(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Customer services is getting more and more interesting.
Take this phone call for example. I call this airline and am faced with a few simple options. After crossing this initial hurdle, I am kept on hold while some recorded voice informs me about the airline's great advantages. After what seems like ten minutes, I'm posed a second round of options. This time, my choices are wider and complicated. I zero in on two out of the eight but by the time I listen to all eight, I forget which ones I had made a mental note of. So I go through all the options again and choose number four. It doesn't meet my case, so I try option six which turns out to be suitable. I get to talk to an agent. He greets me effusively; I am after all, a priority client. Cleverly, he has already got my name on his screen from the frequent flier number I had keyed in.
"Good morning! Thank you for calling! Am I speaking to Mr. Pat.. Patti er ""
I wait patiently. I'm used to this. With expanded initials, I have a long name. "It's ok," I tell him, "I have a booking. I need to change it. You can call me Bhaskar."
"Mr. B-bushkaar .. yes, that's better. Thank you!"
"I have this booking on the 8th of May for my family. The others want to come back a week later. Can you do that for me, please?"
"The booking reference please?"
"Er ..I don't have that on me right now."
"The ticket number?"
"No, not that either. Sorry. Can't you search by name? B for Bombay ..H for er .. for ""
"Sorry sir. I can't search by name. I need either the ticket number or the booking reference."
"Well okay, I will call you back with that info. Can I ask for you specifically?"
"No sir. Your call may be directed to either Egypt, Karachi or Philippines. So you have to talk to the agent who picks it up."
I am slightly flummoxed with this last piece of information. Mulling over it, I find the booking reference number and call again. It is a lady this time.
"Thank you for calling! Am I speaking to Mr. Patma ..Patty.."
"Yes. This is Bhaskar. Look I already called before, but I didn't have the reference number then. Here it is. I want my family to return a week later, please."
"Please bear with me. Would you like to listen to some music in the meantime?"
"No, it's okay."
There was a long silence. Initially, I had the sound of some keys being pressed, then even that died down. "Hello?" I said.
"Yes, I'm here. Would you prefer the music?"
Some instrumental music follows. Two minutes I hear her voice. "Hello!" I say excitedly. "Hello" she says a little apologetically. "I'm afraid I have to put you on hold again." I sigh heavily. And wait.
She gets back with some good news. "Yes, tickets are available" she says. "But there will be a charge and I will need your wife's credit number and code."
"B-but I don't have it with me!"
"Then I can't make the change."
"You can debit my card."
"Sorry, we can only debit hers. It's a security issue."
"What's the issue? I'm offering to have my own card debited."
"Sorry sir, these are policy matters decided by the management."
"Well, I guess nothing can be done without her card?"
"That's correct, sir. Is there anything else you'd like us to help you with?"
"Thank you for calling sir, and have a great day!"
P G Bhaskar is the author of 'Corporate Carnival' (Harper Collins) and 'Jack Patel's Dubai Dreams' (Penguin, India)