I was doing my summer internship at JSPL Gurgaon during the month of April and May 2015. Gurgaon is a well sophisticated cyber hub for all service sectors and corporate headquarters. It is especially known for its high cost of living and rapid metro that covers the entire IT park round the clock and connecting it the metro station. Though it is not ideal to mention that Gurgaon is safe for travelling with liquid cash yet I do not carry much with me. I try to maintain my cash in hand as lean as possible by utilizing metro card, company bus service and black colored share auto. I use the ATM service twice a week so that I could replenish my pocket for daily expense. Apart from 20 story buildings and rapid metro screeching between skyscrapers, Gurgaon is also known for its Chicken biryani and katti roll. Hence sikenderpur metro station will always be final get-down station though Huda city center was my stopping. A half plate chicken biryani, katti roll and onion dosa at south Indian road side shop forms my usual evening schedule.
It happened on 25th May 2015. I was getting down at sikenderpur metro station and I went for ATM near DLF city court shopping mall. I used my SBI atm card for withdrawing money. The ATM machine was not the usual swiping system. It pulls the card inside for processing. I let my card go and was waiting for the machine to process. I was waiting patiently like booking a tatkal ticket from IRCTC website. The machine took much time that tested my patience. I started knocking the ATM buttons for acknowledgement. Sometimes restlessness brings out the stupidity in us just like we press harder the TV remote button when it doesn’t work properly knowing the fact that extra force applied on the button is never going to reap any incremental benefit. The card was taken from the inside and got collected in a tray. I could able to see my card through the slot with which we insert our ATM card for accessing our account. I tried to peep further but I failed. By that time my weird actions attracted the security. I found it difficult to make him understand with my broken Hindi. He replied me that card once card stuck cannot be retrieved. He further instructed me to block the card ASAP and apply for a fresh one.
The alternative seemed to be infructuous to me. My SBI ATM card registered at Vellore, 150 kms from Chennai, branch got stuck in a HDFC ATM at Gurgaon. Fortunately current banking service is so user friendly that blocking a card takes minutes for security reasons but availing a new card takes days. Also I need to go to the concerned branch, get a token number and patiently wait for my turn. I need to submit a new form duly filled by me along with my ID proof. After a fortnight I have to personally reach the bank and validate myself by showing necessary identity to get my new card and password thereafter.
My schedule is so tight that I had another week training in Gurgaon and thereafter a 4 days holiday is available before I admit myself to the institute. With this limited time it is not possible for me to reach the bank personally as I need to travel from Delhi to Trichy, my hometown, and from Trichy to Vellore, then from Vellore to Trichy, Trichy to Chennai, Chennai to Delhi and Delhi to Kashipur. Merely reiterating this hectic and complex plot of travel itself found nauseating to me and hence it was impossible to get new card. I need to somehow manage to get back my old card.
I came down to HDFC bank during working hours and complained to the concerned manager. He directed me to a last counter. I explained the madam about the mishap and my inability to get a new card. She directed me to customer care booth inside the bank.
I lifted the receiver and it dialed automatically to the concerned customer care. The sweet automated lady voice welcomed me addressing that I have called to the world’s best customer care service. The voice directed me to press 1 for English, 3 for ATM card services, 6 for lost card services, 1 for additional information and 9 for connecting me to a real human. I explained her the entire story and she was patiently listening to me.
“Surely the best customer service in the world” I said to myself by the time I completed my story.
She: “Sir, please tell me your account number?”
Me: “What? Madam I hope you understand my story. I don’t own an account in your bank. My SBI ATM card got stuck in your ATM services.”
She: after a long pause “Sir, please provide your registered mobile number”.
Me: “Madam, I said I am not a registered customer of your service”
She: after a long pause “Sir, we need your mobile number”
Me: Told my number
She: “Sir, your number is not in our data base”
Me: Started to simmer from within but controlled my consciousness. “Obviously it won’t be because I am not your registered customer who owns an account in your banking services. I said I lost my ATM card in your ATM services.”
She: After a long pause, “sir your card number?”
Me: told my card number
She: “Sir your card number does not belongs to HDFC”
Me: took a long breath “I know that. My ATM card belongs to SBI bank”
She: “Sir, shall I block your card”
Me: by this time I understood that she never listened to my story but she is getting herself prepared with her trained set of questions and gave a long pause to her adulatory nerves until I complete. I decided to limit my conversation and started delivering what she wanted. “No”.
She: “What shall I do sir?”
