Buy Buy

Hello, am I talking to Mr. Mithal?

Yes, you are. Who is this?

Good morning sir. I am calling from Country Bank. The Medical Insurance Policy issued by Regional Insurance Company of India (RICI), that you have purchased through your Country Bank Credit Card, is coming up for renewal next month.

Yes, I am aware. I did receive the renewal notice.

Sir, the policy will be automatically renewed on its due date. Please ensure you have sufficient credit available on your Card so that the premium debit can go through.

Sure. I will.

Sir, as I can see on your account, you and your wife are covered to the maximum limit allowed. However, your children are only covered for half the maximum permissible limit.

Yes, I am aware.

Sir, in today’s world, where emergencies can arise any minute, and where medical costs are rising, we would like our customers to be secure.

Thank you. I am touched by your concern for my security.

Sir, we at Country Bank would like to suggest that you increase the coverage for your children as well to the maximum permissible limit.

Thank you. As the recommendation arises out of your concern for my well-being, should I assume that there is no increase in premium for the suggested increase in coverage?

Sorry sir. It is not like that. There will be a nominal premium increase for the increased cover. Shall I go ahead and tell you the revised premium for the enhanced cover?

No, thank you. There is no need at this point.

Fine sir. I understand you don’t wish to know the revised premium. Shall I then go ahead and process the enhanced cover?

No. I don’t need it.

Sir, we understand you are a busy person and do not wish to get involved in procedures and administration. We have made it very easy for our valued customers like yourself. As a Country Bank representative, I am authorised to take your instructions on this phone line. This call is recorded and will be available for future reference in case of need. Shall I go ahead and process the enhanced cover for your children?

No. I think I have already told you.

Sir, at Country Bank, we respect your time and decisions. We have recently introduced a Life Insurance Policy that also provides cover for Permanent Disability. In today’s world, where emergencies can arise any minute, and where medical costs are rising, we would like our customers to be secure. Would you like me to go ahead and issue this policy for you, sir?

No, thank you. There is no need.

Sir, we have made it very easy for our valued customers like yourself to buy a new policy. As a Country Bank representative, I am authorised to take your instructions on this phone line. This call is recorded and will be available for future reference in case of need. Shall I go ahead and process the new policy?

No, thank you. No need. Actually, hold on a minute!

Yes sir! Yes sir! I am so glad to hear that sir!

That reminds me. I want to remove my older son from the Medical Policy.

Stunned silence.

But why, sir? I strongly suggest you increase the cover for your elder son.

No. Please cancel cover for my older son.

Sorry sir. For cancellation you will have to visit the bank.

But why? I thought you said you were an authorised representative of the bank and could take instructions on this phone call, which is recorded.

Sorry sir. I cannot take these instructions. We are authorised representatives only for selling to customers. For all other cases, we are a vendor.

So, how do I cancel?

For that, sir, you will have to visit the bank.

OK. Can you help me with the nearest location I can go to for this purpose?

Sure sir. I believe you are located in Gurgaon.

Yes.

Sir, as I can see from the system, the only centre of the bank that handles cancellations globally is located in Alba Mons.

Nice name. Is that the name of the building? Can you tell me the full address please?

Right sir. It is located on 40.4 North latitude and 109.6 West longitude and is in the Tharsis region.

Tharsis? What on Earth are you talking about?

Mars.

Stunned silence.

It is located on Mars, sir.

Stunned silence.

I hope I have been able to help you, sir.

Stunned silence.

Meanwhile, If you are interested in buying theatre tickets, or cricket gear, or a yacht, or anything at all, please do give us a call. As authorised representatives of Country Bank, we will be able to do it for you instantly, on this recorded line.

Hello, sir. Are you there sir?

Sir, as there has been no response from your side for thirty seconds, I am authorised to disconnect this call. We wish you a pleasant journey to Alba Mons. Buy buy!

Call Control

Last week, I published Call Flow, a post about a real recent conversation with the Contact Centre of a big bank. An interaction that left me none-the-wiser and frustrated.

In order that more customers are not left dis-satisfied, I have made an attempt to modify the interaction to look like one that I would have enjoyed. I hope you enjoy reading it as well.

Voice on phone (VOP): Hello, am I talking to AM?

Me: Yes you are.

VOP: May I know your Date of Birth (DOB) please?

Me: Why do you need my DOB? Are you writing up my horoscope?

VOP: I am calling from TownBank. You called in a few days back and lodged a complaint.

This is the point at which the call segues into a delightful experience for the customer…

Me, in a cheerful tone: Now that you mention it, I did indeed. Thank you for reminding me. I hope you guys are spending hours of fruitless labour trying to dig-up irrelevant details about the transaction and some senior person is spending sleepless nights worrying about possible ramifications in case the issue becomes public.

VOP: (Silence. Possibly looking hither thither for supervisory support on the call. Or, feverishly churning the pages of the Training Manual to look for guidance on a suitable response.)

Me: Before I forget, can you please give me your DOB.

VOP, after a brief pause: DOB? Why do you need my DOB?

Me: It is a part of my verification process.

VOP, in a cautious, hesitant tone: What verification process?

Me: Shame on you. Does the bank not train you on the importance of verification for the purpose of security. Don’t you know I need to validate who you are and if, indeed, you are calling from, and representing Townbank. After all, you called me.

