Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ruining the brand experience!

I’m on my fourth mobile number and umpteenth mobile handset, wee considering that I also test handsets on my day-job I must have gone through at least 50 or 60 of them by now, I’ve honestly lost count. But, that isn’t the story, the story is about how bad customer service has completely ruined one brand experience for me, well after Citibank that is.
I’ve been a fairly loyal Hutch customer. This is my third Hutch number, I had one earlier in Delhi, another for a year in Bombay and now a third when I’ve returned. I came back to Delhi around two months ago and got a new number. Not without screaming and shouting though. First, Hutch promised me I’ll get a triple-digit number on my phone as I previously had. Then, since these numbers are usually taken by jerks who work at the Hutch call centre, they tried to back out, “Can we give you a double-digit combo instead?”
I stuck to my guns and then they screwed p again. I got one number which they had already given someone else, then I got a second number and before you knew it they called to say if they could take it back. But I had already activated it and told them to take a hike.
But, Hutch would have its revenge.
Which was two days ago, when my SIM card started acting up, not because I had fed it alcohol or bunged a handset up, but it just failed to register. I tried on other handsets at home and it still didn’t work. Now I call up customer care, and ask them to send me a new SIM card since this one wasn’t working.
“But you will be charged Rs 250 for it.”
But why? I hadn’t messed around with the SIM card in my underpants after all, they provided me with a bum SIM card.
“No sir, that’s the rule.”
So, the way I see it, these guys screw up by sending faulty hardware and I have to pay to get it replaced. No way.
“I didn’t do anything with the SIM card, why should I pay?”
“It’s the rule.”
What? I don’t mind paying if I physically damage or lose a SIM card, but pay when a service provider screws up, I don’t see the logic.
“Transfer the call to your supervisor.”
Supervisor was a bigger asshole than the first guy. A complete and utter clown, made me lose my cool and I blurted out, “Why are you f***ing up.”
“No, we are not f***ing up.”
Wow, a supervisor with attitude.
Anyway, I could live without a phone for a day or two, even though I really can’t. But, on the other hand, I knew I could short-circuit the system as a journalist, but I really didn’t want to. But the second call was even more idiotic. But, here was the deal, the only way to not pay Rs 250 was to take a one hour detour to find a Hutch shop in a congested parking area and register your complaint in front of a dolt who you can see. Unlike Bombay, where Orange/Hutch had conviniently located shops, the only Hutch shop in South Delhi is in that black hole called Ansal Plaza. In Central Delhi they have one in CP, which is parking hell. And a waste of time and money. So the only way to not spend Rs 250 is to waste an hour in the middle of the day, spend petrol and parking charges to save some bucks. These guys know that most sane people, including me won't do that and would succumb to the charge.
Really, it isn't about 250 bucks, that is barely two bottles of beer, its the principle of the thing. I mean I hadn't done anything with the SIM card and I've paid for SIM cards before when I've lost phones. Even though, you should know that a SIM card, even a 64k SIM costs only 50 cents to produce, with all the features loaded in so a 10x markup is a bit much.
I then called up Hutch’s corporate communications guy in Delhi, who was surprisingly understanding, and said that a new SIM will be dispatched by the evening.
Now, why didn’t I think of this earlier. But another part of my head was thinking, what if this happens on a nationwide basis for guys who don’t have the access I do, the telecom companies get away with murder – Hutch for example has the most godawful coverage in Bandra Reclamation (oh and if you can try and make a call on the WR between Mahalaxmi and Lower Parel without a drop, you’re a blessed being!), how I survived my last month in Bombay running from room to room in Doc’s house so that I could talk on the phone. That was until I got the 6708 from Nokia which has tremendous signal pickup.
Good, I got the SIM some time ago and was told to call up and activate it.
I did.
“Sir, there will be a Rs 250 charge on your next bill!”
The hand doesn’t know what the head is doing.
Hutch seems to spend all their money on killer adverts by Ogilvy, they really should spend some of that on the clowns at their call centres. Anyway, about the charge on SIM cards, I still have the SIM which Hutch sent me two months ago, and I believe a trip to the Telecom Regulatory Authority may not be a bad idea.
Anyway, my user experience with this brand has been completely destroyed, and I have become what in marketing they call a ‘brand terrorist’, a person who will go out of his way to talk a brand/service down at any opportunity he/she gets. I hate Hutch right now, and since I’ve switched numbers so frequently before I don’t mind doing it again. Airtel, here I come. Does this mean I will lose objectivity as a journalist, nope, I’m not that unprofessional, but I’m freaking pissed!
That’s why I’m blogging about it!


Horn Please!! said...

Try IDEA for GSM. More than that, try Reliance also for CDMA. You know what my reliance number is, I got a triple and two doubles . . .and they total to 9 too . . . and the data connectivity is superb . . . Hutch, terrible lack of integrity types.

abhi2point0 said...

they all suck k - i've had worse experiences with AirTel and know ppl who've been driven up the wall by Reliance!
But its strange they're billing you - i just plain lost my Hutch SIM card and went into the Hutch shop at Churchgate to replace it fully prepared to pay some fine ... and they just smiled and said "no payment sir!" which was bizarre since they have every right to charge!
Anyway - only one way to get these jokers back in shape - COMPLETE NUMBER PORTABILITY!!!!

Sarin said...

welcome to the wonderful world of airtel ;-)

Anonymous said...
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Horn Please!! said...

I kept my Reliances. I doubled the IDEA. And then I decided to try the Airtel broadband at one location. Got hefty bills, disputed them, no joy, asked for service to be terminated, got run-around, got more bills, finally stopped using but still got bills for usage, and now it is heading to goons (from them) and lessons in customer service (from me).

Airtel? I think it is over-populated by middle/senior staff/agencies who purposely try to build problems so that they have something to do.