Stories from the front line – customer service processes gone mad

Last week was exhausting for the BillingViews team. We endured a serious outbreak of Man Flu – we were, frankly, clinging on for dear life. We had one team member travelling from Thailand to Sao Paulo to New Jersey and back. Consequently he did not know which way up he was.

And –  it was ‘Utility Call Week.’

Suffice it to say that every afternoon but one last week was spent listening to a variety of on-hold music and trying to make some sort of sense of a range of the most inflexible processes and systems – and therefore deal with the most hamstrung people in the country.

Here are some things you do not want to hear while trying to change something via a Customer Service Rep.:

From an electricity company – ‘we are experiencing very large call volumes at the moment and you may be on hold for – pause – more than ten minutes.’ This company has been experiencing very large call volumes for about a year now. The record wait time was over 45 minutes. It wouldn’t be so bad, except that they interrupt the actually not bad music every 30 seconds to tell you that you would probably be better off going online. If going online to sort the problem out was feasible, online we would go.

From the now ex-broadband company, with whom we have conversed at length about their inability to provide, er, broadband, ‘no, I’m afraid we need the account owner to phone us in order to change something.’

From the mobile company, an IVR system that gives you several options and then hangs up each time you press any button. Some time later, trying to get numbers put on to a booster signal box, because said mobile cannot provide coverage, being told that ‘technical can definitely do that, but their system is down. Please persevere.’ Presumably it would be too difficult to make a note and do it when the system is back up.

The funniest without doubt is the incumbent telecoms company – about to be BillingViews’ broadband provider – who issued a security question over the phone, to be used when activating the account online. Along came the email saying ‘click here to activate the account.’ We clicked there and after four attempts to activate the account, it blocked any further attempts.

Back to the phones we went (really bad on-hold music) and after being transferred around a few times and having to repeat a) the story and b) dates of birth, addresses, mother’s maiden names we finally got to the bottom of the problem.

A fairly common security question is your mother’s maiden name. The mother in question has a maiden name that is hyphenated. The system in question does not understand hyphens. In this day and age of recommending that symbols should be part of a password, that a system does not accept hyphens is laughable.

So, to all of the front line warriors taking calls from people who laugh at them, shout at them, moan and whine at them, we ask one small thing…..laugh with us, at the absurdity of your companies’ processes.

And then go and tell your managers.

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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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