Wednesday 28 October 2015

Your call is important to us ... but not that important.

Your call is important to us ... but not that important.
preparation for living- lesson 4 - being on hold

I have found a feature of the rather ancient 1990s handset in my new office. It shows the 10 longest calls made that day. Or it might be the last 10 calls made like on a regular phone and these just happened to be in order. Shows how long I've been staring at this phone today though..too long..

Surprisingly the local council don't make the top slot for longest connection time. That must be in breach of their charter as a responsible local authority. It used to take days for them to answer from hold. But they picked up pretty quickly..though in fairness to them they haven't dealt with the problems they said they would.  And are two weeks overdue delivering the wheelie bins. And its usual to call the main line and be given another number to call. And they haven't sorted the issue they were going to "get right on!" four weeks ago either.

So they are only in at today's number 5. With a measly 22 minutes but haven't managed to solve any a brownie point for them.

Number 4 is the insurance company. This is because getting insurance on  the phone involves question after question after question.

 "In the event of a break in are there items that may injure a perpetrator or perpetrators?"

"Yes..I guess so..who cares?"

"Its all part of the questions for the policy, sir...Are these items likely to damage with light abrasions..or to injure with mild concussion..remove a limb or turn into mince..?"

"erm...I think...maybe...the Squisher might cause some...wait..what was the second one again?"
That comes in at 30 minutes.

Number 3 - was a supplier for equipment that they supply for free..and we receive a commission on sales. They wouldn't supply to the new business as I wouldn't sign the 48 month contract.
"I can't sign..I haven't agreed to fully take on this project yet. Its a temporary arrangement at present with options.."
"We must have a signed agreement..for 48 months.."
"What do you do if a firm goes bust..?"
"we take the equipment away.."
"Fine ..I'll sign something like that.."
" has to be for the full 48 months.."
"the equipment you supply is free to me?"
"And you pay me a commission from sales?"
"So what difference does it make? I never owe you anything at any time..You always owe me..and the equipment is always yours..So what's the problem..?"
"Its ..well..we need a 48 month term.."
"And if  I end early?"
"There is a penalty.."
"Of what?"
"I don't know exactly..its never happened.."
"Ohh ffs..!!"

35 minutes of total waste.. Annoying as I already have a contract with these
people. The other suppliers are just adding 'venture {2}' to existing invoices..Everyone is happy. 

Number 2 the broadband supplier . 48 minutes on hold. And better than that, cut off when connected. Should have got top spot for that alone. Reconnected after another 1/2 hour or be told I need to have a new phone line { I don't}. So a massive amount of wasted time and  easily the worst response of the day.

But..the grand winner of the longest on hold, today, telephone time to be expected ..winner of this award for the last 100 years running ..Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

"We are experiencing a high volume of calls..{you surprise me!} You are held in a queue and there may be a delay of up to 30 minutes,."

Ahh only 30. That was optimistic . Nope. HMRC outdid themselves.
 I, the hardened, sandwiches made, speaker phone on loud, coffee thermos to hand..tablet on, fully prepared to out wait the Sphinx that is the Tax Office, I was ready to quit at 55 minutes. But held my nerve. Until 82 minutes..when I began to crack..

"What if there is no-one there? Its gone 4pm now. They might have all gone home? I could be here all night?" 

I persevered until 99 minutes when ..Colin answered. "How may I help you?"

This tax problem is a big one. Its an unusual matter that many at HMRC simply dismiss as something that can't be done until a new tax year. They are unfamiliar with the special sub provisions that apply to very specific cases. 
Colin knew all about it. He knew the reference code I gave him. He understood at once and promised to sort it out immediately and I would receive the paperwork and the tax refund within 14 days.
An impossibility for the tax office. They cannot move that fast. Maybe I had misheard and it was 140 days? Maybe 1400 days?
"No sir..14 days ..I'm authorising it right there anything else?"
Colin's bit took less than 5 minutes. 

If he is true to his word, probably the best hour and three quarters of phone time I've ever had.
AND I managed my best ever Doodle Jump Score while waiting! 

Tomorrow - The NHS medical centre. If anyone can beat 99 minutes on hold, it will be them.


Nick Drew said...

I had something similar on a probate issue. The HMRC online guidance appears to be comprehensive, and saves a fortune in legal fees, but on a critical detail it is simply and plainly ambiguous. After a wait like the one you describe, another Colin came on, saw exactly what I meant immediately* and said "this circle of ambiguity is squared if you do X and Y [which couldn't have been guessed in a million years]."

"So I just do X and Y?"

"Yup. Anything else I can help you with." No need - that was perfect.

*could it possibly be someone else had also raised the same question ..?

Anonymous said...

I had cause to write to HMRC from New Zealand about being taxed on my UK Pension. I was amazed and delighted to get a prompt reply, an apology and a refund within a matter of days rather than weeks.

Anonymous said...

A call centre is a simple enough thing but comes down to one big number - bums on seats. Complicated questions and poor IT systems and confused customers all have a big expensive knock on effect - bums on seats.

Call centres were seen as a way to save money, the phone companies made a packet flogging fancy phone systems - but kept quiet about the bums on seats issue. The number of bottoms required frequently comes as a shock.

The maths is inexorable and exponential, not having enough call handlers sends the call waiting time through the roof. UK legislation is usually illogical and inconsistent and so guarantees a slow handing time. Anything else that extends the call handling time - crap IT, angry customers or bad training does the same thing. Never mind - 'your call is (not) important to us and it costs too much'.

James Higham said...

See our life here before my eyes in this, Bill. What is it about councils and buffoonery?

Jan said...

I always write letters rather than phone as it's better for my sanity even though it takes longer. Either that or change company if possible.

I've worked in call centres and if anything is complicated or needs to be referred to a supervisor the easiest thing is to put through to another department, fictional or otherwise....not that I ever did that of course. If you're put through and then cut off it could be the poor sod on the other end has come to the end of their shift and knows they won't get paid for the time it takes to answer your call and they're not allowed to sit and do nothing for longer than about 30 secs so must answer calls. Same with being put on hold. Sometimes this is to kill a bit of time so as to end the shift perfectly on time. I was in awe of how some people managed the system but didn't last long past the training. It was utterly soul-destroying.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Called my bank yesterday. An 0845 number. Recorded message "this number is no longer in use, please call [some other number].

Fair enough. Call some other number... Recorded message "this number is no longer in use, please [a third number].

FFS Mr. Megabank, if you're going to make repeated changes to your published general purpose customer service number, at least go back to all the intermediate ones and update the messages.

Then, finally, the right number; it was an insurance query; cue several minutes of utter tedium while I listen to a long list of all the different people who regulate this insurance, all the things they might do with the information I give them, all the awful things they'll do to me if I don't give them the correct information, and so on and on and on.

At last, a person answers. "Oh, that insurance sir, oh no, you've come through to the wrong place, you need to phone this other number.

"So 'twas on the Monday morning that the gas man came to call".

I hate them all.

dearieme said...

Thatcher lived in vain.