They’ll sell you a cell and tell you to go to hell

Telecom companies will go to any extent to convince you to go in for their product or services. But the moment you become a customer, they’ll place you at the mercy of their after sales and customer service.

There are a lot of Indians out here. Over a billion of us populate this planet. Naturally, the country is a huge market for anybody to sell anything under the sun. Be it mobiles, PCs, automobiles, bank accounts or fizzy drinks, every marketer is raking it in.

However, when it comes to after-sales service, it is a very different story.

Earlier, shops used to sell and also service products. But now, different entities take care of sales and service. That's why service standards have plummeted. Even in the case of banks, where both sales and customer service (should) be under the same roof, the treatment you get after you become a customer is more or less the same.

All telecom service centres operate between 10.30am to 6pm during weekdays. Are we back to the heady days of the mixed economy? One must admit, these centres manage to squeeze in half a day's work on Saturday. Sundays, of course, are when they rest.

So if you maintain regular working hours, and your mobile decides to develop a mind of its own and go on the blink, you face the prospect of having to leg it to the nearest service station and let your files (or emails) pile up. But better be warned. A visit to the service station is no guarantee that your device will be repaired.

I'll let you in on what happened to yours truly. Two-three months ago, I bought a Samsung mobile. Unfortunately, my son took a fancy to the device, and dropped the mobile while playing a game at home. The screen went kaput.

Now I had to read the fine print on the guarantee card. Screen damage, said the card, is not covered in the guarantee. The service centre wanted me to fork out Rs950 for a handset which cost me Rs2,500.

I had no other option, so I paid the amount. Unfortunately, the service centre did not have the required new screen. They asked me to keep my handset with them and promised that they will call me as soon as they get the screen. I waited for a week. No call from the centre. I had to phone them. Then they told me that they did have the new screen and it was promptly attached to my mobile.

But my woes were in no way over. My mobile was not getting charged any more. When I asked the service centre about how they plan to resolve this new problem (before accepting the handset), I was told that there might be a problem with my phone's battery.

You guessed it. They did not have a new battery in stock. After yet another week, I went to the service centre again, but the they still did not have a battery. Another week passed by. When I went to the service centre for the fourth time, to my horror, they told me that the problem was not with the battery, but with the motherboard of my handset. And pray, what was the cost of this motherboard? Around Rs1,200-Rs1,500. Great... I bought the handset for Rs2,500 and within two-three months, the 'authorised' service centre wanted me to spend the same amount to get it repaired.

The handset is a living proof of how easily I was fooled by Samsung and its authorised service centre. Every time I look at my handset, this thought still mocks me.

But the point is, this is not an isolated case of an errant service centre. I'm sure that you will have - or must have had - the same experience with all kinds of service centres. As soon as you enter any kind of service centre, the chaos you face will put a crowded fish market to shame. There are no indications, signboards, instructions or smoke signals on how your problem will be resolved.

If you stars are in the right position and the gods are smiling on you from the blue yonder, you might actually be able to speak to someone from the inside.

Let's assume that it is a mobile service centre that you are visiting. That elusive representative will ask you if your handset falls under the stipulated warrantee or not. If you answer in the affirmative, then you will be asked for a photocopy of your purchase bill - which, of course, you would not have thought of carrying with you.

Therefore, you have to come out of the service centre, search for a photocopy shop (it will always be nearby, since they get huge business from customers like you), get a copy and again enter the service centre.

From my experience - as well as feedback from fellow sufferers - one thing is pretty sure that unless you visit the service centre at least a couple of times, your complaint will never, ever, be resolved.

I have seen something happening all the time at these service centres. First, people plead with the service centre personnel, then they beg for their handset to be serviced and later they threaten them with some dire consequences.

But nothing works with these centres. You just have to grin and bear it. You are left with no other option but to get your mobile device serviced from your friendly neighbourhood mobile mechanic, tearing up your guarantee card into a zillion pieces in the process.

Why then, does the customer have to suffer at the hands of these 'authorised' service centres?

Am I being a conspiracy theorist, or does this have something to do with the business model of these companies?

