26th Sep 2017
I lost my cellphone in London last week and four days later, still don’t have one in India. Losing the cellphone is a traumatic experience and my Indian Telco, just makes it more traumatic.
As soon as I landed in India, I trotted off to the Airtel counter at the airport, just to check if I can actually get a new Sim card there. Very helpful blokes but the answer is no. We cannot do it here; you need to go to a retail center. Cool.
I go home and the jet lag hits me and the next day I have early morning meeting. So I tell my office folks that I need to leave early and in the evening at 5 PM sharp, land at the Airtel retail center. It is bustling with activity. The sprightly young lad tells me no problem and points me in the vague direction of another equally sprightly young lad, who chooses to ignore me for the first 15 minutes and then turns to me desultorily. I explain my problem and he checks his screen. ‘Oh, but we cannot do it here sir, yours in a Karnataka number’. Yeah right, but if I can do everything, including paying my bills on time from anywhere in India, why cant I change my Sim. In any case, he tells me to contact the Airtel helpline number from my phone. Interestingly, NO (repeat NO) Airtel outlet has a hotline to the helpline. After successfully waiting for 10 minutes, I am told that I will first have to activate my old Sim (of the stolen phone) and then the Delhi retailer can give me a new Sim. When I ask as to whether the London thief can do any mischief in the interim, I am met with a shrug from the Airtel execs, don’t know, don’t care.
Now begins the process of getting me a new Sim. It is quite simple and complicated. Simple because, these Airtel chaps now have a shiny tablet with a fingerprint scanner and note down the Aadhar card and everything happens online.. Complicated because, the damn fingerprint scanner does not scan fingerprints efficiently. I get my thumb scanned about 8 (yes, eight) times before that exec nods his head and gives me my Sim.. After I insert the Sim, he turns to me and says, ‘oh, by the way, that is a bad Sim, let me give you a new Sim’..ok, another 8 thumb scans, after all.
Now he gives me a winning smile.. “It will get activated in the next four hours” and I trot off home sending mails to all the nearest and dearest that I am back in the mobile world in four hours.
Except that I am not. After a full 13 hours of ‘no activation’, I call the Airtel helpline again an after waiting for another 10 minutes, a helpful exec tells me that ‘my SIM activation request has not yet come’. The chaps in the retail shop simply forgot to register my Sim for activation! Ok, now what do I do? Please go to any Airtel retail shop and they will get it done in the next 30 minutes and you don’t have to go yourself, you can send someone with your Aadhar card (this is verbatim). My wife is insistent “you have to go to the same shop, don’t believe this call center people”. Of course, I am much more worldly wise and send off my colleague with my Aadhar card in Gurgaon, about 2 kms from the global HQ of the company only to be told that the activation request has to come from the same retailer and that it cannot be done by anyone else. It is now 15 hours since my new SIM is installed.
Once again, with a sense of loss, I call the wife and tell her to go the Airtel retailer. I can almost see her smile.
She calls me on my landline (remember, I still don’t have a mobile phone) and tells me:
- The chap who sold me the SIM is not there.
- No one else knows about the ‘case’.
- It normally takes, according to the senior person in the shop, 24 to 48 hours for an activation to be done.
Now, I have lost it. I trot off emails to the CEO of Airtel and the Head of Customer experience (they actually have one, can you believe it?). I speak to the retail guy from my wife’s phone and he apologizes and says he will try and get it done within 24 to 48 hours. But why did your call center tell me 30 minutes? I am sorry sir. Why did your exec tell me 4 hours? I am sorry Sir. He is really sorry and I believe him.
In the meantime, one of my customers calls me from the US on Skype. Even he cannot believe what is happening. ‘Unreal, unreal’ is all he can say.
So now, after 18 hours of getting a new Sim, I don’t have a phone and am sitting in front of my screen with a blank look.
I probably need trauma care.
Just in case I needed more black humor, my partner reminds me “did you know that we are also their vendor partners and customers on the business side?”
I really need to have my head examined.
(An extract from the travel diary of L. Subramanyam, the CEO of Trivone - the company that owns Techtree.com and its sister publications. The views expressed here are his own and may or may not be shared by the publication.)
Why It's Better To Lose One's Sanity Than One's CellPhone
A diary extract from a cellphone user on customer experience with Telcos
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