Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Please wait...

It's been quite a month.  My wife and I share a 1500 minute mobile family plan, and I can bet on almost anything in the world that a significant amount of that time has gone towards customer support.  It has been a month of inquiring with customer representatives, showing an abundance of patience, and putting on a brave front as though you have just been hurled aside in a battle.  I can say with a measure of absolute confidence that it is no easy task to listen to the same cacophony over and over again while you are kept on hold. The wait is almost endless, and worse, there is not even a flicker of light at the other end of the line.  The customer representative just compounds your agony further, and at the end of it, you are left wishing that the wait time music lasted a touch longer than the outrageous solutions received.

Almost every other customer support call begins as though you are about to leave a voicemail message.  The drab monotone almost kills you.  Please welcome to blah blah blah customer care center.  For English, press 1.  Para Espanol (I am sure I've got the Spanish part wrong here), press 2.  As one of my friends, Emani, put it in a rather comical way, "Man, in a few days, we shouldn't be surprised if we hear Telugu lo, 3 press cheyyandi (Press 3 to converse in Telugu)".  We have an automated voice processing system, so please answer the following questions.  Having an Indian accent offers its own set of challenges to the automated voice system.  After several rounds of corrections and imperfections, and after what seems like an eternity, after giving up every possible attempt to retrieve a meaningful response from me, it is easy to sense that the automated system is driven to the point of frustration.  It is not a cause for celebration, as you too are at your wits end to convey the best possible response to the system.  You are actually left with no hope, and when you are just on the verge of hanging up the call, you hear the next set of golden words, "Please wait.  Transferring to a representative." This is when an alarming noise beats your eardrums, as though they may rupture any moment.  You are concentrating lest you miss the customer representative and have to go through the same process again.  Suddenly, in the middle of this cacophonous burst, you hear "All customer representatives are busy.  Please hold." You have half a mind to say that you are doing nothing but holding your nerve.  After an unabated stream of music and instructions, after you have almost given up hope of speaking to someone for the next few hours, after your heart and nerve and sinew (as Rudyard Kipling would put it) have almost failed, after you have gone into a state of reverie where not one kick, even, thousand kicks cannot wake you up from this sickening slumber, you hear a voice as fresh as a daisy, "Hello, this is Pam.  How may I help you?" You still have no idea whether this is the automated voice trying to say the oft repeated thing again.  You are waiting lest you assume this is some kind of a dream.  You wait for the next set of Hello, Hello to make its way through.  After your worst fears are laid to rest, a quick sigh of relief, and you are all set to battle a new demon.

Pam: May I know to whom I am speaking to?
You: I am so and so.

Pam: Your phone number.

Pam: Last four digits of your social.

Pam: Can you please verify your email address?

If it's a laptop, you better have all the numbers hidden on your laptop ready.  If it's an internet issue, better have the modem numbers ready.  If it's something to do with returns, have your bill number ready.  If it's something to do with adding a line to your mobile phone, be ready to accept the barrage of charges leveled against you.

I was involved in almost every scenario, and now, I have a pretty good idea of what every company wants.  If you think that nothing can get worse, all you have to do is finish narrating your concerns to the representative and just before you get the response, you hear a beep of the line getting disconnected.