad. Why don’t companies make great customer service their priority? Not lip service, not useless automation, not advertising, just great customer service.

Not crappy customer service, which we are all familiar with, but great customer service. That would really be something.

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When I call my Internet provider, sometimes they’ll decide to let me know that there’s “free shipping on all products for 1600 locations. For details, log on to Sify.com.”

My telecom service provider, which was taken over by another company a few months ago, decides to let me know that their spokesperson is the son of a famous actor and that the company is here to serve me… blah, blah.

Most of the time, when I’m calling a customer service line, I’m not calling to chat about the weather. It’s usually a problem that I want solved and like most impatient customers, I want it solved yesterday. Essentially, all I’m looking for is to speak to a customer service rep and get my problem fixed.

So, who’s the brilliant guy that came up with the scheme to insert marketing messages in the phone call? And, these messages are not when I’m on hold, (Did you know that you can browse interesting links over on the right hand side of this blog? See?) but typically at the beginning of the phone call.

Sometimes I get the impression that these ideas are hatched at meetings where an overbearing boss suggests the idea and everyone agrees because they’re too scared to tell the guy that it’s not such a bright idea.

Or, it’s just that companies don’t think like customers or act like customers. A lot of the problems with phone customer service and IVR systems can be solved if companies actually used their own systems. You know call in, speak to someone, that sort of thing. I know it’s a revolutionary idea but companies ought to try it sometime.

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Changing due dates of bills

My telecom service provider was taken over by a bigger company and today I received an SMS / text telling me that the due date for paying my bill had been moved ahead by 4 days. Maybe it’s the new company’s policy to have a specific due date–I don’t know.

What I do know, however, is that the bill has not yet arrived. So, I have 4 days less time in which to pay my bill and yet my bill’s not been dispatched 4 days earlier. And, they wonder why customers aren’t happy.

If I were the service provider, I would’ve sent the bill early, kept the due date unchanged for the current month, and then sent an SMS informing customers that the due date would be changed from the following month.

Dealing with customers is not advanced calculus–it’s mostly common sense.

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Update (10 Feb 2009): I feel compelled to mention that I have nothing to do with Sify or its Customer Care department, so please don’t write to me asking me for passwords that you’ve forgotten or any other Sify-related problems. Sify’s Customer Care is the place to go for that. Thank you. Original post continues below.

I’ve written about Jasper Griegson’s The Complete Complainer on my other blog and I used some of the things I learnt from that book in writing this letter.

It could be improved but it did get a response, though not the one I was hoping for. I probably should’ve waited a while before sending it because sending an complaint when you’re upset is one of the things Griegson recommends that you don’t do. I thought the letter would be helpful to others intending to write such letters.

Dear Sir:

Imagine logging on to your computer in the morning to check your email and finding that your account has expired. Imagine this happening when you are on an unlimited pack (64 kbps) and have been on this pack for more than two years. Imagine calling the customer care and being told that there is a daily download limit of 150 MB, which was never mentioned either by the service provider or by the Sify renewal department.

My pack has apparently expired because I used 210 MB on one day (10/July/2008), even though the pack was supposed to be valid till the 12th. Furthermore, I was not in town for 4 days during which I did not download anything. That's 600 MB worth of downloads, which I apparently cannot use.

If you call a pack unlimited, then it should be unlimited, not "partially unlimited" as your customer care representative put it. In addition, if you are using an expiry by date method, then don't use the download method. Or provide a monthly download limit without a date attached. To use both a daily limit and a date-based expiry is an unfair practice on your part. In addition, the use of the word
unlimited signifies "no limit". How can you justify this duplicity?

Your customer care executive asked me to email you in spite of the fact that I did not have an Internet connection (Note: I should've said that my Internet connection had expired). The other option she said was to contact my service provider who I have not dealt with for over a year.

I have been dealing with Sify and I cannot understand how you don't provide an escalation mechanism. When I asked to speak to a supervisor, your executive said that she could not transfer the call. Is this a deliberate way to ensure that customers are frustrated?

I have been a Sify subscriber for over two years now and for the most part I have been satisfied with the service. However, such an incident really makes me wonder whether Sify cares about its customers or only about making money, even if it means tricking the customer.

I am extremely disappointed by the way I have been treated. Please address this issue by reactivating my account and by providing me with the account compensation for the trouble that you are causing me.

Clearly, not the best ending as well but not a bad letter overall, if I may say so myself. Any thoughts from the three (fine, two!) of you who read this blog?

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I was trying to register for a service at ICICI Bank and after entering the information and clicking Submit, I was taken to an orphan page (no links to anything) which displayed the following:

This error has occured due to a problem in the application setup
Please contact the Administrator of your Bank.

Now the question is, Who is the administrator of my bank? Is it the bank’s website administrator? (Probably) Is it the administrator of the branch where my account is? (Unlikely) Is it someone else? (No clue)

Errors will occur. What distinguishes the good applications from the also-rans is the way in which they handle errors. In this case, for instance, the message could’ve been changed to:

Oops. If you’re seeing this, it means that we goofed up.

Please click here to notify us and we’ll contact you when the problem’s rectified. Thanks.

I don’t think setting up something like this would be too tough. Sure, it’s an extra bit of work, but it saves your customer from being frustrated. Frustrated customers tell other people about their frustrations, which is not good for your business. Ask Dell.

Then again, I’m no Jeff Jarvis.

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When I call up my Internet service provider (Sify if you must know) to report a problem, the menu takes me into an option where a voice says:

For non-technical queries, press 1. For technical queries, press 2.

Though I make a choice (usually 2), I wonder how customers are supposed to diffrentiate between a technical and a non-technical query. For customers with no knowledge of computers or networking, every query is technical mumbo jumbo. And, even for customers with a smattering of knowledge, the issue is still far from clear.

To me, it seems like nobody asked the question, What does technical mean and how is it different from non-technical?

And that is a pity because as I write this, there are customers on the phone who are probably confused about what they are supposed to choose.

This post, in case you were wondering, is non-technical.

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