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a blog by Chris Barrow

A funny thing happened during my call centre chat

I have a large prejudice against call centres and call-waiting systems. “If you would like to solve your problem, press 1.” “If you would really like to solve your problem, press 2.” “Thank you for pressing those buttons- all of our customer service operatives are busy at the moment. Your call is important to us – so that’s why we commissioned Vivaldi to compose The Four Seasons. Here is The Spring again.” And then, of course, you reach a human being who, after listening to your problem tells you that it’s not their department and, whilst redirecting you (via The Summer) cuts you off. Is it me? Or does that whole process drive you nuts? Happily, in January 2006, I decided to end that toleration in my life. Since then my professional support team and my personal concierge have sat in those systems and sorted it all out for me – superb. There is always the exception, when my desire for haste leads me back into the cardiac arrest world of corporate customer service. Yesterday I logged on to check my bank balances via the internet. Internet banking is cool. In the bad old days I spent money, suffered buyer’s remorse and then faced the consequences at the end of the month when the bank statement arrived in the mail.

Now I get to run the whole Smorgasbord of emotions in real time.

Anyways – I entered my user name and password three times, without luck – and then The Matrix blocked me out.

Expecting a knock on the door from Agent Smith, I decided I had better get the problem solved.

Computer said “ring telephone number 08700 summat and report “error 39″ (sounds like Hanger 59!).”

So I rang the number and, to my delight, heard the following:

“Welcome to HSBC internet banking services. To reset your security passwords please press 1 – for all other enquiries, please press 2.”

Now that was a simple choice – perhaps there is hope?

I pressed 1 – and immediately got through to a real live human being!

In India.

Now before we go another step – let me make something very clear.

I DO NOT do xenophobia or racism or any other -ism.

My only concern is that HSBC bank seem to have moved all of their customer service to the Indian sub-continent – and that creates a problem for me only in that I struggle to understand the accent.

My Asian friends and clients are from the UK and they all speak with the local regional dialect.

I can tell the difference between Bolton and Bury – but not between Bombay and Calcutta.

Happily, the eloqution of my new friend was excellent.

“Hello, this is HSBC internet banking customer service, my name is Murhta, how can I help you?”

And after a quick confirmation of my name, date of birth, favourite movie, memorable sexual experience, place of birth, blood group, bank account number, expiry date (the debit card, not me) and high school grades – she reset my account and the whole thing sprang back to life – yippee!

Then, instead of “is there anything else I can help you with today Mr Barrow – thank you for calling HSBC.”

She broke ranks.

“Mr Barrow – I notice you run The Business Coaching Company? What type of coaching do you do?”

I replied (as always) “I help the owners of dental practices to make more profit in less time.”

“How interesting” she said “my brother runs a dental practice in England – I know it’s not usual on a call like this – but would you mind if I sent him to your web site to have a look around and get some details?”

“I’d be delighted” said I – and gave her the details.

Then she did her exit script.

I put the phone down and internally cheered for Murhta – what a nice lady.

What a wonderful bank.

How happy I felt.

As Joe Gandolfo said in the 60’s – “selling is 98% understanding people, 2% technical skill”.

Murhta used her initiative – which means that HSBC hadn’t stifled it.

Although somehow I have the image of Murhta last night, in a blank-walled room, tied to a chair with a trickle of blood from her lip to her chin, facing Agent Smith.

“We’ve been watching you for some time now Murhta………….”

I hope not.

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