Press 2 for English. Press 3 for common sense

“Sorry sir, I still need you to be there at home before I can file in this complain request,” insisted the rambling woman on the other side of the phone line.

Before I proceed to enlighten you on why I was left both humorously baffled and enraged by her reasoning, do allow me to take you back to before the above telephone conversation took place. As the broadband termination Unit (BTU) have been sitting smugly on my house’s television cabinet smelling of burnt plastic since the night before, I dutifully dialled the broadband provider’s service centre from my workplace.

Following several failed attempts over 20 minutes before finally being able to speak to the “high speed broadband” provider’s customer service operator, I soon found myself counting cats in my head to calm the mounting rage as I struggled with the lady’s incomprehensible English language, despite me “pressing 2” for English.

Ten minutes into explaining how the BTU was terminated and supplying her with numerous ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ answers to her stuck-to-the-PC screen set of template questions, she asked me if I was at home at that moment to switch on the device in order for her to check from her end.

“I’m not at home right now, but it wouldn’t matter as I cannot turn on the BTU because it was burnt out,” I repeated this to her for the fifth time, while adding that “you could just put into your record that I was calling at home from my mobile to lodge this complain.”

When the Energizer bunny kept going on and on with her “Sorry sir, I still need you to be there at home to turn on the device” response, I finally hung up the phone. Memo to myself: “Write in to the service provider to suggest a ‘Press 3 to speak to a someone with common sense’ option in their automated phone answering service.

Four days later, a weary crew of three technicians walked in. One to unplug and insert the cables; second to fiddle with his laptop; third to scribble on their assignment roster for the day. I tweeted our Prime Minister if this was what he had in mind for us to become a high productivity society. He has yet to reply.

Just as I thought the week could not get any weirder, right on cue, it did; this time courtesy of my 50-year-old bank. As I wanted to merely verify the existing standing instructions on my savings account, I found myself speaking to eight bank officers across six branches located between Rawang and Sea Park in Petaling Jaya!

“I thought you guys were all computerised and hook up to each other as your website claims that you are focusing on effective IT operations to meet your customers’ needs?” I asked the seventh officer before finally calling up her branch manager directly thanks to a media contact at the group’s headquarters.

Once he had remorsefully expressed his team’s lack of assistance on my simple query, the manager provided me with all that I needed to know in a short 1-minute conversation. Declaring itself as a “top recruiter of talent”, I’m rather glad that I did not have to call up the rest of its 1,750 branches and speak to the rest of its 40,000 talents in order to get my 60-second answer.

Perhaps it was with these local conglomerates in mind and recognising the high number of phone calls expected from customers that led the above broadband service provider to come up with free unlimited local calls to anywhere within the country!

While the 27-year-old telecommunication company as well as the 5-decade-old banking institution may not necessary be sweating profusely over its shoulders due to its privileged standing, SME entrepreneurs would likely not have the liberty to imitate their counterparts’ peculiar standards of customer services.

There is no denying that as consumers become more discerning when it comes to spending money and customers are presented more choices, they are beginning to distinguish the service providers that they will offer them an entire different customer experience. One that is not necessary cheaper, but more importantly faster and better.

On the other hand, my worries may be more theoretical than realistic for the time being, seeing that not many SMEs can afford to hire three engineering graduates to replace a single wireless device, or have a network of branches nationwide to attend to their customer’s minute-long enquiry.

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