Thank you for Calling... How May I Help You?

The title of this post... sounds familiar, doesn't it?

I'm sure we all have heard this usually-well-rehearsed statement hundreds of times... from various Customer Support people -- Credit Card Companies, Consumer Electronic Goods Suppliers, Internet Service Providers, Airline Reservations, Cellphone Companies... you name it! In fact, I was one of these "Support guys" too, till not so long ago... when I was working for Dell! Isn't it terrifying, listening to that machine-like voice (that claims to belong to a human) uttering the above fateful words? Brings to life all your worst nightmares!

When I was into my first few months taking calls for Dell, I got this caller once who actually let out a sigh of relief and said "Thank Gawd, you don't sound like a machine!" I couldn't understand at that time as to why he said such a thing. I didn't have a cellphone back then, you see. So never had to call up any Customer Support guys myself! In fact, several of my callers took my boss' email ID to tell him how pleased they were with the support I provided, and that I "even laughed on the call" (???)... and they told my boss he should give me a raise and a promotion. Of course, neither came... and eventually I just stopped giving his email ID to anyone, 'coz it wasted too much time on the call trying to explain an Indian name to those American fellas!

But anyways... enough of shameless bragging about how good I was as a Customer Support person! Let's get back to the REAL subject matter of this post!

Earlier in the evening, I had the misfortune to hear those agonizing words from a supposedly *Support* person. (I have a cellphone now you know!)

The situation is that I got my cellphone recharged with this Rs. 875 STD-Calling-Card late last night. But it wouldn't let me make any calls through it today! Repeatedly kept giving the error message that "this destination number is not reachable with this card" and that I should call Customer Support.

I was using the Rs. 650 version of the same card till now. In this STD-Calling-Card (or India-Card, as it is also known) all outgoing calls have to be pre-fixed with "*375". So if I want to call an out of town number, say a landline number in Delhi, I would enter "*375" followed by the STD code for Delhi "011" and then the 8-digit landline number. Simple enough? For cellphones, since they don't have any STD codes, I would simply enter "*3750" followed by the 10-digit cell number... just the way people normally call mobile phones... a "0" and the 10-digit number.

So this Customer Support guy answers the call after I've listened to their IVR for like 10 minutes. He listens to my problem... sounds confused... confirms that the prefix for the 875 card is the same as for the 650 card... still sounds confused... and then tells me that I need to add the STD code before the number for an out-of-town number.

I tell him I'm calling cell numbers, not landlines. He again seems a bit confused, so I tell him exactly what I'm dialling. The guy says there must be some network problem. I tell him I'm getting this specific error message repeatedly, which has "specifically" asked me to call you guys.

So he puts me on hold to *confirm* and then comes back a minute later and asks me "Are you getting any error message?"

I'm like "what was I saying till now dude!"

Anyways, I repeat the error message for him, and then wait for doomsday, as he puts me on hold again to *confirm*... again(?)... about it.

This time he comes back and tells me that he'll have to take down a complaint ("Finally!") and then transfer me to the concerned department ("Transfer? Oh! Hmmm!")... and he asks me to give him the number I was trying to call.

I had actually tried 2 different numbers, one in Guwahati and the other in Delhi. But he sounded so lost and confused, I decided to stick to only one (make things less complicated for him you know) and started to give him my sister's cell number.


"No wait. First give me the STD code."

"Oh but I told you... I was calling a cell number, not a landline."

"But Ma'am, whatever number you are calling, there will be an STD code with it. Please give that code to me."

"Well STD codes are for landlines, aren't they? And I told you, I'm not calling a landline. Why will I dial the STD code before a mobile number? We just add a '0' before the mobile numbers, don't we?"

"I need the STD code ma'am, it is mandatory."

What the f***!

"Dude! Even 10 year old kids know we just add a '0' for mobile numbers! YOU tell me what number should I give you now, when I'm not dialling any STD code!"

"I know ma'am that mobile numbers are dialled by adding just a '0'... I do the same... but it says here in this dialogue-box that I must give an STD code..."

"Fine then! Put a '0' in it!"

"I can't just put a '0' in there ma'am. I need to give a valid STD code."

"But there IS no STD code! You asked me what number I was dialling, and that's what I'm giving you!"

