Tuesday, 1 April 2008


The day started badly. One of the first things I do when I get up is to turn the computer on and go online, hoping to see messages from the children. Today the net would not connect, and no amount of rebooting, and pulling the power plug out as advised by the service providers worked. And today was one of those days when I needed to be in touch with the family, owing to an emergency.

I called the service provider - they have a toll free number – and the conversation went like this.
He: Good morning ma’am. How may I help you?
Me: Hullo, my user id is so-and-so
He : Kindly be on hold ma’am, while we check your data.
Me: Oh, ok
He, after about a minute or two: Is it Professor So-and-So calling from Chennai? and he rattled off our phone number, asking me to confirm it.
Me: Yes, that is right.
He: Thank you for holding on ma’am . How may I assist you?
So I tell him about the problem, and he assures me that the problem will be taken care of in 24 hours.

This is their usual spiel, and I am quite used to it by now, because that is how they do it. And to be fair, sometimes the connection comes on much earlier. But today, 24 hours! I am irritated, but I hope for the best, and take down my complaint number. The person at the other end says in reply to my thanks, “Thank you ma’am. May I know who is speaking?” I give him my name, and he signs off with a “Have a nice day, madam.”

Nice day, indeed. I am wondering where to go and browse, and check and send mail, because unlike a few years ago, there no longer are browsing centres in and around our neighbourhood. But that is another story.

I decide to catch up with my chores, periodically checking to see if the connection has been restored. No luck. And after what I consider a great patient wait of three hours, I call the toll free number again. This time it is another fresh voiced person, and we go through the same rigmarole till we come to the how-may-he-help-me part. I give him my complaint number, and ask for details about the progress and status of my complaint, and he says, “Madam, it is only three hours since you complained.”

That really puts me off. I explain to him that three hours is eternity in the internet world, and tell him I need to communicate urgently. He adopts the tone used to soothe an unreasonable child and says, “Sure, madam, we understand your problem and we are sorry for the inconvenience.” The insincere words make me grind my teeth. “Yes, it is very inconvenient,” I tell him irritatedly, and he is stuck for an answer. He has not been programmed to answer such comments. And I tell him how often this problem has occurred, and how no permanent measures are taken to remedy it. He says, “I am very sorry madam, we shall give your complaint high priority and attend to it.”

I have to admit it, they have been trained to be unfailingly polite and keep their calm. And I say thanks, and as I put the phone down, his voice rings in my ear, “Thank you for calling **** (the company’s name). Have a good day.”

When the connection isn’t back after two hours I make another call, and this time it is a lady, and we have the same conversation, like a waltz, doing our moves, and we reach the how-she-may-help-me bit. I give her my complaint number to make the conversation brief, and she asks me to kindly hold on, and comes back with a startling statement: “The problem has been resolved, ma’am.”

By this time I am sure there is smoke coming out of my ears.
Me: It has? How come I don’t know anything about it? And how come I am not able to connect?
She, patiently: Ma’am, I shall make a note of it.
Me: Kindly give me a complaint number.
She: Ma’am we can’t give another number till after 24 hours.
Me: So how about my complaint? Can you call your superior officers please and tell them that the problem is NOT resolved
She : Ma’am I am sorry but we can’t do that. I shall present your complaint again and send it to our back-end people.(whoever they are)
Me: Well, tell your supervisors that this is one unhappy customer you have, who may not even renew the account.
She (ever patient and cool): Yes, ma’am, we are sorry for the inconvenience.
And before I can say anything, she says “Thank you for using our service. Have a nice day,” and rings off.

Seven hours from the first call – no luck. I have already stepped out to my sister-in-law’s office to quickly check my mail. I call again. And we go through the same routine, till he says, “How may I assist you?” to which I say, “How about getting me connected?” He says, “Can you repeat that, madam?”
I give up. What can he do? By now the fight has gone out of me.

But I have to hand it to them – programmed to be the perfect answering machines – the same replies to all the different questions, and keeping their cool under fire.

Oh, and yes, the connection was finally restored late in the afternoon.


Gowri Mohanakrishnan said...

Perhaps they're so bothered about retaining their control, their voices, their accents and the thank you at the end
that they forget to check
on your complaint at all.
Let's be fair. They have QUITE enough to do without actually taking on customer's problems, hmm?
A lovely read for All Fools' Day. Wish you could have written it without it having happened to you, though!!

Indrani said...

" three hours is eternity in the internet world " I completely agree with you on this. It must have been an agonising wait for you. :(

Dainty Damsel said...

3 hours may not be a big deal for them. I am glad your connection got restored.

Kat said...

Muruga..... even while reading this the blood started boiling...!!!

kallu said...

Really, its teeth grinding time - when you have to connect and it doesn't connect at all and you can't do anything to put it right.

Just hope it doesn't happen again for a long time. Or you get more resigned to the situation.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the 'millions of unconnected' mass in India (if this episode has happened in India)do every day. As some one who worked in the IT world and spent years in the West as an academic in computer science, I welcome any excuse not to be 'connected' to give me opportunity to read books-the physical ones.

Anonymous said...

so why don't you name the service provider, vsnl, isn't it? if it's not good enough, people should be warned.

word of blog works as good as word of mouth


Yes, Heckler, it is vsnl.

Karthik Narayan said...

good business proposition - start a new browsing center in teh neighborhood.. tehre used to be one in an apartment in cvr road.... not anymore.

Anonymous said...

What a far cry from the days of sitting without power for days and waiting...

Raaga said...

I can so relate to this!!

a friend sent me the link to your mom's blog :-)