04 April 2006

Hello? Streamyx? Can I Help You?

No one really likes to pick up the phone to call for support. Not in Malaysia anyways. And definitely not when the other side of the line is TMnet. Woe betide you if it’s your Streamyx that has a problem.

And I’m having one such problem now. You see, my $^@!&*% Streamyx isn’t working. I can connect, I can ping sites all over the world, but packets are dropping like flies after an aerial assault of Agent Orange. And it's been dropping packets since late last week.

At first, like most Men are, I thought I’d tinker around and see what the problem might be. It’s good for the ego if I can get to solve the problem, you see. But I’m not such a genius after all. And Streamyx is supposed to be a no-brainer. Once you’ve seen to it that all the configurations are correct, that all the cables are where they should be and that you really have powered on everything, there isn’t very much that is supposed to be able to go wrong.

So, after some hours of grievous harm brought about by constant hair tearing, biting my tongue and chewing off what remains of my finger nails, I decided to steel my resolve, pick up the phone and call the TMnet helpdesk.

So you dial the 1300 number. Then you wait until you get to the IVR (Interactive Voice Response system – I know, I work in this industry) … and go through menus after menus to get to where you wanted to go.

Then you get the pleasure of being serenaded by around 80 iterations of machine announcements telling you not to hang up because you are important and that you will be served shortly, you finally get around speaking to a HUMAN!!!

And then the pain starts. First they seem to rap out their name ….


You see – the trick is to say your name so fast you confuse a potential complainant. Most people who have waited since the last ice age for a human to answer would be so delighted to hear an actual person they would forget to get the name of the person they’re speaking to. And that’s good – it means the agent – opps – I mean the Customer Service Officer gets away with telling you half truths.

Smart people like me will immediately seek to slow down the conversation. And there’s a trick to all this – the speed and therefore, tone of the entire conversation will depend on the next few exchanges. It’s like shadow boxing, really.

“Er. Hi, I’m Moz. What’s your name again?”


“Can you S-P-E-L-L your name?”

When you hear a tone of resignation in their voice, you’ve made it. You’ve made her accept you tone and pace of conversation. Play your cards properly if you want to hold on to your hard won upper hand.

“I have a problem”

“YesSirWeHaveATechnicalProblemCurrentlyInTheKlangValley. WhichCouldBeWhatYouAreExperiencing, Mr Moz”

Ok … these guys are judged by their bosses by the number of calls they can handle. They really rap their way through the conversation if you let them. I mean, if you’ve ever called the TMnet Customer Interaction Center, you’ll notice that half their agents would have made very good Kanye West backup singers if they loose their Manglish accent. Really.

Slow ‘em down. Once you have a problem that needs TMnet to look into and solve, you’re looking at millenniums before your problem will get solved. You’re in no hurry. Engage the Customer Service Officer in a conversation you’re comfortable with.

Get them to somehow admit that you have a problem that is not a larger systemic failure affecting the 600 square kilometers around you. (Hehe, sounds so Matrix, that systemix failure line…). It’s always good to have some attention instead of being lumped together as “ONE OF THOSE” problems’ file. At least they’ll give you a ticket number.

These guys, through the weeks, months and years of practice they get interacting with average Malaysians like you and me do a good job of convincing you that your problem is actually not your own problem. It’s always …


Kota Kinabalu”


“But … Sabah is so big.”


“Opps … I forgot, I’m born in KK but I’m really in Ipoh now”


If you keep going, you’ll realize that Streamyx only works in Kepala Batas, Kedah, certain cities in South America and maybe Batam, Indonesia. You’re out of luck, buddy.

Maybe by some twist of fate you got a nice Customer Service Officer for a change and she agrees to create a ticket. Make sure you repeat the ticket number back to her to double confirm, and make her swear to a God of her choice she’s telling the truth. Check for number transpositions, for alphabets appearing in your ticket number and also for ticket numbers that sounds more like expired lottery ticket numbers. Discretion is advised. And no, tickets aren’t supposed to have numbers such as “TIADANOMBOR”, “KESTUTUP” or “0rangG1LaNaKBukaKes”.

Yay!!! A ticket number. You’d think somebody is going to finally look at your problem and work his ass off trying to make you happy by resolving it. Fat lady ain’t singin’ yet. Keep the cigars, people.

If you ask her about what happens next to the ticket, she’ll probably ask you for a fax number so that she can fax you all 6 pages of fine print accompanying the ticket number. And all the ambiguous KPIs and ETA for resolution. Make sure your toner works. All 6 pages are in size 4 Arial font.

In the meantime, the technicians are having their nice cuppa at a teh tarik establishment far away from your house. Or the server room. Or the equipment room. Point is, they’re not looking into your problem.

They have problem communicating to the Customer Service Officer, who really is more rapping than talking. And since they can’t understand a single damn thing she said, they figured they’re better off having Tongkat Ali coffee on a rainy instead. Hey, I wouldn’t disagree.

And then, everytime you call the Customer Interaction Center to ask about the status of your problem, it sounds like you've just insulted every of their family member. Their voice start to crack. There is audible tension. Adrenalin starts to course through their bloodstream.

And immediately, the Red Book of Excuses is pulled out. Yes, you may not know it, but there's a published book containing every little excuse under the sun. The technician's car broke down. The technician was attacked by a poisonous spider while trying to fix your problem. The entire server room is being powered down for a spring cleaning. The whole world's broadband providers are on strike. The world has started to spin in the opposite direction, causing your packets to stop getting to the Internet. Whatever it is, it's a problem beyond their control.

But take heart. Whatever the problem is which is affecting you, it will one day disappear. Mostly when the good folks at TMnet changes their equipment. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the old set. It’s just time to replace ‘em so that the equipment maker can report to Wall Street a nifty quarterly profit. And walla – you problem goes away with it.

Or when somebody discovers that they’ve removed your configuration last night accidentally during the Akademi Fantasia showing which distracted them.

And surprise!! The people who don’t contact you to update you about the status of your case all through the outage will suddenly call you for the first time in the decade. And asks you if the case can be closed. And for your good feedback.

Why, Hello? How Can I Help You?


bibliobibuli said...

absolutely true! i wasted hours trying to get a solution to a very simple technical problem i could have solved in a few minutes by myyself if they had listened carefully enough and given clear instructions ...

the customer service could be so much better ...

KY said...

the biggest culprit is the KPI on the number of calls they can handle. Somethign like maxis' customer 1-5 rating on the support stuff makes more sense in bringing a good customer support experience.

daisy said...

a network maintenance exercise was carried out from 12.00am through 2.00pm yesterday

moz monster said...

bibliobibuli: Can I call you Book Lover instead? It's easier on the finger =) These guys are expert at stalling and they're not really helpful. Unless the problem is simply loose connections, I think it's generally not worth our time to call them. Sigh ... I you're right - they just don't give you the time needed.

ky: *Rolls out red carpet* ... Nice having you drop by. You hit it right on - customer satisfaction sometimes takes time - no point answering many calls but pissing off every caller.

daisy: And I still have a problem NOW .... *sigh* ... makes you wonder if they know what they're doing ...

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