"Ma'am I'll need to put you on hold while I *confirm*..."

What! Not again! Pleaaassseeeee!

"Well since you need to *CONFIRM*... with someone else... about every little thing, why don't you just let me speak directly with that someone else? It'll save a lot of time for both of us!"

"But ma'am, I'll have to *confirm*..."

And I hung up on that!

One question that keeps popping-up in my insistently inquisitive mind: Why on Earth do they call this... this fiasco... "Customer SUPPORT Center"... or "Customer HELPdesk"? The guys in this department provide anything but support or help! They harass you, they torture you, they make you pull your hair out! They act like they are talking to some alien creature, who doesn't speak their language! They make you sweat, raise your blood pressure, increase your pulse rate... until you are on the verge of screaming "GOD! Let me die!" Oh! I get it... was this department so named then merely to *highlight* the fact that "Customers will NOT be given any SUPPORT or HELP here?"

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As the Mind Meanders said...

Oh My God... you ARE angry... forgive him Kaddu.... I can bet he was new...

And think... if you had given him an STD code and then the mobile number... he might have disappeared to "confirm", come back on line and told you

"Madam... that is why you are not getting through... mobile number ke pehle STD code nahin lagaate"

Shobhit said...


Well, personally, I never ever prefer to be 'supported' by any 'Help-Desk' or 'care center', however bad things get.

Its much more important to utilize those precious moments of your life doing something worthwhile rather than pulling your hair out by their roots, courtesy, the 'support guy'.

Just to offer an example here, I'm still using the same old mobile no. which I got when I first got a mobile (yes, I'm not one of those people who like to get a new no. with every new dress they purchase... :D).

For the last many months, I get calls from a specific landline no. from the city I left after completing college. They would start all of a sudden some day and would continue almost all day, ringing after every 10-15 minutes. If answered, there's just a recorded advertisement of sorts which wud get anyone to pull out some of their hair at least.

But when tried to call back (just to give vent to some of the irritation)a voice with a really ghastly accent replies..... "Thish number daj nat egjisht" !!!

I checked the whereabouts of the no. on BSNL's online directory, found it to be in the name of a Mr. Arora.

Though I had registered my no. with the 'National Do Not Call Registry' long ago. But I still get these calls.

I wonder what they mean by 'Do-Not-Call'... I guess 'do-not-call' refers to all our family and friends who try to call us but never can get through...

But instead of banging my head talking to the 'Customer Support' I prefer to irritate those guys back by simply disconnecting the call as the phone rings... :D :D

Come on Kaddu... Don't get so worked up... I'd suggest you could better go to Delhi and talk to your sister and return rather than spending all that time smashing your wits out with the 'Customer Support'... :D :D :D

By the way, isn't it just great that there aren't any 'Customer Support' or Help Desks' for medical emergencies.... :p

Hopeless Romantic said...

i have a very strong aversion towards these people, though i know they are doing their jobs....but ya it has reduced now a bit in India with all those DND directories...o.w earlier it used to be hell.

check thd post "outsourcing to me" written in april 2009 by me on my blog!


Kaddu said...

Forgiven already! :D
Not his fault really... RIM cust care people don't get proper training it seems... about their policy & procedures, or even about how to use their eCRM.

The poor guy was stuck at some dialogue box which apparently wouldn't let him move forward unless he filled a valid STD code in there! And obviously, if he had given the Delhi code there, then the resolution would have popped out as "Please dial mobile numbers without the STD code."

Kaddu said...

OMG! What have u written Shobhit? What if some medical guys happen to read your comment and actually start a Customer Support Cell in the hospitals here too! That would be the end of the world for sure!

Kaddu said...

Yupp... I actually pity these cell phone cust care people. It's so obvious they don't get any training or help from the organization... and then they are forced to listen to screaming customers too. I had a major 'panga' with these RIM guys back in early 2006... and actually got a good CSA on the other end after a few calls. This guy took ownership of the issue, even called me back for updates... but their policies are just so stringent and vague that none of them really know what they are supposed to do in a given situation. And if anything goes wrong, they bear the brunt of it. So nobody is willing to take any risks.

Dhiman said...

