If you'd like to waste your time; Press 1.

Menu’s for call centres are apparently a modern convenience to help handle our calls better. But better for who? It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s better for me as I find myself randomly stabbing a series of numbers like a lab rat hoping for a biscuit. Today my biscuit’s name is Mandy and although receptive to my problem, I can’t but help to feel I’ve just wasted my time.

To be honest, I know it’s not Mandy’s fault my phone no longer works and I suspect that if she could flick a switch to make it work she would do. Unfortunately I have arrived at this point after a series of phone calls to a number of different call centres.

Speaking to people that have worked on call centres and hearing reports in the media, I can see that a dislike of call centres often results in an irate customer getting abusive with the operator. Who is to blame? At the risk of making a sweeping generalisation I can only conclude that the fault lies squarely at the feet of the call centres and the companies that operate them. Convenience for the call centres requires us to answer a series of questions via our keypad before we even speak to the operator. Now if I thought that it would indeed help me get through to the correct subsection of a company and have the operator ready to help I’d not feel so fed up with them, but it rarely does and I am often still required to answer those same questions all over again.

The irony of the situation is that it is with communications companies that I have recently found myself dealing with. Companies that seem unable to communicate with their customers or themselves. Initially the communication was with Tiscali. A company I would never recommend to anyone else. They are a prime example of a modern service company and their lack of customer service. They have a menu system to get you to the correct department; they also ask you for the number your broadband service is on before you actually get to speak to someone. Practice makes perfect. This rat knows exactly which buttons to press. Biscuit ahoy! We’ve found the technical department, but my biscuit tastes of curry….

Don’t get me wrong, I like curry. A great fan of it. But if my biscuit tastes of it I’m not so impressed. Why? Well when it comes to technical help, I might find it more useful if I could understand them and they could understand me. All credit to them, their English is much better than my Indian but it just isn’t cutting it I’m afraid. Especially when after I struggle I find out that they’re also incompetent. To cut a very long story short I spent the best part of 3 months ringing them every few nights and during that time I was cut off 4 times, put on hold for almost 2 hours, repeatedly told that someone was dealing with the problem and I would be called back within 2 days.

So not only did my biscuit taste of curry, it had gone all soft by the time I got it.

I eventually met Greg. Greg works for Tiscali. Greg keeps his promises. If he says he’ll ring back he will and at roughly the right time too. Greg doesn’t taste of curry and Greg appears to know what he’s doing. Unfortunately the only way you can speak to Greg is by speaking to Ann-Marie in the cancellations department and telling them you want to leave. Greg is not only a none curry flavoured biscuit that’s still crunchy, this mofo’s fucking Taste the Difference top shelf 3rd level.

Unfortunately Greg is surrounded by extra value, basics biscuits. He has trouble getting people within his company to do stuff for him. He’s stuck with people not calling him back, failing to do their job properly and leaving him hanging there. If Mr Taste the Difference can’t get help from his own company how the fuck I am I meant to? Hanging his head in shame he got us our MAC code sorted and then organised a refund for the last 4 months.

Beyond belief we got the refund. Our broadband is now with ADSL24, whose technical support department have in addition to a phone number they have an MSN contact. And it works!

So why am I munching on a biscuit called Mandy? Why is Aurélie on the phone to Tiscali again? Because it would appear there has been a problem in the hand over between Tiscali and BT for our phone calls. Tiscali still think we’re with them, even though they have notes telling them we left over a month ago! Two communications expects apparently can’t. One can’t even talk to itself!

My suggestion is to get all the biscuits into one big tin and shake them up. I reckon the crumbs we’d pour out the other end couldn’t do any worse. If nothing else they’d probably taste nicer on a some kind of apple crumble or similar.


I share your pain, Baron and will be writing up about my recent experience of moving house. The range of response I get from different companies is remarkable.

As for call centres, I hate being on hold and being told, by a computer that "Sorry we can't take your call, it is important to us...". The fact that the company gets a computer to tell me this is a clear indication that my call is not very important at all and they are not very sorry. If they were truly sorry, then they'd employ more people, squeeze the profit margin and deal with my query a bit quicker. Play me music, tell me I'm in a queue, all these things I can understand and don't mind so much. Having a machine apologise on behalf of a human is just an insult. I found it insulting when commuting by train when a broken-voiced announcement would inform me the train is late due to some human error. No, don't get the computer to do it. Get a human to do it, after all, it was a human cock up.

It's as if they are not taking the blame for it. If you got the manager in charge to apologise when some communication failing of his lead to your service being cancelled/cocked up then he'd work a little bit harder to do better - knowing that next time he screwed up, he'd have to apologise again. Take it one step further - get the bastard out onto the platform and apologise in person, rather than leaving it to the computer or a poorly informed staff member who has been given a half-truth to protect the profits of the company.

Thanks for the heads up on Tiscali. I think we might need to start a public 'Corporate Blacklist' of companies we've had trouble with, linking to blog entries such as this.

Great rant, btw, thoroughly enjoyable read!

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