Me: “I want you to return it back to the bank annexed with the ATM”
She: “May I seek your permission to put this call on hold so that I can verify from my side?”
It took her 3 minutes to return my call back.
She: “Sir, you have lost your card on 25th of May”
Me: I doubly confirmed that she never listened to my story “Yes”
She: “May I know in which ATM you lost the card”
Me: I thought she was cross verifying the details with what she found while the call was on hold. “
DLF city court, sikenderpur, nearby by HDFC bank with IFSC code HDFC0001719”
DLF city court, sikenderpur, nearby by HDFC bank with IFSC code HDFC0001719”
She: “How many HDFC branches are there in sikenderpur?”
Me: I found this question totally irrelevant and foolish. “Madam, I do not have the time to search for how many HDFC banks are there in sikenderpur. But I do have provided you the bank with its IFSC code which I think is unique to every bank”.
By this time she stopped replying. I could hear keyboard typing sounds and coffee sipping sounds from the other end. I kept saying “Hello” with a consistent tempo and low enough not to annoy fellow people in the bank. I heard laughing and giggling sounds from the other end.
After another 3 minutes she came to the call.
She: “thanks for patiently waiting while I kept you on hold”
Me: now I realized the entire scene. She actually thought that she kept me on hold and she started relaxing herself by that time. I have read somewhere that every single data of customer service is captured that if a helpline employee does not attend a call more than three ring the calls get automatically connected to higher level authority. Also when a call is put on hold for more than a stipulated time that calls get triggered to higher authority. Now I realize that she is utilizing her opportunities to chit chat and relax because she should attend my call before three ring and should not put my call hold for more than 3 minutes I suppose. And it has been more than 10 minutes of phone conversation and she still has not understood my intention of calling them.
Me: “May I ask you what you verified while my call was on hold?”
She: complete silent from her end.
Me: I started saying “hello” in a continuous and controlled tempo.
She: she started talking with someone on the other end and after sometime she resumed with a little irritated tone. “Sir, I am not able to clearly hear what you are saying”
Me: I decided not to breakdown. “Madam, I don’t know if that’s true while I could able to hear your conversations over there”
She: she went back to limbo again. There was a long pause from her side. “Sir, May I know what exactly you want us to do?”
Me: “I request you to deliver the card to the bank nearby so that it will be easy for me to collect”.
She: “Ok sir we will deliver it to the nearby bank thanks for calling”
Me: “Hello, how do you ensure me that you registered this conversation”
She: “Sir, I am not able to understand”
Me: Of course she cannot. It was my mistake to expect sudden smartness from her. “Madam, I want the complaint reference ID”
She: “you want a complaint reference ID?” in a surprised tone.
She started asking my entire details from the first. Which means she has noted nothing from the beginning. Those typewriting sounds I heard where not for me. And it also means that she gave me blind commitments that I will get my card back. She managed to generate a complaint ID and promised me that it will be cleared in 7 working days.
Banks have 6 working days in a week which means my complaint will be done on the day I leave Gurgaon. I requested her to expedite but still she said that their maximum cap is 7days and that she can try to complete it before that. I even got a text message saying that my complaint ID was #DELC0515217297.
Every day I used to pass by the ATM and check for my card and it was still visible through the slot. On 28th May the card was no more visible. I was happy that during money refilling my card was taken from the ATM and probably it would have been given to the bank. I went to the bank and enquired about the ATM and to my astonishment the bank did not receive any ATM card. I called the customer care again and enquired the current status against my complaint ID.
It was no surprise to me that the same lady attended my call and I had the most boring conversation ever had. I lost hope and left the bank. After two days I got a call from one of their service providers regarding my complaint. The voice said that my ATM card was not available in that ATM while the refilled. I decided not to waste time with these people in explaining him from the start. The worst part is he thanked me for contacting their customer service providers and was very much overwhelmed that he completed the task well within 7 days.
The card which was visible to me through naked eye is found lost while refilling. Which means my communication did not actually reached the concerned person who is refilling the ATM and when they did not find the ATM card they declared the card is missing.
Such a reputed bank has a poor or probably outdated system of customer satisfaction monitoring system employed by highly under trained or poorly qualified staffs. Adding oil to the fire the bank still claims themselves as one of the best customer service bank in the world.
Customer service has become vital in all industries and is critically important with service industries like banks. Banks like these with mind blowing tag lines that attracts customer’s attention but poorly satisfying with improper system and under equipped staffs will definitely be an oxymoronic combination to their tag lines.