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Your average fun guy who will stand by you!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

'Customer' नहीं, 'कष्टमर' बोलिए! वाह Airtel !!

I am a Platinum Service (for office Fixed Line) as well as a Gold Service (mobile and fixed line connection at home) customer of Airtel. Platinum AND Gold! Wow!! You must be thinking of the privileges I must be enjoying, no? Come, let me tell you a story.

Our house in Pitampura area gets either poor indoor mobile coverage or none at all. We must walk out to the front balcony or cling to the metal jaali that surrounds the rear verandah to take mobile calls. And, then there is a social cost to pay in the form of "Yaar, you do not pick my calls! Naraaz ho ya attitude hai?" I wish I could send this image to them every time they accused me of insolence! 

Most of us also use mobile phone and email for interacting with most service providers like banks, utilities, fixed line phone (yes) and online shopping. This means that if you are having trouble with your mobile phone service or internet access, life can become difficult, and poor customer care worsens the experience. The Airtel fixed line and broadband experience has improved of late and the company that handles field work must be commended for good response time and simple but effective method of problem resolution. Their mobile phone service, due to endemic problems related to radio coverage and mobile data billing, however remains flaky.

In September 2012, after the Revised National Radiation Standards were issued, the government had clamped down on the mobile equipment and tower companies and asked them to bring down the transmitted radio power to within the new permissible limits. As a result, most parts of Delhi (and surely, other cities too) that are located even 300m away from a BTS have been suffering from poor mobile coverage ever since. The solution was/is to install more cell sites (BTSs) but network providers like Ericsson and operators like Airtel don't want to do it because cell sites are expensive and therefore not salubrious to their profitability.

As is common knowledge, all mobile companies have outsourced their equipment plants and billing to the likes of Ericsson, Nokia Siemens and IBM, and customer care to Serco and others. Problem with companies like Serco is that they engage low cost contractors to handle their work, including field support and call centers. Effectively, the direct customer interfacing is handled by lowly paid technicians and run-down call centers. This is a recipe for disaster. And, this story is a dish prepared according to this recipe.

After my patience ran out with Airtel's poor mobile coverage, I lodged a complaint with '198' desk many months ago but nothing improved. Interestingly, per Airtel (or whoever was masquerading as Airtel), the problem had been resolved to my satisfaction! Who says Airtel is not good at giving us 'Matrix' and 'Inception' like experiences!

Now, in the last week of May 2013, I reopened the issue with Airtel Customer Care via their @Airtel_presence handle on Twitter. Fancy, isn't it? Below is the chronology of my interaction with them. The purpose of this blog post is to expose the total disconnect among various units that comprise Airtel's Customer Care. (Story updated after every significant event.)

1. Last week of May 2013 (via Twitter): @Airtel_presence (https://twitter.com/Airtel_Presence ) alerted of the issue. They acknowledged on the same day.

2. June 9, 2013: Call from Customer Care.

Caller, "सर, आपने मोबाइल की कंप्लेंट की थी?"
Me, "हाँ की थी"
Caller, "क्या प्रॉब्लम है सर?"
Me, "क्यों, आपको मालूम नहीं है?"
Caller, "नहीं सर"
Me, "तो पहले प्रॉब्लम पता करो"
Caller, "ओके, थैंक्यू सर?"

3. June 10, 2013: Call from Customer Care.

Caller, "सर, आपने मोबाइल की कंप्लेंट की थी?"
Me, "हाँ की थी"
Caller, "Resolve हो गयी सर?"
Me, "नहीं! By the way, आपने एक्शन क्या लिया है?"
Caller, "पता नहीं, सर"
Me, "तुम कॉल सेंटर से बोल रहे हो या एयरटेल से?"
Caller, "कॉल सेंटर से सर"
Me, "मुझे आप से कोई बात नहीं करनी। किसी ऐसे बन्दे से बात करवाओ जिसे इशू पता हो और जो कुछ काम करता हो सिर्फ फ़ोन पर बातें नहीं!"
Caller, "ओके, थैंक्यू सर?"

4. June 10, 2013: Another call from Customer Care.

Caller, "सर, आपकी कवरेज रिलेटेड कंप्लेंट थी"
Me, "हाँ"
Caller, "सर, किस तरह की प्रॉब्लम आ रही है?"
Me, "कवरेज नहीं है किसी भी रूम में नहीं और क्या बताऊँ? कमाल है, दो हफ्ते हो गए और तुम अभी पूछ रहे हो की प्रॉब्लम क्या है? By the way, आपने कोई एक्शन लिया है अभी तक?"
Caller, "पता नहीं, सर"
Me, "प्लीज आप एक्शन लीजिये और बातें कम कीजिये (+ हिंदी और अंग्रेजी में गालियों का मिश्रण)"
Caller, "ओके, थैंक्यू सर?"

