Just Let Me Talk to a Human Being!

poor customer service

Have you ever experienced the annoying situation, where you have to go through a series of computer enabled IVR options to reach an actual human being, when you call a customer support center of a business you are a customer? Trust me, there is nothing worst a company can do to piss off their customers than sending them through this painful IVR menus.

This morning, I called my mobile operator’s customer support number to get a simple advice on “how do I fix my mobile internet connection settings?”, as I was having trouble in connecting to the internet using my mobile.

Guess what? This is the pain that I had to go through just to reach a ‘human voice’ on the other end.

A recorded welcome message, which take about 20 seconds to greet me, and then a series of IVR options to choose from, each taking about 5 to 10 seconds to play back.

Press 1 for past and present billing
Press 2 for call an agent or access other services
Press 3 for shuffling the service language

Now you would think I’m going to reach my destination, as soon as I press number 2. Wrong!

Press 1 for VAS activations
Press 2 for complaint about lost phones
Press 3 for inquire about package charges
Press 4 for inquire about your loyalty points
Press 5 for change the IVR menu preferences
Press 6 for talk to one of our agents

Each of these IVR instructions take about 5 to 10 seconds to play back and I had to wait listening to all, until it announced the option that matters to me. I pressed, number 6 and guess what happened? Did I get my agent on line? Wrong again!

Press 1 to talk to a customer service agent
Press 2 to talk to a technical service agent

Now, since my query is about an internet setting I pressed number 2 and waited. By now, about 2 and half minutes passed from the point I initiated the call. A nice female voice came online, greeted me, and asked me what my problem is. I started explaining my problem, and she cut me in the middle, asked me for the model of my phone, and said, “I’ll send your internet settings now and you have to accept it. Hereafter, if you need assistance in getting the settings installed, just dial # {some string of numbers} # and get it done”. She even didn’t double checked if I correctly noted down that string of numbers and greeted me “have a nice day” and cut the line. It all happened in a flash, and took about only 40 seconds for the whole conversation.

See how funny this is? It took me more than 2 minutes to go through the IVR menu, and the conversation with the agent took less than 60 seconds.

I would have let go this one, and probably wouldn’t have write this post, if that solved my problem. Even after receiving the new settings, I could not connect to the internet on my mobile. I was no way in a mood to give up so easily, and I called the number again. After going through the same process as above, this time, I reached a male voice. (who’s name I wrote down in a piece of paper this time, for future references if required).

Once again, he proved himself not very helpful for the customer (me). To add more to the annoyance, he was speaking like a programmed robot in a monotonous tone of voice (which wasn't not too clear to understand what he is talking), and using a strictly grammatical Sinhala language as in grade 5 grammar books (I opted Sinhala as the preferred language to speak in). I was furiously annoyed with the pain I had to go through to pass all those IVR menus to get through to this guy, and when he is speaking in the same tone as the IVR menu, what else you can expect from me other than having a blast at the poor guy who is just doing a paid job? He too, some how failed to give me a satisfactory answer but I managed to get the #107# number string correctly noted down this time. I later solved the problem my self, by deleting all existing settings and installing everything again by using this number.

The point here is, these companies have totally lost the purpose of having a customer service division. Your customer service division is there to solve the problems of your customers, satisfactorily as quickly as you can. If you forget that purpose and burden your customer further more, with your ‘fancy technologies’, you are actually not doing good for either to your brand or to your customers. Of course, you will boast in industry conferences and press releases etc. that “we have the most sophisticated state of the art customer service center in South Asia” or “our customer service executives are professionally trained to be well disciplined” but does it really matter for your customers, if their problem is not solved?

People like to interact with other people, and they naturally hate robots. If you ‘robotify’ your customer service function and turn your agents too into robots, you are killing that ‘human personality’ which your customers want to see in your brand.

IVR menus, service desk ticket systems, standard responses and what more? Minimize the stupid processes which show off you are a high tech company, and speed up the delivery of what you promised!to your customers. That is all what customers are expecting from you.

Originally posted on www.amisampath.com Like this blog? Get email updates when I post next time, or subscribe to the feed on a reader. Follow me on Twitter @Amisampath Please help improve the quality of this blog. Report any spelling or grammar mistake here


  1. You dead right IVR is the most stupid horrible invention ever. And Dialog has the worst imaginable implementation of an IVR.

    It's because of idiots like this that Dialog share prices dropped from Rs 29.00 per share all the way down to Rs 7.00 even inspite of the strong bull run, it's still languishing at the 10-11 levels.

  2. The problem with Sri Lankan's is that they dont even have the patience to be on hold...its just pathetic. People should learn to go slow a bit more, whats the rush anyways? There are bussier people in other parts of the world who take their time in going through the daily routine. In Sri Lanka the impatient nature of the people is clearly visible when going on the roads. If you slow down for a few seconds, your treated with a royal honking, and if it takes you a couple of seconds to shift the gear at the lights, you also get the same treatment.

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  5. @Anon,
    If you read this again, I have few clarifications. So, do you think it’s my fault not to be patient, and there’s nothing wrong in mobile operator’s IVR menus, and particularly the fact that their agents failure to solve my problem?

    I believe the problem with Sri Lankans is not about their patience. It’s their laid back approach when dealing with poor customer service. They take poor service standards for granted, and never challenge the companies. But, if you go back you your own example of ‘other parts’ of the word (which you seems to believe as better than SL) they will never settle for poor quality customer service like our people do.

    Problem seems to be; they are overwhelmed by the use of “technology” and forget about the human side of their service. Important thing is what you do with your customer’s perception, and not with your technology. For example, Sampath Bank card center is far more better in this aspect. They don’t have any fancy IVR menus or anything, and their call center executives seems to be not gone through any rigorous training. Sometimes when we call their number, they don’t even introduce them in the greeting (just saying “Hello”) so we have to ask ourselves “is this Sampath card center” to verify if we called the right number. But, no matter what; they are very helpful in solving our problems and they take extra measures to call back us with additional information if needed. The language they speak in is very natural, and we feel like talking to a friend; not like with a programmed robot. Bottom-line is, they focus more on what it matters for the customer; “solve my problem” and not on the fancy technologies they use in the call center, or the stylish language they speak in.

  6. Only reason for me being dialog customer any longer is, I can’t take the pain of changing my number and letting all my 250 odd clients know about it. Otherwise, I’m simply appalled by the guys at dialog customer service. Everything else is good; the coverage, rates, connectivity but they got to do something serious to lift up their customer service standards.


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