Many moons ago, in my hometown, there were shops which sold all kinds of electronics goods. From different companies. But they serviced them as well. There, the shop-owner never treated any sale as a one-off deal. The customer was a lifetime patron. This may be the secret behind the success of these shops, despite competition from 'authorised' dealers located all over the place. Are the mobile handset companies listening? Are they even bothered?

(This is the first part of a two part-series)

Sachin Bhutada
1 decade ago
I had a Samsung phone costing Rs2000.
There was problem with the mic.The Authorised service centre told me it would cost Rs800 to fix it.
I gave my phone to "unauthorized" service center and got it fixed for Rs 3 (THREE).
1 decade ago
Same was the case with me after buying my OLIVE VG300 from the INTERNET I had to face the somewhat similar situation, simple as that I did not shell out money for extra, It was warranty period still running but no one cares specially service center, tells me have to wait for new PCB as it does not have one have to come from COMPANY which is in JAIPUR, no chance of coming almost waited for a month repeated calling the service center resulted nothing, so had to take back the phone as it from them after giving them my piece of mind to them,
Sunil Date
1 decade ago
Several comments.
1 I can site n number of stories of service centres. Since they are not the sellers they don't feel any empathy for the customer. If things have to improve then sales & service centres have to be same.
2 I wonder whether the modern day MBAs are taught anything about customer satisfaction ( customer delight is a word form another galaxy)
3 Have any of you come across any customer care no where " to talk to our excutive select No x" is in the first level menu of the ARS ? They cunningly hide this particular option in some sub sub menu and you have to spend some half an hour and several phone calls to discover it. Moreover though you know that 9 is to be selected to opt for talking to somebody, the system is so designed that if you select 9 randomly the phone either gets disconnected or the ARS says it is a wrong choice.
4 What would you say to a phone service provider call centre who advices you to personaly visit the office if your work is to be done ? They refuse to even give phone numbers of their sales offices. " Not authorised" to it seems.
"Darling Yeh hai India"
1 decade ago
Insurance companies are the biggest looters. Once I got a chance to attend training to become an agent,The insurance company offered 35 percent commission from first installment of premium and 10 percent trail of remaining installments also trained ,how to make fool of the customer to compel for insurance.
This commission plus heavy expenses.salaries highly paid staff in AC rooms,hardly 40 to 50 percent will be left for further investment in equities at the risk of investors then what do you expect only to see hell
1 decade ago