VOP: Bbbbut, I cannot tell you my DOB.

Me: Permit me the insolence to ask “Why not?” Is this the respect you have for verification processes of your customers?

VOP, slowly, separating each word out: Because this has not been covered in our process training. In fact, I have opened our Training Manual on the screen. Nowhere does it talk about what to do when a customer asks for your DOB.

Me, in a tone dripping with condescension : I sympathise with you. You may have been taught the difference between Current and Fixed Deposit accounts. You have perhaps been taught how to calculate interest. You have certainly been taught how to sell insurance policies not needed by a customer. But you have been not taught what to do when you are asked for your DOB. Tch Tch. But never mind. I can teach you that.

VOP, perking up: You can?

Me: Of course I can. Who do you think I am, anyway? I am a veteran customer of Townbank who has lived through hundreds of interrogations about his DOB, Dog’s name, Make of car, and many other pertinent questions for no apparent valid reason.

VOP, now sounding impatient: Then please do. I want to learn how to tell you my DOB.

Me: Of course you do. It is an essential life-skill in today’s world. Listen to me carefully now. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Slowly exhale. Open your eyes (this is a critical step before moving onto the next). Then get up and walk to the nearest coffee machine. Don’t pour yourself a cup of hot coffee. Now walk back to your workstation. Settle down and try to forget the aroma of coffee in the pantry. Then, shake yourself out of the stupor and tell me your DOB.

VOP, still cautious, and after a moment’s consideration: Thank you. That seems to be a simple enough process. I think I can handle it. Bbbbut, nobody has ever asked me for my DOB earlier.

Me, indignantly: You still have the impudence to tell me that? I cannot be held accountable for weak security practices of other customers of Townbank. You need to choose your customers with greater care.

VOP, grasping the lifeline: Yes sir, most certainly. I will convey this message to my seniors.

Me: Will you now tell me your DOB or do you leave me with no option but reporting you to your manager for failing to perform your assigned duties in a satisfactory manner?

VOP: Please don’t. I will do what you say.

Me: Tell me the name of your Manager, alongwith email ID and mobile no. please.

VOP: Sure sir.

Me: Why don’t you email it to me? And, while you are at it, please also send me a scanned copy of your appointment letter issued by Townbank.

VOP: Appointment letter?

Me: How the hell do you expect me to know that you are employed by Townbank?

VOP: Of course sir. I did not see that.

Me: And a letter signed by the HR Manager stating that you are still in the employ of Townbank.

VOP: Sure sir. I understand the need for that as well.

Me: Good. I am glad you are finally talking sense. Once you have sent me all that, you can call me back and tell me why you had called me in the first place.

Of course, we would not get to discuss my complaint about which he had presumably called. But I would be a more satisfied customer. What about you?

 

Call Flow

A few days back my mobile-phone rang.

Voice on phone (VOP): Hello, am I talking to AM?

Me: Yes you are.

VOP: May I know your Date of Birth (DOB) please?

Me: Is that why you have called? Are you writing up my horoscope?

VOP: No sir. I am calling from TownBank. You called in a few days back and lodged a complaint about a transaction on your Card.

Me: Look, I have gone through the Terms and Conditions listed on your website. Nowhere is it stated that a customer needs to provide his DOB while lodging a complaint about a transaction on the Card.

VOP: No, sir, you don’t need to provide your DOB while lodging a complaint.

Me: But you just asked me for it, didn’t you?

VOP: I did, sir, but that is not because you lodged a complaint.

Me: But you just said you are calling because I lodged a complaint. If that is not the reason, then why have you called me?

VOP: I did sir. I have called about the complaint you have lodged with the bank.

Me: There, I already told you so. In fact, you said so yourself not a minute back. Then why were you denying it?

VOP: I was not sir.

Me: Not what?

VOP: Not denying it.

Me: Not denying what?

VOP: Not denying that I called about the complaint you have lodged.

Me: Now that that is clear, I trust you don’t need my DOB.

VOP: I do, sir.

In an almost imploring voice, VOP said: Can you now please tell me your DOB?

I resisted the temptation to rush back to the “Look, I have gone through the Terms…” part of the loop. Instead, in a conciliatory tone, I asked: But, why do you want my DOB?

VOP: That is our process sir. For security purpose we need to verify we are talking to the right person.

Me: But you called me, didn’t you?

VOP: Yes sir.

Me: Why did you call me on this number?

VOP: Because that is your number available on our records.

Me: If that is the case, why do you need to verify?

VOP: That is our process sir. It has been honed over years of frustrating and unproductive customer interactions in over a hundred countries. (The second sentence I heard but he did not say).

Me: But no other bank asks me for this information when they call.

VOP: We cannot be responsible for weak security practices of other banks.

Me: What if I don’t give you my DOB?

VOP: I am afraid I will not be able to share an update regarding your complaint.

Now, I am a reasonable man. When in a situation where I have no way out, I promptly climb down from the high moral ground, which is what I did in this case. After all, what was the point in preventing the caller from doing his job.

I gave him my DOB, my anniversary date , my home address, the make of my car, my dog’s name and the number of clubs in my golf-set, in rapid succession.

VOP: Thank you, sir. This call is to update you that we are looking into the issue and will respond soon.

Good thing I shared my personal information when I did. I would have been deprived of the update otherwise.