According to a recent survey, which no one published, an average adult in most Indian cities spends his typical day like this:
Eating & ablutions: Two hours
Sleep: 10 hours
TV: 3 hours and 50 minutes of channel swapping and 10 minutes of watching actually something.
Office Work: (See Sleep)
Commuting: Three hours, broken down into one hour of travel, two hours of being stuck in traffic
Summarising the above data, we can come to the obvious conclusion that we cannot really summarise since the whole process involves complicated mathematics called addition of numerals involving more than two.
Anyway, the smarty-pants among you, with access to calculators, will have worked out that a total of five hours is unaccounted for out of the 24 that constitute a day.
Where do those five hours vanish? In waiting, on customer service phone calls, that is.
Along with brushing the teeth, waiting on hold to speak to a customer service human has become an inevitable every-day ritual for most of us. Mostly we don’t actually get to speak to them: Every time we call them, we are unfailingly told that our call is important to them. We have no reason to disbelieve them, as the voice sounds not only sweet but also sincere. And, in any case, machines don’t lie!
Evidently, too, our problems are so important to them that they don’t want to solve them in a hurry. If they did, we would naturally stop calling them. This would naturally deprive them of the chances to keep convincing us of how important are we to them.
In the entirety of human history, no customer complaint has been actually solved through the tele-service team. The world, according to one reliably rough estimate called guessing, has lost almost as many hours through customer care calls as through the other time-guzzler of modern-times: Office meetings.
So why have Customer care service? My guess is that credit card companies and telecom enterprises employ tele-service teams as part of their internal entertainment package. There might be some social obligation, too, in the equation, as the custom-service personnel I have interacted with were blindingly hearing-challenged and, how do I say it, ok, mentally-unhinged.
Customer Service Person (by way of verifying my details): Can I have your wedding anniversary date?
Me: June 10.
Customer Service Person: As per our records, your wife has an add-on credit card. Can you confirm her wedding anniversary date?
Me: Since we, by this I mean my wife and me, are married to each other, I think we must share the same wedding date. (If it were a written line, I would have added a smiley to underline that this was said in jocular irony. But sarcasm works only with humans not with unhearing zombies).
Customer Service Person: But you still haven’t answered the query…
Me: (Controlling the shooting anger) June 10, and it was a Monday.
(One of the basic truths of life is: Never speak more than needed with a customer service person).
Customer Service Person: But this June 10 is a Thursday. Are you sure about the date?
Me: *&^$%&*@#. Dum, phateeer, wheeeer (Censored words and the sound of the telephone being flung away and the telephone line being pulled off the socket)
But, all you people reading this, don’t even attempt to do what I did; it is a bigger mistake than committing suicide, because you will have to call the customer service of the telephone company later. If you collectively total the IQ of all the customer-service teams of all the telephone companies in the world, you will still have a negative integer as the answer.
Let me illustrate with an experience I went through with a telephone company, whose name I will not air or tell, lest I am accused of mixing personal issues with professional commitments.
The moment you dial in, most customer service cells welcome you with a request to punch a button so that you can continue with the call. Don’t ask why the call cannot be continued without punching any button. It is such questions that preclude this nation from producing Olympic gold medallists in boxing.
Once you punch the entry button, there will be a request to punch in more buttons. And then more buttons. And then more buttons. By the time you are through with it all, on an average you would have thrown in more punches than a heavyweight boxer does in his entire career. And ergo, ready for the Olympics.
But the punching-the-buttons routine will never resolve any problem. So you will desperately choose to speak with a customer-care executive, who will come on line after roughly 177 hours, while you have to spend the time listening to Rahman on the loop (The Oscars and the Grammies were given to him in show of gratitude for not playing the tune that he does on the telephone line).
And after an eternity, you will get the customer service person, most likely he must have been bored to death picking his nose.
Customer Service Person: Good evening, Mr Balakumar. Before we proceed, can you confirm your name?
Me: Till the moment of talking, it’s Balakumar. I have a broadband connection and a landline, and it is not working, I mean it’s totally dead, for the last 10 days?
Customer Service Person: (Brightly) Is this the same number you are calling from?
Me: I just said that the landline is totally conked out, and you’re asking me whether I am calling from the same number. You can’t be serious…
Customer Service Person: No, sir. We have to ask detailed questions. Please answer our queries, sir. The landline in your house, is it in the same address as that of your house?
Me: You really expect me to answer the question?
Customer Service Person: Yes Sir. And the broadband connection, do you use it on your computer?
Me: (By now, totally deranged) Is there any other orifice into which I can shove the broadband socket?
Customer Service: (Perkily) Yes Sir, but the downloads will be totally affected.
My weeks and days are usually marked with such illuminating conversations. Today too, it’s different. As of now, I have been put on hold. But I’ll come and finish this column. So don’t go anywhere else. Yes, your readership is important to me…. (Rahman, take it over).