Monday, 9 July 2012

Your call is so important to us we're going to treat you with contempt.

Today was characterised by communication - sometimes success, but largely failures.  I do a lot of rework or double handling of issues on behalf of large organisations.  Managing the relationships with large service providers should not be my responsibility.  I think they should do everything possible for our relationship to be set and forget.  I want it to be invisible.  I don't want to have to talk to anyone.  If something does arise and I do have to talk, I don't want it to take three phone calls of half an hour's duration every time.

Last week I called Citylink because I received a letter telling me I had travelled illegally on the toll road because my car is not registered for travel.  My car is registered for travel.  I have an account.  I would have to call.

I spoke to Michael who was very helpful.  He told me my account had no credit card details registered.  I told him my account has always had a credit card on it.  He told me it never had.  I told him to look at the history of payment for the last bazillion years to see how the payments had been made.  Of course they had been via direct debit from my credit card.  He suggested the card may have expired.  It hadn't.  I gave him the number.  I also said that I would pay the amounts outstanding immediately by b-pay.  I entered the biller code and customer reference number into my banking system as he dictated them to me over the phone. The payment went through.  I had a receipt number and everything.

Late last week I received another letter telling me I was about to receive a fine because I hadn't paid the account.  I would have to call again.

Today I spoke to Stephanie.  Stephanie works in a call centre and the main part of her job is to actually listen.  Stephanie would ask me for information.  I would give it to her.  She would ask me to repeat it.  This got old after the third time when I politely asked her to listen to me.

Once we dealt with that, she advised me that I hadn't paid anything on the account.  I logged onto internet banking and quoted the details of where the money had left my account.

"You've used the wrong biller code," was Stephanie's response.

"I used the biller code provided to me over the phone by Michael," was my response.

She went on to tell me that I was wrong and now the payment was lost and it would require people in head office to "look into it".

I asked Stephanie how long that would take.

"A week."

I asked Stephanie what happens to my account and ability to travel in the meantime.

"Your account is suspended because you haven't paid it so you're not registered to travel. You can buy a day pass for $14 if you want."

There was so much wrong with this statement, I decided to take a different tack.

"Please put me through to the relevant person in head office."

"That's not possible."

"Why not?"

"They're in a different building."

"We're in a different building and we're able to speak to each other...please put me through to the relevant person in head office."

"The only way you can contact them is to send them an email."  Stephanie gave me the address.

"Please put me through to your manager."


I was placed on hold for the amount of time it took for me to make a toasted ham and cheese sandwich (with French mustard and a twist of pepper) for lunch.  I had plated up and was about to take my first bite when Stephanie came back on the line to advise me that her team leader would need to call me back.

I asked for the team leader's name (Amy) and advised that she would need to call before 3pm as I would be at the hairdresser then.

At 3:05pm my phone rang.  I just answered with "hello" as the call was from a blocked number and I always like to know who's calling before I get too friendly.

The woman on the other end of the phone said:  "So you're concerned that you've got four late toll notices and charges of about $500 is that right?"

"No.  Who is calling please?"

"I'm a team leader at Citylink.  I was asked to call you back."

"Are you Amy?"


"Well Amy, I don't have four late toll invoices and my charges are no where near that amount, that I know of.  What's going on?"

"Are you Karen?"

"No.  I'm Tanya."

"Oh yes, sorry.  I was calling Karen.  I have to call you too."

"Well while you've got me, shall we talk about my situation even though I'm now at the hairdresser and it isn't really convenient?"

We did manage to clarify a few things but it was a clunky way to start and I won't believe that anything has been fixed until I actually see that it has been fixed.  Meanwhile, I'm still not registered to travel.  Luckily I drive infrequently.

At the other end of the spectrum, I had a love note from my mobile phone provider (Vodafone) offering me an upgrade on my phone and an unbelievable deal if only I would swear loyalty to them for a little while longer.  Great!  I don't want to change providers but I don't want to pay more for anything and I'm pretty happy with the plan that I'm on,  so let's see what the details are.

Within fifteen minutes, I had been offered a new phone, an extra $150 worth of calls a month, an increase in my data allowance for exactly the same price I was paying now.  I said yes.

I knew that the next question was going to be about delivery.  They won't deliver to a post office box because a signature is required.  This is despite me regularly receiving parcels which require signature on receipt.  I've stopped arguing about this one now as I work from home and am often likely to be here.

I asked when it would be delivered and was told Wednesday or Thursday.  I know that I won't be available on Wednesday so asked for them not to deliver that day.  Suddenly everything became difficult.  "Well, I can put a note on the account but I can't guarantee anything.  If you're not there when it's delivered it will go to the post office and you can collect it there."

I sighed.  Because that is so different from delivering it to my post office box in the first place.  I rolled my eyes.  I succumbed.

We'll see what happens.  I have this funny feeling that I'll come home to a card in the letterbox on Wednesday evening and complex conversations will need to take place.  At least I don't have to drive on a toll road to go and pick it up if that does happen.

Are my expectations too high?  Should I expect less when I'm dealing with "customer service" departments? What drives you crazy about talking to customer service call centres?


  1. It sounds no different than here ... except you still expect service. In South Africa you can be guaranteed you wont get it - even though that's what you're paying for. The exception is when good service is delivered. We have become indifferent and complacent. Have no or very low expectations and you wont be disappointed. Its a shame.

    1. It is a shame! I worked in a call centre briefly and prided myself on providing good service, often in spite of the organisation's expectations.

  2.'s so frustrating isn't it. There are so many call centres like this.... the new world order. this made my blood boil reading it. my experience with citibank is now 100% based on my experience with their call centres (one run of the mill - one collections)...i wasn't even a customer at the time. they virtually stalked me...i could never answer their security questions completely...even though i would tell them virtually everything but the diameter of my tonsils. turns out they had another client (danielle E) - who knew there were 2 of us..what a shock. and they found my number from the whitepages...without any corresponding test. The final straw was when a chap from their indian call centre called me (mind you..this was twice a week for 5 the straw should have broken long before)....and said..'yes it says on your file you've been difficult".... OH MY GOD. .... to this day is despise and hate citibank with every single fibre of every single cell of my being......

    ah...that was like therapy thanks Divacultura....

    1. You're welcome Danielle. Sorry to hear that you need this kind of therapy too, but very happy to provide a vent.