K Narayanan
Replied to krish comment 1 decade ago
The country consists of people like us -forget the rogue politicians and business rogues.I fool you,you fool another and he/she fools another and the circle goes on.You don't deal with the politicians or the top level business tycoon rogues everyday.You deal with the employees who are paid to fool you and for a salary they happily do it.The vicious circle follows.Except some, nobody is happy and we have godmen and art of living and other yoga teachers to manage the stressful life for a price.You pay again to destress yourself.We shd become entrepreneurs and offer some exotic solution to the stressed people and merrily make money.In my case I generally try as much as possible to get on life with minimum gadgets,machines etc and if I have to buy something I am mentally prepared in advance and pray God that things work out alright.
1 decade ago
New reality of process oriented service and no more man oriented.. like Call Centre/KPO/BPO etc.. Key man the customer facing has limited knowledge and authority and he should do what he asked to do by the Supervisor.... This will make the customer helpless many times which he used to resolve with personal intervention of officials.
1 decade ago
Consumer Care in many companies is a casuality. I pay my annual subcribtion without fail to this DTH company through their distributor. Yet in the mids of the programme there comes aninterruption and announcement advising renewal. When a complaint is made to the distributor they advise me to keep a particular channel alive to resume. By this way i had lost lot of live programmes. Phone calls and threats do not work as they have already received my annual subscribtion. I wonder why the annaul subscribers are not allotted seperate VC numbers and allow them interuption free service.
1 decade ago
Yogesh, you are lucky, you can vent your ire in public..not many people can do that...But the larger point you are making is common..My wife bought a Max handset bcoz it had a service centre in Borivali. When the mobile went kaput, the service centre disappeared...
1 decade ago
Presently this is with most of the companies also specially with insurance companies
k a prasanna
1 decade ago
We purchased M blaze mobile broad internet connectivity from MTS dealer. It was not functioning from day one. We approached the dealer who sold the product to us. We were directed to go to a third party service center in Dadar area, who in-turn gave us some other address in the same area. There were 20 customers of MTS with the same problem as ours. The technician took the instrument inside and after 5 minutes he came back and said that the fault has been rectified. A blatant lie, we came to know after reaching the home, when it did not function. Again after10s of phone calls to the customer service center we were directed to the same shop in Dadar. The people at the center(third party- Spice/Videocon), informed us it will take another 15 days to get it right and no guarantee of trouble free internet connectivity. We are now decided to take up the matter with consumer court.
1 decade ago
Dear friends,
I fully agree with the contents. I recently had similar experience with Nokiacare. I was under the impression that Nokia is a professional organisation. Since the ringtone is not audible while going in Hyderabad traffic I thought they could do something to eliminate the problem. If the basic product itself has this problem the service person should indicate. Instead he said he would change the speaker and make it alright. The charge was Rs 350 for the speaker and Rs 150 for software correction. I had no other way except to pay. After servicing there is no change in performance. In addition memory card would not be scanned there. We have to get it done in some shop where it is done. When I got it done I was told that it will not work and the only way is to change it costing another Rs350. Are these companies professional.? The service centre is not bothered about my complaint. I was asked to drop the letter in some box. God only knows whether it would reach the proper person if there is one. Earlier when ECIL colour TVs were ruling the market their representative used to rectify the problem and guarantee performance. With all the technological advancement we have Service centres are only making money without bothering about the customer who is feeding them. Is Nokia listening?
K B Patil
1 decade ago
If consumer courts were more generous in their fines on erring companies, the companies would have learnt to respect consumers. For instance, for a loss of Rs.1,000 to a consumer, if the company had been forced to shell out 5 to 10 times the amount of loss, they would have perfected the art of servicing customers with a smile.
Ajit Misquitta
1 decade ago
It is obvious that you are claiming for service for a product that has been damaged due to misuse of the product i.e. dropping it and breaking it. The consequences are also obvious that the guarantee will not apply and thus you will have to pay for the broken product and replacement parts. In hindsight it is prudent not to let children play with expensive gadgets if they are not able to take care of it or are unsupervised and also that it is better to invest in a new set than attempt to repair any handsets as the cost of even minor repairs is more than what I pay for my motorbike which is worth three times as much and give me a lot more in value.
Ajit Misquitta
Replied to Ajit Misquitta comment 1 decade ago
Nevertheless it goes without saying that Service Centers need to have a more streamlined process in their dealings with customers and companies must give in large print how to go about claiming service with a feedback form for them to evaluate the service they are supposedly rendering to their customers.
1 decade ago
I have a slightly different story to share. My son took a fancy for an LG Cookie Pep 510. In a few months, its screen stopped accepting touch commands. I immediately took it to the nearest service centre at Tardeo. They agreed to replace the screen FOC but did not have a replacement. But what I liked is their proactiveness. On my request they called up Fort Service Centre and when they confirmed that they have screen in stock, I was given the address of Fort and asked to go immediately there and was told that they will replace it immediately on the spot. I rushed to Fort Service Centre (Behind Capitol Cinema) and though there was quite a lot of rush, I was told to collect my handset after 1-2 hrs. And voila, they indeed replaced it with a new screen and touch wood, everything has been working perfectly well since then.

I have had good experience with my LG refrigerator too where I get prompt service.

I bought a Dell laptop (Studio 15) in Sept 2009 (with 3 yrs. warranty). In Decmber 2009 it's hard disk started showing signs of problems. When I called up their call centre they promptly agreed to replace the hard disk FOC and within 2 days it was done. Right now, it shows that the battery has reached its end of life. I called them up and they are willing to replace it FOC (ofcourse within 1 year as battery replacement is not valid beyond 1 yr). Ofcourse, in comparison to this, my Toshiba laptops (three consecutive for last over 15 yrs) I never had to replace the battery. The last Toshiba was bought in Nov. 2003 and the original battery lasted till Sep 2009.
R Balakrishnan
1 decade ago
Everything is like buying insurance. Till they screw you out of your money, you are the best friend. After that, you can run round in circles trying to break the speed of sound. Every thing is like that. And all marketing divisions are headed by MBA's from IIM or some such institution. Marketing is to sell at any cost. Customer be damned.
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