Kaddu your post is almost hilarious but I understand we all have faced such 'support guys' actually they are sometimes ill-trained or they don't understand the customer can be smart enough to try all the basic steps ....I am telling once I had to do a hotel booking through a prominent travel site but couldn't book more than 1 room at a time and I had to book 6 rooms so I called the call-center and the lady said she can do it for me and she ended up doing the booking by repeating the entire booking process 6 times over phone with 2 disconnections and about 45 min talktime which I myself could have done from the website itself with much lesser time & effort when I told her this thing at end she couldn't understand what I wanted to say so I ended the call as I felt that I was speaking some 'alien' language ...

Roshmi Sinha said...

Maan! I hope you still have some hair left on your head... !!! ;)

Garima said...

Something of this sort happened to me too... it was for an ISD call..and I gave up in 5 minutes... I knew that he dint understand what I was saying and there wasn't any point repeating things for him...

The most recent one happened with my brother, our car was giving some trouble so he called for this company who claim to rectify the problem with your car anywhere in Delhi n NCR and would reach you within 30minutes…so we finished our dinner and my brother thought of calling them up. The rep picked up the phone n asked for the membership number. My brother told him that he doesn’t have it right now as its in the car and the car is parked down stairs but he can find that in the system with the car number which he gave him. I don’t know what problem this rep had…either he was too sleepy or too frustrated with the job or whatever ….or just lazy…he asked about the membership and eventually the car number FIVE TIMES… my brother was so bugged…and then on top of it he was rude when he asked the same for the 6th time and when my brother said “main aapko yahi baat paanch baar already bata chukka hoon” …and then eventually he (the rep) disconnected the phone. Sometimes these HELP-line services are just pain in the neck…

navadeep said... that was a hilarious post,i must say... liked the way u finished it,with the cartoon at the end...i must thank heavens that i never had to go through all experiences with these kinds were not so your problem still remains huh??

Kaddu said...

Honestly! I so wish they'd stop spending so much money on these useless cust care cells, and instead come up with a web knowledge base, along with giving us further reductions in prices!

Kaddu said...

Lots of it! In fact, I need to get a hair cut!

Kaddu said...

OH! I had heard abt those 30 minute car-repair services, but didn't know they were also a sham!

Kaddu said...

Lucky you man!
Naah, it's fine now. Got fixed the same day later at night. The guy who recharges my phone took care of it.

ani_aset said...

hahaha :) kaddu i share the trauma..i got real angry at nokia guys recently :P

pawan said...

A tiresome process it is, consumer care. I tried reaching my Vodafone consumer care since the past one month but in vain. I list to all the advertisement jabber on their IVR only to be rudely cut in the middle, wherein a female voice says "Invalid input please try later". I got so tired of reaching those Vodafone guys that I threw the sim away and found some respite!

As you said, consumer care sucks!

Good one!

Shilpa Garg said...

Oh, I can empathize with you on this!!
They are like that and all. Their robotic and phony accents are a big put offs!!
And most of the time, they are of no help actually!!

Kaddu said...

These mobile service providers somehow seem to have the worst possible customer care cell, don't they? I have RIM!

Kaddu said...

Oh even Vodafone! I thought that was among the good ones! I guess they really are all the same! It really is a harrowing experience, dealing with cust care ppl!

Kaddu said...

Honestly! They sound like a stuck gramophone record! This guy... he put me on hold so many times... and each time, he used the exact same words before he went off to 'confirm'! Following their script to the last 'T'!

Ashwin Baindur said...

I have tried to get my credit card limit extended thrice...I think I'll learn to live within my miniscule credit limit. Its probably safer...

Kaddu said...

Your first visit here, isn't it? Just read your intro on indiblogger. So you are in the Indian army? I was given the impression by someone (who proclaimed to be a colonel) that people in our defense force cannot have a 'web presence'... as themselves, that is. I was never able to digest that fact though. Will hop along to your blog soon... thanks for the visit... and yeah, credit cards are always better with lower limits! And for impulsive shoppers like me, it's even better to have NO credit card! :p He he...

Motormouth. said...

HAHA!! I know, I know I know! All these dudes at customer care, are trained in a few sentences. They use it without any discretion at all!! I have too many experiences to count on!

Kaddu said...

:D Talking to these people... makes u feel like banging your head on the wall! Doesn't it?
Thanks for the visit and the follow. Looking forward to further interactions with you. Cheers!

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