Bad customer service stories are universal ice breakers. They enable humans to overcome superficial differences (ethnicity, soft drink preference, religion) and acknowledge each other’s humanity. Dialog Telekom in Sri Lanka seems to have made the supply of such stories into an undocumented service. At practically every dinner and lunch I have been to during the holiday season (quite a few) I’ve been pummelled with customer service horror stories involving that company. All it takes is for one person to bring up the topic then everyone wants to chip in. After the first few stories I tune out.
Which is a pity. Had I recorded these stories, I would have enough material for a life’s work of absurdist theatre. The stories are essentially formulaic and involves a promise of a service that fails to deliver. Other constants are themes of technology amplifying the worst elements of a sprawling fractured bureaucracy.
There are two standard characters. The victim (the narrator) and the villain who is the slothful customer service goon. The horror starts when the victim/narrator contacts customer service or turns up at a Dialog office to obtain some sort of promised service/product. A futile battle of wills errupts with the villain whose office/department/unit has no information about these deals the narrator is talking about. Or demands some piece of paper when that information should be on the computer system. Then the hapless narrator is bounced around between offices on an inevitably futile quest. The worst stereotypes of government departments are brought up through endless paperwork and waiting. The only difference is that bribes can’t help a broken system. Naturally the story ends in tragedy with the narrator giving in to corporate might in the interests of sanity.
Before the next tale of woe begins, there are speculations as to whether the whole fiasco was due to incompetence or cynical manipulation by the company. Inevitably there is speculation that poor customer service is a symptom of bottom line obsessed financial frailties. The latest tea leaf readings are about Dialog going in to panic mode because of the Bharti Airtel invasion. The scared narrator/victim gets a back pat and everyone vows revenge by switching to some other provider (which never happens).
Sanjana has a readable comment in a post that spares me the task of giving a specific example. His analysis on the issue of promises vs service delivery lets me off the hook of having to do actual analysis 👿
We live in the third world where the fact that any service (particularly involving technology) operates at all (let alone consistently) is a miracle. It is fashionable to market first world services (broadband, data delivering mobile services) with complex pricing schemes. Most of these are beyond the pockets of the grimy masses.
The delivery of these services will be spotty due to many factors – the major ones being structural (policy related) and rapid expansion. The telecom policy stuff must have an impact on organisational factors. Essentially the ability to deliver the hyped promises of marketing. Rapid expansion would not only gloss over the technical side of things but also things like staff training.
Customer service in technology services (particularly higher end computer/data related) is still an alien concept in Sri Lanka. This is not particular to Dialog. Access to technology is still a privilege. Most customer service personal can’t dream of affording these services and the requisite expensive first world gadgets to access them. Compounding the issue is that the quantifiable bottom line getz priority over the nebulous fog of “customer satisfaction”. If its not working, stop being an annoying high income prima dona and endure – like the masses sardined in busses during the commutes. Good consistent customer service DOES exists in unexpected places. Naturally this will eventually spread to the tech sector but not in a hurry (lets dream a little shall we?).
From my experience, what works is some sort of basic service. And even that shouldn’t be relied upon too much. I could go further to expound on this but I have digressed enough from the topic of this post.
Time for some disclaimers. I’m not, and never have been a consumer of any of Dialog Telekom’s services. I have no idea what their customer “care” is like. I’m certainly not being paid by them for anything – particularly to explain away any bad customer service experiences. So this post is NOT some sort of “viral” or “social media” marketing/PR campaign to make them look good. Like any large service provider they are bound to have their disappointments.
Its just that I’m a tired of hearing these stories and I wonder if there are any “positive” Dialog Telekom customer service experiences out there.
The problem is that satisfying customer service stories are alienating. Its sort of like listening to someone’s story of winning the lottery. There is no shared pain of barrier transcending ordeals. But if you are a lucky winner in the customer service lottery, I’d like to hear about 🙂 Mainly because I try in this blog (and in life) to focus on the positive – however minute that is. Satisfied customers rarely bother to broadcast their joy. So if you got any happy Dialog Telekom customer service stories, the comment box is below is your easy way out. Failing that, feel free to rant if you want 😈