Customer support experiences

Examples of social decline, especially in the UK

Customer support experiences

Postby Gavin » 28 Dec 2013, 19:33

It is common these days for customer support to be "outsourced" to foreign countries - usually India. Often it becomes clear that the people you end up speaking to are less familiar with the issues than you are. When phoning about a technical issue I usually put aside at least a morning and sometimes an entire day. I have had to phone Orange eight times in one day in order to get issues resolved (for example to do with the details of mobile broadband allowances, capping, fees etc). Often, each assistant directly contradicts the last, and one ends up feeling as though one is in a conspiracy drama or in a surreal world - and I tell them so.

I would change phone provider but I know they all do this and are all as bad as each other. You have to try to remain calm and decent with the minimum wage people they put on the phones too. It's not really their fault. They'll take the work if it is offered. People obviously should not employ unskilled people who cannot even speak or understand English properly for such roles (this was exposed in the nurse / prank DJ call case). In these roles, native English would seem to be a basic requirement, but one rarely encountered.

So I have been through this a lot - almost every time. And if I have, then a lot of people must have. I try to phone them as little as possible because I just cannot afford the time.

The "Tony Blair" of business, Richard Branson, likes to keep his taxes offshore and his customer support there too. It keeps more millions in the bank at the expense of the native British customers. I just had reason to contact Virgin Trains and thought I would try their online chat client (I had of course checked their site first trying to avoid this situation but there was not precise information about my basic query). Here's how it went:

Rajinder: Hi, my name is Rajinder. How may I help you?
Gavin: Hi there. I have recently amended two advance bookings online. The site said I would only pay a £10 admin fee each time but I notice I have been billed for each new ticket in full.
Gavin: Do I need to return the previous tickets to you?
[Long delay - I'm unsure if this is even going to be real or just a bot]
Gavin: They were sent in the mail but I have arranged fastticket pickup for the new ones.
Rajinder: Sure, I will assist you.
Gavin: Ref for first original trip: 2069
Gavin: Ref for 2nd trip (also changed): 2070
Rajinder: Thank you.
Rajinder: Are you the card holder for the booking?
Gavin: Yes
Rajinder: Thank you.
[Long delay]
Rajinder: Yes, you need to send the tickets via recorded delivery for the refund.
Rajinder: The refund address is
Virgin Trains
Refunds Department
P.O Box 23972
Gavin: OK
Gavin: Is this standard? The refund is not made online when you change the journey date or time?
Gavin: You need to send the tickets in and the journey is refunded minus admin fee?
[Long delay]
Rajinder: Yes, you will get the refund less £10.00 per person, per ticket.
Gavin: What happens if you booked specifying fast collect instead?
Gavin: Does it refund immediately online in that case?
Rajinder: I am sorry, I did not get your question.
Gavin: I made these bookings requesting that the tickets were posted to me.
Gavin: So it seems I need to send them back for a refund.
Gavin: What if you make a booking specifying that you will pick the tickets up at the station instead, then you want to amend that booking?
Gavin: In this case you do not have any tickets to send, right?
Gavin: So is the refund made immediately online at the time of change?
[I'm thinking I've been really clear here, leaving no possibility for misunderstanding. Long delay]
Rajinder: Please give me some time while I read your messages.
Gavin: Ok, please get a supervisor if this is not clear to you.
[Long delay]
Gavin: This is quite a simple enquiry. What happens if you want to amend a journey and you do not have physical tickets?
Gavin: Please fetch a a colleague if you cannot follow.
Rajinder: If you will not give me the time to read your messages then how would I be able to help you.
[Very long delay]
Rajinder: If you select the collection from machine then you will no need to collect the ticket and we will collect tickets on your behalf and process refund.
Gavin: Please hold on a moment [On phone to Virgin at the same time - same problems]
Rajinder: Okay.
Gavin: Okay thanks. How long does that take, from when the amendment is made?
Gavin: Is that instant when you change the booking online or does it take a few days?
Rajinder: Once you applied the refund then we will collect the tickets.
[Trying to think how to phase this in even simpler English]
Gavin: On the website you can select "Amend this booking". You amend it. You have no tickets to post. When is the refund for the original journey given? Instantly or in a few days?
Rajinder: Once you send the tickets then refund will be credited in the same account within 7-8 working days.
[Becoming very exasperated, trying to be polite]
Gavin: Understood. But I just explained above that I am talking about when you booked to collect at the station, so in this case you do not have any tickets to return.
Gavin: In this case does the refund happen instantly when you make the new booking or within days?
[Long, tantalising delay]
Rajinder: If your tickets are in the machine then we will collect and process refund within 4-5 working days; however, if the tickets are with you then you need to send the tickets for refund and it will be credited within 7-8 working days from the receiving tickets.
Gavin: Okay thank you for your help.
Gavin: Bye.
Rajinder: Thank you for contacting us. Have a nice day.
Rajinder: Please click on the "Disconnect" button to end the chat session.
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Re: Customer support experiences

Postby Elliott » 28 Dec 2013, 20:12

God, that is tedious!

To be fair, the issue was quite an obscure one, so I can understand why a non-native speaker would struggle to understand it - but that means the job shouldn't be given to non-native speakers!
Posts: 1800
Joined: 31 Jul 2011, 22:32
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Customer support experiences

Postby Gavin » 28 Dec 2013, 20:27

Not forgetting the typical McDonald's order (with natives or foreigners, it doesn't matter). I like to think I've really got this one covered now, so there can be no possibility for any misunderstanding. It's not exactly a quadratic equation, after all. What could possibly go wrong? I walk in...

Assistant [Immediately, slightly insistent]: Can I take your order please?
Me [Obviously scanning overhead menu]: Just a moment, please.
[After a moment, pleasant smile, approach till]
Me: Right, can I have a Big Mac meal please, regular*, to take away, with Coke and no ice**? That's all.
Assistant: That's a Big Mac meal?
Me: Yes, please.
Assistant: Is that a large meal?
[I presume the till instructs the staff member to ask this and they are unable to override with their initiative. One always feels slightly rude or stingy declining.]
Me: No, just regular, please.
Assistant: What drink would you like with that?
Me: Coke, no ice, please.
Assistant: And is that to eat in or take away?
Me: Take away, please.

At this point the order can usually proceed, though quite often the Coke is delivered with ice, or I need to rapidly intervene (feeling like "the difficult customer") just as the ice is being scooped into the cup.

I don't make a big deal about this pattern at the time and haven't even written about it here until now, because it is really quite trivial and we do not need our most intelligent people working in McDonald's, but it is striking (and almost funny) how any attempts to make this simple process simpler will always fail! Thus I usually don't bother specifying anything until asked now. You'll be lucky to get service with a smile in the UK too, it must be said.

*I prefer "medium", but this is Americanised.
**Filling the cup with ice is, of course, a way to avoid giving you the - already cold - product.
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