Call centre

You get up feeling positive. For a start, while it’s still windy, the rain has abated. The dehumidifier has been running all night in the car and there’s going to be some drying, so you run the engine with the front seat heaters on full – yes, there are hidden advantages to all those extras.
You decide to return the bank’s call from yesterday. It seems that First Direct is contacting all overseas customers to demand proof of their overseas address – it’s about money laundering I guess, and probably in light of Britain’s relationship with ISIS. They won’t accept scanned copies of passports. They want notorised copies. They want utility bills – didn’t anyone tell them that the utility no long use paper?
For anyone not in Ireland, notorisation means getting an appointment with a solicitor who will charge a fee per signature. Now the alternative in the hi-tech world which First Direct lives in is to make an appointment for a video phone call during which you have to download software and then hold up your passport to the camera so they can take a picture of you holding it. Presumably today’s newspaper in the background might be handy too – no reference to ISIS beheadings please.
So I called and the polite but passive-aggressive girl told me there was an eight minute wait for the department concerned. I am impatient by nature (really?) and so I chose to ask for a call back instead. Given that this is the fourth or fifth attempt I have made to satisfy their requirements, I thought that fair enough. Now, it seems they are understaffed and it is Christmas after all, so she let me know that it was going to be in January when they would be able to call me back. So what do I care? It’s their requirement we’re trying to satisfy here, not mine. But, she said, they will be suspending some of my bank account access until I have the video call! WTF as they say in the old US of A.
At this point I lost it. They can’t call me till January. I have to wait in an eight minute phopne queue (yes, time is somehow much more valuable when waiting than when watching Antiques Roadshow) to speak to someone for something that is for them not me, and I will be penalized if I wait till January. Then she says “It was an eight minute wait, sir (passive-aggressive emphasis on the ‘sir’) and we’ve been talking for four minutes. OK, I say, so if I join the queue, I’ll have only four minutes to wait. No, she says, the queue only starts when I transfer you (surprise, surprise). So I now have a choice: wait till January, when I’ll be in the jungles of Cambodia and not in a wifi zone, or hang on for eight minutes for the right department. I give up and agree to wait, wondering whether they really do record phone calls and whether she’s high-fiving her supervisor for a well handled call.
Eight minutes later and several times listening through Jingle Bells (all four verses), a guy comes on who is polite, considerate and friendly. I explain my frustration and he sympathises. His department has clearly had a lot of shit for this, which probably explains why they’re short staffed.
OK, so shall I book you in for your video call in January? he asks. You can, but I’ll be in the jungle till 23rd. Well, he says, that’s fine, because the first available appointment for a call is 26th.
Wow. OK, but I point out that in the meantime, I’ll be mightily pissed off if my account is restricted while I’m travelling, given that it is their resource problems which have led to this delay, and not my intransigence (intransigent, me?). Yes, he sympathises completely (no edge in his voice) and if I’d like to hold on, he can see whether they can facilitate me – good training, you see – and then he comes back. It’s fine sir (no emphasis on the ‘sir’ from him), we won’t be imposing any restrictions on accounts till the end of February. So, the bitch was lying to wind me up!
I was almost going to ask to be put back onto her so I could rant , or perhaps ask to speak to customer services complaints to point out that passive aggression is just not reasonable, and lying to make the customer jumpy is a form of bullying. But then I realized that I’m starting to become a grumpy old git with nothing better to do than make a lousy job harder for someone who had probably had to put up with the heightened security on her journey, or her mother-in-law’s miserable complaints about her lumbago or whatever. It really isn’t fair on the people who spend their days on the phone to unhappy customers. It really isn’t an issue. The day is at least dry.


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