The roads to hell pass through the customer service desks of my bank.

I like nice and clean interactions. Messy interactions bother me very much. So much so that one messy interaction has ruined multiple days in a row for me in the past. After working on myself, I deal with messy situations slightly better, but my basic characteristics haven’t changed drastically.

Interactions with bank officials are anything but nice and clean. On the contrary, they are fraught with incompetence and bad customer service.

I would rather spend the day watching bad Tamil movies than speak to the customer service representatives of my bank.

The Junior Customer Service Representatives Appear Clueless

Every time I call the toll-free number, the person “helping” me seems to be clueless as to the solution. To mask their lack of knowledge, they ooze with confidence and tell me they can’t honor my request.

One time, I called to report an unauthorized transaction on my debit card.

The customer service representative confidently told me he would cancel my card at once, and issue a new card. I told him not to be hasty – let us figure this out more methodically. He convinced me this was the way to go.

He proceeded to cancel my card. Then he told me he was unable to generate a new card for me due to a technical glitch – I would have to visit my bank the next day.

I was furious, told him in no uncertain words what I thought about our transaction thus far, and demanded to speak to a supervisor. 

He did everything he can to prevent me from speaking to a supervisor. He also saw that I was furious, and he relented. The supervisor generated a new card for me instantly – I didn’t have to go to the bank.

They Do Everything They Can to Prevent Me From Talking to a Supervisor

When I call the customer service center, I naturally want my issue fixed when a solution is possible. 

The inexperienced customer service representative invariably tells me my issue is unsolvable, when common sense tells me that the issue is most certainly solvable. 

I tell them I don’t agree with their assessment that the issue can’t be fixed. “Too bad”, they tell me. 

I request to speak to a supervisor. 

Now, here is where cultural differences come in. In the USA, when I requested to speak to a supervisor or manager, the customer service representative honored my request every single time. In India, the customer service representative has gone out of their way to prevent me from speaking to a supervisor every single time.

“The supervisor would tell you the same thing I told you”, they would say.

“All the supervisors are busy now”, they would give me an excuse. 

Sometimes, they arrange for a callback – the supervisor would call me back in 2-4 hours. The supervisor never calls me back.

Over time, I came up with my own algorithm for dealing with this: I would not hang up without speaking to a supervisor. After 30 minutes of playing ping-pong, the customer service representative would lose steam – it is easier to connect me to a supervisor than to continue engaging with me. 

The supervisor invariably fixes my issue in 2 minutes. 

I would thank the supervisor for their time and tell them I’d love it if they help me without subjecting me to this ordeal. They promise to fix their processes, but heart-to-heart we both know nothing would change. 

What Happens When a Sincere Customer Service Representative is in Town?

In May 2022, I had to call my bank’s customer service helpline again.

The customer service representative (let us call her Roopali) gave me some answers, which I found unsatisfactory. 

I asked to speak to a supervisor, and Roopali told me she would arrange for a callback. Armed with my new algorithm, I told her I wanted to speak to a supervisor immediately. 

Roopali expressed exasperation at my stubbornness – and told me she was doing the best she can. For the first time, I could tell that a customer service representative was sincere – she really was trying to do the best she can, and not trying to dodge my request.

However, my default programming took over – I told her I’d like to speak to a customer service representative right away. 

She told me she didn’t care – she told me human interactions are a two way street – and that she would hang up (which customer service representatives are not supposed to do). I, too, didn’t budge.

Finally, Roopali connected me to a supervisor. As expected, he did indeed solve my problem. I told him that I suspected I made Roopali’s life difficult – I asked him to convey my apologies to her. He confirmed that Roopali was indeed flustered. They were all working from home thanks to the pandemic, she called him on his cell phone breaking processes and requested him to help her out of this nightmare situation.

I felt terrible. 

For once, the tables were turned. A call to the customer service representative did not ruin my day. 

I had ruined Roopali’s day.

The Universe Gave Me an Opportunity to Apologize to Her

Recently a debit card purchase did not go through but my account was charged nevertheless.

I called my bank and raised a complaint. As always, interacting with the customer service helpline was a nightmare. They put me on hold for 8 minutes, only to transfer me to the credit card department who could not help me as much as they wanted to.

They finally took down my complaint and raised a service request. 

A couple of days back I still hadn’t received the money back in my account and I called the customer service helpline.

Roopali answered my call. She told me I would have to wait another day – the backend team was working on the issue. 

I was delighted that the Universe had conjured to make me speak with Roopali. The transaction that did not go through, the service request taking its own time to resolve – this was all necessary for me to speak with Roopali.

I took the opportunity and told her that I had been a difficult customer six months ago – I apologized. 

She remembered. She accepted my apology.

While I still dread calling my bank’s customer service care (I would sooner go back and attend my old engineering college), I am grateful to the universe for helping me make amends for ruining Roopali’s day.

Image Credit: Chitranjeet Dhiman from Unsplash