What”s the difference between a call center and getting help?

This last week I have shifted house and with the change of address came the organization of letting everyone know where I was going to. I also had to change my phone number and internet service provider.

I was lucky. Some time ago, I had grouped the two together for ease of billing and only having to call one company when sorting out any problems…

Oh how wrong I could be!

What is it with Call Centers anyway? I can”t see how the job can be that hard to do, I mean, I spend a considerable amount of time on the phone helping people sort out various issues and providing an avenue for them to follow up and move forward along. Talking on the phone isn’t that difficult.

Three weeks ago, I let my phone and internet company know I was changing my address, and asked them what was needed and wanted so that the transition would be smooth and seamless between the two places. I wanted to have everything working in my new place when I arrived. No problem with that, I was informed, and they gave me the steps I needed to take and even sent me a letter saying it was taken care of… very nice!!!

The letter was great for building confidence in the company. I was on top of the world.

Here is an excerpt…

…At Primus, we are dedicated to ensuring you are provided with superior service, competitive rates and unequalled plans.

In a world full of so many confusing messages, we believe in keeping everything simple for our valued customers. So everything we do is designed to ensure we help make your telecommunications life just that, simple and easy…

…Your total satisfaction is our first priority. We are delighted you are a Primus customer and look forward to delivering exceptional service. Always.

Yours sincerely

Neale Chenden

Customer Care Manager


Wow, what a load of crock.

I arrived down here with hopes high and instructions on how to implement the phone and internet service. So simple and straightforward, oh, and how wrong.

The phone wasn”t connected when we arrived and I assumed that it was just a matter of time until that would happen, after all, I had asked for the connection to be on the 11th, and they had been so helpful, it must be just a matter of timing.

By the evening, I decided to ring them using my mobile phone… Surely there must be a simple explanation… my problems were just about to begin.

I fail to understand how call centers never manage to have enough people to answer the calls made to it. As a company, surely they must know that frustration to their customers reflects badly on the company. If I had to make a judgment call, I would say that they just don’t care. Why would they? They have a major slice of the market and I am just one small insignificant residential client.

After the obligatory half hour waiting listening to “your call is important to us” I managed to talk to a representative of the company. Apparently my issue couldn”t be handled at this time and I would have to ring back between the hours of 8.30am and 5.00pm. I resigned myself to having to wait until the morning.

I rang again at 8.35am, far too late to be in the first wave of callers… what do they all call about? Surely there can’t be THAT many people with THAT many problems? Again I seem to have sparked a rash of callers as I had rung, and this time was informed that “my call was important to us” but now they had added a bit more… It was unusually busy and wait times will be over 30 min… I”m on the line now, so be it.

35 minutes later, I again get to speak to a representative… a different one and, hey, guess what! I have to explain the whole story all over again. Well, from the notes (I was beginning to feel like I was in a doctor”s surgery) it appears that there has been a hold up in the system… The phone number hasn’t been allocated and this will take one to two working days.

“What happened to my organizing of this, three weeks ago?”

“It would appear that you only wanted the previous account closed”

Oh so it”s my fault? … Look, I apologize, I”m not getting at you, its just that I organized this a couple of weeks ago so I wouldn’t have these hassles. Is there any way you can help me here?”

“I can let the service department know and they may be able to prioritize the job”

“Thank you” I said, almost feeling like I was sorry for them having to deal with such a difficult and problematic customer.

After some further conversation, I hung up feeling a little more confident in the system

By 4.30pm, the phone was still not up and running so I rang once more… by a stroke of luck, I found that I was talking to someone who was prepared to tell it to me straight…

Yes, the phone is due to go on between 5.30 and 6pm

Yes you have been mucked around and Yes, your broadband will also be on at the same time

Sure enough at 6pm the phone was on. I rang the people that I needed to let know and relaxed a little, the night was going to be great. I would deal with the emails after dinner.

After dinner came and I sat down and hooked up the broadband…. Nothing

“Where’s that phone?”

“I”m sorry, sir, there is no correspondence here about broadband connections, you will have to ring back between 8.30am and 5.00pm”

This morning I rang again. After the usual 30 minute wait, Matthew answered the phone… now here was someone who was able to connect. He understood, he read through the previous few days notes and apologized and then he dropped the bombshell

“You broadband will be connected within 5 to 7 days”

Did he say DAYS?

It was right at this point that I lost all semblance of rationality… I read him the letter I received in the post from Primus. He again apologized, explained that it was out of his hands. I even understood…. Bugger!!!!

So now I have to wait, I will spend my time devising a letter explaining my issues but, of course, I know it won”t do any good…

I have devised a simple plan, a step by step process to help you through a call center experience

1/ Whatever the problem, you are the cause of it

2/ Explain you problem in detail to the call center representative

3/ Expect one of two answers

a/ You have done something that is outside the guidelines of your contract

b/ Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible

(Please note; the answer to both a/ and b/ is step one… please return to step one and work through the process again)

The problem, as I see it, is that call center representatives are working to a list. There is a stock standard answer or none at all. They hardly even realize that you, the customer is there on the other end of the line.

There are exceptions to the rule but these are infrequent and far between. People have lost sight of the purpose of a call center. The sad thing in all this is that most everyone knows exactly what I am talking about but the system has become so ingrained that we accept it. We may not like it but…

On another note, I also rang their competitor on another matter…

I talked to a damn machine for five minutes. The machine asked me questions and I answered, slowly because that was what I was told to do, before the machine told me that I needed to ring during office hours…. The 24 hour service told me I rang at the wrong time.

Do we have to accept this treatment?

It appears so…

Until next week

Cheers… Bill

Bill Gray

Bill is a Business Coach. Working with Individuals, Businesses and Organisations to create better environments and to develop and enhance business ”potential”, into successful business practices.

Sydney, Australia

Ph +61 413 949 521

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