Your Call Is Important To Us

By Salil Chaturvedi

Monika, my richer half, had received a hefty bonus and after some debate on how to blow up the money, we decided to put it to pay back part of the housing loan and bring the EMIs down to a more comfortable level.

I called up the Customer Care Service of a bank (referred to in our household as Icky Icky bank, owing to the strong emotions it stirs in us). I needed to find out how paying back Rupees two lakh would affect the EMI plan. A simple thing, really. Here’s how it went:Call 1

A woman on some uplifting drugs, says in a hyper-cheerful voice:

“Welcome to Icky Icky Bank’s Phone Banking. For instant access to your account, enter your debit or credit card number.”

“Hey, did we get a debit or credit card number with our loan application?” I shout in the direction of Monika.

“I don’t know. Check the file!” She hollers back.

I don’t find anything of this sort in the loan file, so I call again.

Call 2

Same woman, same happy pills:

“Welcome to Icky Icky Bank’s Phone Banking. For instant access to your account, enter your debit or credit card number.”

This time I’m wiser, so I don’t bother.

She continues cheerfully: “If you are an Icky Icky Bank customer, or for application status, press 1; for information on our new products, press 2; to report loss of card, press 3; for any unresolved request, press 4.”

As I am mulling over the choices, she reminds me cheerfully: “We have not received your input, please try again.”

But I’ve forgotten the choices.

“We have not received your input, please try again,” she says, and after a polite wait says, “For English, press 1, Hindi mein jaankaari ke liye do dabaaye.”

Ah, ha! So she now figures I could be having problems with the language. I choose English.

“Please select from the following 7 choices at anytime during the call: for Banking Accounts, press 1; for Credit Cards, press 2; If you are a Private Banking Customer, press 3; for Demat Accounts and Online Trading, press 4; for Loans, press 5; press 6 for Icky Icky Bombard General Insurance; for Bonds press 7.”

I begin to wonder what Demat accounts are and whether my Commerce classes in college were a waste. Then I begin to worry about the insurance premium coming up and finally think how nice it would be to have her say, for Bond, James Bond, press 007.

“We have not received your input, please try again.”

Shit! What were the choices again? But she goes on helpfully and cheerfully, her drug-induced high making it a cakewalk for her: “Please select from the following 7 choices at anytime during the call: for Banking Accounts, press 1; for Credit Cards, press 2; If you are a Private Banking Customer, press 3; for Demat Accounts and Online Trading, press 4; for Loans, press 5; press 6 for Icky Icky Bombard General Insurance; for Bonds press 7.”

I’m focused this time, and I press 5 for Loans.

“To avail of loan on phone, press 1; for queries on your existing loan account, press 2; for information on new products, press 3.”

I’m still focused, though I’m curious about new products. Before my nervous system kicks in with a reflex action, I press 2 for existing loan accounts. I’m imagining smart executives, sitting next to phones labeled ‘Loan Accounts’ ready to jump to the rescue of a customer as soon as the phone rings.

But the lady continues, and I listen in a slightly numbed way. I feel my individuality melting and dripping away, being sucked out through my ear into the phone. I’m just another customer with an unnecessarily micro-waved ear. The cheerful lady on the other end of the line has some stamina though, “To access home loans, press 1; To access car loans and car overdrafts, press 2; To access personal loans, press 3; To access two-wheeler loans, press 4; To access loans against security, press 5; To access other consumer loans, press 6; To return to the previous menu, press 7.”

I give up on the idea of enthusiastic executives. There is no way they’ll have phones labeled with so many choices. I click on 1 to access home loans. The lady, still cheerful after all this time (I beginning to wish I had access to her drug cabinet), starts to say something when the network connection dies and the call ends. I am sent spinning into Customer Care Hell.

Day two

After sharing my inability to navigate basic Customer Care (or is it Customer Scare) procedures with friends, and receiving advice from them, I figure out that I’m supposed to treat it like some sort of video game. All the choices are different levels that you graduate to and you don’t have to wait till the cheerful lady has spelt out all her choices. You go for it as soon as you hear the choice.

So, this time I navigate expertly. In a few quick strokes I am at the home loan level. The cheerful lady says: “Please enter the 11 digit numeric part of your loan account number.”

Ah ha! That’s a new one, but I’m prepared. The file is with me and I enter the number.

“Your Loan Account number is”– she repeats the number, enunciating each number with a burst of energy. I really must find out about those pills, I think. I stem the thought and mumble to myself – ‘focus, focus.’

‘To confirm press 1; to cancel and re-enter, press 2.”

I confirm, with a flourish.

“For provisional income tax certificate, press 1; for final income tax certificate, press 2; for repayment schedule, press 3; for loan account statement, press 4; for welcome letter, press 5; for part payment letter, press 6; for rate of interest confirmation letter, press 7; to return to the previous menu, press 8; to speak to a phone banking officer, press 9.”

Ah, finally a human being! Damn the choices, I just go for the banking officer, pressing 9.

“Hello, this is Krish, how can I help you?”

I can tell, he’s had some of those happy pills as well.

“Uh, hi Krish. I actually want to pay back some of my home loan and wanted to know how it will affect the EMIs. I want to bring the EMI amount lower.”

“Yes, that’s possible.”

“Great!”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Er, sorry?”

“Is there anything else I can help you with Mr Chaturvedi?”

“But you haven’t helped me yet. I wanted to know how paying back Rs 2 lakh will affect our EMI plan?”

“Oh! Sorry sir, to find that out you’ll need to go to the nearest bank. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Wait, wait. You don’t understand. I only need you to tell me, if I pay back Rs 2 lakh, how will it affect the loan EMI. Can’t you calculate and let me know?”

“Yes sir, you can pay back and bring your EMI down. For calculation please go to the nearest bank. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Yes. Where do you get your drugs from?”

“Excuse me sir!”

“Never mind, thanks.”

“Thank you for calling Icky Icky Bank. Have a nice day Mr Chaturvedi.”

Have a nice day? Is he for real? It’s a shame. I’m so pissed, I’m thinking of closing my account with Icky Icky Bank and trying Shitty Bank instead.

 

 

Previously published in Success and Ability, the quarterly magazine of Ability Foundation in Chennai.

3 thoughts on “Your Call Is Important To Us

  1. manojit

    wow!! i never knew that there are so many levels. probably they do not provide you with so many levels with an ordinary savings bank account. i only have managed till level 2… congrats! you were able to talk to the human! … by the way next time s/he says asks if s/he can help you with anything else… tell him/her that your faucet is leaking you need help… that can s/he help to walk your dog… that you need booze, can s/he help? and all your problems… they are so eager to help all the time…. i just imagine!!! ****

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  2. salil

    Thanks Mani. Manojit, those suggestions are very enticing. I have toyed with the idea of selling my mother’s home-made pickles when I get calls from insurance companies asking if I need insurance. I have this urge to tell them about the different kinds of pickles, the combinations, what packages are on offer, the health benefits of home-made pickles, etc. Never have summoned the courage, though!

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