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Is this the world’s worst call centre?

Bad customer service in the UAE

Well, I want to reverse a transfer from my Visa account. You want to lick an axe murderer from Crawley? No, I want to reverse a transfer from my Visa account. Ah. Please hold.

December 17, 2012 2:33 by



By Alexander McNabb

The amazing tale of John McAfee that has played out over the past few weeks started with him hiding from Belizeian police by digging a hole in the sand and hiding in it with a cardboard box over his head.

It’s an image that played in my mind this morning as I listened to the series of mildly farty whooshes on the line. A drug-addled maniac buried up to his neck in the sand with a box over his head, cowering and gibbering softly to himself in the middle of a South American beach. I would rather have been in McAfee’s sweat-darkened sandles than in my own shoes, stuck on the end of an IP line to Dumbabad or wherever it is HSBC’s call centre is located.

Is HSBC Dubai’s call centre the worst in the world? I find it hard to think of a contender, let alone someone who has misunderstood customer service to the degree they believe this ‘service’ is fit for purpose.

I spoke at the Middle East Call Centre Conference last year. Uber-geek Gerald Donovan had suggested I take to the stage, place a cassette recorder playing ‘Greensleeves’ on the podium then leave for twenty minutes, returning to say “Sorry to have kept you waiting, but I was busy helping another conference.” I am ashamed to tell you I didn’t have the bottle to do it. It would, indeed, have been a career high.

In a fit of finger trouble, Sarah had credited our Visa account instead of transferring between two of our current accounts. So I had to get them to reverse the transfer. It was not possible to do this immediately, before the transaction was posted at the close of business, apparently. I had to wait for the funds to clear and then simply reverse the transfer. Simple!

So I wait until the funds clear then call telephone banking. Wait a moment while they identify a random species of mandrake parasite. Now key in the last six digits of your bank account. This number is never recognised by the system, so you just key in any random number. Now your ten digit phone banking number, your twelve digit bank account number or your best estimate of the number of craters on the moon. And now your date of birth in DD/MM/YYYY format followed by the hash key. And now your six digit phone banking number.

By now you’re exhausted. But at least you can dial one for card services then star for a human being. And – look into my eyes – you’re through to Dumbabad. How can HSBC help you today? Well, I want to reverse a transfer from my Visa account. You want to lick an axe murderer from Crawley? No, I want to reverse a transfer from my Visa account. Ah. Please hold.

The music on hold is inaudible in the whoosh and swish of the IP line. Occasionally IP artefacts cause strange auditory phenomena like eddies in the astral plane. In the sea of wow and flutter you can occasionally hear snatches of music, a slightly manic-sounding, repetitive jangle not unlike a Goan Jamaican steel band overlaid with a recording of Paul Young’s bassist. It fades in and out maddeningly.

And we’re back. I have to transfer you to internet banking for that, sir. Fine, let’s do it. Is there anything else I can do to help you today? No thank you. Can I just confirm your mobile number? Yes. Your PO Box? Look, could you just transfer me, please?

The music on hold is inaudible in the whoosh and swish of the IP line. Occasionally IP artefacts cause strange auditory phenomena like eddies in the astral plane. In the sea of wow and flutter you can occasionally hear snatches of music, a slightly manic-sounding, repetitive jangle not unlike a Goan Jamaican steel band overlaid with a recording of Paul Young’s bassist. It fades in and out maddeningly.

I’m on hold for a subjective eternity. Card services. Hi, I want to reverse a transfer from my Visa account. You want to lick an axe murderer from Crawley? No, I want to reverse a transfer from my Visa account. Ah. Hold on.

The music on hold is inaudible in the whoosh and swish of the IP line. Occasionally IP artefacts cause strange auditory phenomena like eddies in the astral plane. In the sea of wow and flutter you can occasionally hear snatches of music, a slightly manic-sounding, repetitive jangle not unlike a Goan Jamaican steel band overlaid with a recording of Paul Young’s bassist. It fades in and out maddeningly.

Right. Umm, you can’t do that. Yes I can, I’ve done it before. Hold on a second, I’ll transfer you to the relevant team. But…

The music on hold is inaudible in the whoosh and swish of the IP line. Occasionally IP artefacts cause strange auditory phenomena like eddies in the astral plane. In the sea of wow and flutter you can occasionally hear snatches of music, a slightly manic-sounding, repetitive jangle not unlike a Goan Jamaican steel band overlaid with a recording of Paul Young’s bassist. It fades in and out maddeningly.

Sorry to keep you holding for so long. The agent you need to talk to isn’t picking up, I’ll just transfer you to the relevant team. HANG ON before you transfer me, who is ‘the relevant team’? Card services. But they transferred me to you. They’re the ones you need. Fine.

The music on hold is inaudible in the whoosh and swish of the IP line. Occasionally IP artefacts cause strange auditory phenomena like eddies in the astral plane. In the sea of wow and flutter you can occasionally hear snatches of music, a slightly manic-sounding, repetitive jangle not unlike a Goan Jamaican steel band overlaid with a recording of Paul Young’s bassist. It fades in and out maddeningly.

Card services, hello.  I want to reverse a transfer from my Visa account. I have been on the phone for thirty minutes now for this one simple thing. You want to lick an axe murderer from Crawley? No, I want to reverse a transfer from my Visa account. Sure, no problem. There, done.

Done?

Yes, done. Anything else I can help you with today?



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4 Comments

  1. chaz on December 18, 2012 6:05 am

    that is the HSBC that we all know and hate.
    Nothing changes, it just gets worse and they do nothing bout it.
    HSBC: Holding, Shuttling, Berating Customers.

     
  2. MANAV RUPANI on December 18, 2012 1:08 pm

    what’s new? this was a really easy one, quite pleasant I would say, compared to what I have been through, and I have a Premier account !

     
  3. Twinkle on December 18, 2012 5:47 pm

    That’s why I left HSBC. But sadly I’m now back with them through no choice of my own, thanks to Lloyds selling out! bah!

     
  4. Grrr... on January 7, 2013 12:17 pm

    My experience was so bad that I recorded four phone calls so that I could complain. I emailed the UK headquarters and began: “Please God, don’t just forward this to your Middle East customer service department…”. I then duly received a reply from the Middle East customer service department. Inspirational.

     

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