More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Customer Service - Not Happy Jan

Recently, I've had a few problems with customer service of large corporations. The latest incident wasn't really their fault but they didn't really help. I usually have my mobile phone bill directly deducted from my credit card. However, since my credit card was expiring and I was issued with a new card, my phone bill got declined. The company couldn't be bothered to tell me that my card was expiring either. Since they didn't send me anything unlike some other companies, I just assumed they would keep the same card number and just update the expiry date themselves.

So I got an sms from them to say that I needed to pay my bill or my phone would get cut off. They can't even bother ringing me, instead making me ring them and have to wait ages. Luckily I have an office job and can keep working on the computer while I hold on the line. I rang the help line and asked to pay my bill. I was informed by the operator that their system was down and that I couldn't pay. So I asked them why they couldn't just bill me for two months in the next pay period. They said that they couldn't do this and I had to pay up or get disconnected. So I asked them to just try billing me again when their system was up again. However, they said this was not possible and I would have to call back, and wait another half hour on the line, to try and pay. How ridiculous is it when large corporations are only too happy to take your money, but when they have to be a little responsible for anything, they shy away as quickly as a vampire from sunlight. I use the vampire analogy because that's what they feel like sometimes, vampires sucking the blood dry from you. They couldn't put a note in their computer system that said that I had called and tried to pay my bill and that they should retry when their system was up. No, that would be too much responsibility.

The previous example was actually a very mild problem. The worse one was before I moved house and wanted to relocated my electricity bill to the new house. Initially I rang in and they said that everything looked fine and it would be fixed. A few days later, I got a call from a lady saying that I, yes it was up to me again, needed to get the electricity meter number at the new house and provide them with that before they could do anything. So I go to the new house the next day, get the number, call in again (waiting for ages again, so that's two calls so far) and tell them the number. Once again, they said all will be fine and it will get changed now.

When I actually am about to move in, I get another call from the lady saying why I hadn't given her the meter number to her personally rather than to another operator. She said that she hasn't been able to do anything in the past 1.5 weeks. This meant that should I move in, I might not have electricity at all. So I give her the number and she says she will get on the problem. A few hours later, I get a call back, saying that a meter doesn't exist at my new house. But I told her that the lights are on in the house and I just read the number off the meter personally. She said to check the number again. Since I was at work, I rang my sister to check it since she had a day off. Quite a few calls to my sister and back to the lady kept coming up negative with every single number that I gave her that was written on the meter. I'm no electrician so I don't know what number she wanted, but it turned out the first number was correct but the meter number but did not register on their network.

So at this stage the electricity resellers tell me to call the actual electricity providers and see what the problem is. Being stupid and naiive, I say ok and ring up the electricity provider. They also tell me that the meter doesn't show up. I ask them what I can do. They check their computer and say that the resellers had actually rung up to enquire about the situation, to which the providers had told them to go investigate the problem. However, rather than investigate the problem themselves, the resellers handballed the problem to me. This got the electricity suppliers mad since they had explicitly told the resllers to find out what was wrong.

I did not want to weigh into their argument so just asked what I could do to get my electricity relocated. They kept telling me "Oh computer says your electricity is not connected" to which I reply "But I'm standing in the house with the lights on at the moment." Finally I relent and say "Just charge me the fee and do a re-connection", to which they reply "Oh we can't do that, the meter is still there and may be unsafe to re-connect". I say "But you just said you can't connect me because there is apparently no meter at my house". Arrrggghhhh, she had totally contradicted her earlier statement by now admitting that the meter WAS there but could not be connected due to adminstrative procedures. See the vicious loop that the argument keeps taking. They tell me to call back the resllers and tell them to solve the problem.

I asked advice from some more senior work mates and they said, just keep using the electricity for free. I was really tempted to do that, except that if they should all of a sudden decide to cut my electricity, it would cost me money to reconnect and also possibly a week with no electricity.

So I was getting really mad now after a day of endless phone calls for what seemed to be a very simple matter. The meter was physically sitting there already working, no one was being killed, so just switch my bill over to the new house. Initially they said that they may need to send someone out to install a new fuse, regulations apparently, to ensure that everything was safe. With my blood boiling, a work mate had suggested that a harsh email saying that I would report them to the energy ombudsman if the problem wasn't resolved might help. I did this and since it was Friday afternoon, didn't really expect anything to happen that day.

I totally forgot about the issue over the weekend and kept using the electricity. A few days later, I get an sms saying to call the electricity resellers. They then inform me that everything is fine and that my electricity will be relocated that day. I hadn't seen any electrician come out to check the safety of the connections, the supposed missing meter had turned up on their system, the supposed unsafe meter had not been changed, I didn't need a reconnection, all was fine. Miraculously the problems had all disappeared once I threatened to report them to the energy ombudsman. How coincidental is that? I'm not implying anything, you make up your own minds.

From this story, you can see the amount of customer service you get when something out of the ordinary happens. No one is willing to take responsibility and see the problem through to the end. Which just means the poor consumer is stuck with a problem that they can't solve by themselves. The most hated catch phrase that I hear is "The computer says.....". For heaven's sake, the computer is just data entered into it by a human being, who make mistakes or do not update to the latest information. When a consumer is telling you the situation is clearly something else, you should believe them. Either that or send someone out to look at the problem. I think if I ever encounter a similar problem, I know that being nice to the telephone staff doesn't get you anywhere. You just get passed from one person to another, one department to another. You need to get that staff's name and make them personally responsible, or at least make the company responsible by threatening consequences. I don't want to do this as it's not in my nature, but when they shaft me around, I need to stand up to them and demand the service that I pay good money for.


Blogger afrobev said...

I completely agree with you Thanh and I like the Vampire thing. These companies are only too happy to take your hard earned cash but when it comes to helping you out they don't want to know...or they cant be bothered.

They expect payment from you straight away because of the restrictions of their computer systems but there is no way around it if the system doesn't work properly.

I find Customer Service areas to be more and more unhelpful. Especially in this country I don't know about yours?

9/21/2006 7:24 PM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

I find customer service here is pretty bad too. The dealings I've had when I wanted to change something have not always been pleasant.

9/23/2006 11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Do,

I know the dilemma of not having electricity for a week, but correct me if i'm wrong, but don't vibrators run off batteries too.

2/22/2008 11:27 AM  

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