[Life_Lesson_from_Airtel #328: "Being abusive with Customer Care folks works." However, I would rather not like it to be like this. :-( ]

5. June 11, 2013: Call from Irfan Masood of Ericsson (Gurgaon)

Caller, "सर, आपकी कवरेज रिलेटेड कंप्लेंट थी. मैं एयरटेल से बोल रहा हूँ"
Me, "तुम्हारा नाम क्या है?"
Caller, "इरफ़ान सर?"
Me, "पूरा नाम?"
Caller, "इरफ़ान मसूद, सर"
Me, "एयरटेल से हो या कॉल सेंटर से?"
Irfan, "सर, दरअसल मैं Ericsson गुड़गाँव से हूँ, नेटवर्क ऑप्टिमाइजेशन ग्रुप से"
Me, "बताइए कैसे हेल्प कर सकता हूँ?"
Irfan, "सर, अपना एड्रेस बताएँगे ?"
Me, "क्यों तुम्हें बताया नहीं गया?"
Irfan, "सर, क्या आपका एड्रेस ------ है? कन्फर्म कर दीजिये"
Me, "आप मेरे घर पहुँच कर मुझ से कन्फर्म कीजिये, अपने घर पर बैठ कर नहीं!"
Irfan, "ओके सर"

Irfan reaches my house in about an hour and takes radio coverage observations on the ground and first floors.

Irfan, "मैंने मेजेरमेंट्स ले लीं हैं, pathetic कवरेज है सर, सबसे नज़दीक BTS 400m दूर है!"
Me, "सलूशन क्या है?"
Irfan, "सर मैंने, अपने सीनियर्स हरीश चंद्रा से डिसकस किया है। दो सलूशन हो सकते हैं, आपकी छत पर एक छोटा BTS लग सकता है या फिर बूस्टर"
Me, "BTS लगाने में तो सिविल वर्क involved होगा, कौन लगाने देगा?"
Irfan, "आपकी बात ठीक है सर, लेकिन बूस्टर लगाना हमारी डिपार्टमेंट के हाथ में नहीं हैं!"
Me, "जिसके हाथ में हैं, उसे जा कर बताओ"
इरफ़ान, "ओके सर?"

6. June 11, 2013 (Evening): Call from Sonia Wadhwa of @Airtel_Presence. She is part of the Airtel social media team. After offering the customary apologies and suffering the barrage of my angry tirade, she takes down details of all Airtel numbers my family is using, ostensibly because "हमें स्ट्रोंग केस बनाने में हेल्प मिल जाएगी"

7. June 18, 2013: No action since last one week. Just the same stupid call today:
Caller, "सर, आपने मोबाइल की कंप्लेंट की थी?"
Me, "हाँ की थी"
Caller, "Resolve हो गयी सर?"
Me, "नहीं! By the way, आपने एक्शन क्या लिया है?"
Caller, "पता नहीं, सर"

8. July 4, 2013: Received an email from one Rajan Gupta of @Airtel_Presence. The message is self-contradictory. On one hand, they defend that there is adequate indoor coverage and, on the other, say that they have "noted my address for future planning purpose". According to them, coverage may not be good "deep indoors and in basement". Well, my house does NOT have a basement and coverage is 'pathetic' all over the house as noted by their engineer Irfan Masood on June 11.

My reply to Rajan Gupta (July 4):

"Dear Mr. Rajan Gupta,

1. My home does NOT have a basement. And, I hope, you do not consider every room inside the house as 'deep indoor'. The signal is 'pathetic' all around the house as your engineer Mr. Irfan has measured. Your assertion "confirmed the availability of adequate indoor network coverage at the problematic area" is wrong.
2. I am engineer myself and avoid giving me gyan on atmospheric conditions and topology. The problem is simple: your nearest BTS is unable to provide indoor coverage in the area.
3. You will do well do take concrete action and stop fooling yourself and customers. As a next step, I am planning to report the matter to the Consumer Court since it has been a long time of hearing just words from you and no action."  

(Last updated on: 4 July 2013)


1 comment:

  1. Jo "Tera" hai so mera hai...
    (All your money is belong to us)
    Jo "Teda" hai so mera hai...
    (All crooks is ours)

    Take your pick. That's their mantra now.
    Airtel was the best bloody mobile service provider at one time and I was on Airtel since '97. In the past 2-3 years, they've gone from bad to worse.

    The only thing that works is the brahmastra of mobile number portability. However, watch out for the false promises and assurances their retention team will give you and disclaim later. If you keep a written record of their promises(better yet, use call recording on your phone), you might just get them to act.