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Where's the customer service, dude?




reliance customer service indiaphoneMy experiences with Reliance Indiaphone and the parallel universe of Reliance Infocom customer service 

Disclaimer: I do not know whether it is Reliance or me at fault. I do not know because on the *366 customer service number, I always end up talking to a shudh-hindi speaking customer representative, while my preferred language of communication is English. 

The love story - love saga - starts almost 2 months back in our own regular work-a-day universe. From there, the story moved to meta-communication through primordial ether, a short but lively visit to the Reliance Customer Service Universe (near the Restaurant At the end of the Universe), back to our middle-class universe and finally ended in ether-based communication again. 

First, quick snapshots of my initial weeks after receiving the Reliance Indiaphone. This was the first time I came in touch with Reliance while being aware of it, though some tell me Reliance is everywhere, even in the air we breathe. 

Snapshot 1 (Week 1 & 2) : People who can't get through to me on my Reliance phone call up my cell and abuse me. I take it. I take it for a competitive marketplace, the destruction of BSNL and MTNL, a level playing field for the telecom sector. I take it for Dhurubhai Ambani, I take it for all the capitalists in the world. It's easier to take abuse if when you think you a reborn Adam Smith at the frontlines of a new telecom/capitalist revolution.

Snapshot 2 (Week 3): I get an SMS saying "Your usage is high, please pay an interim amount of Rs 1000 plus at the Reliance Webworld outlet." I ignore it. What high usage?? 10 local calls a week, 4 STD calls a week, 1 hour a day of internet is high usage? Come on, this is Mumbai, not Bihar. I almost feel like my miserly pop is in kahoots with Reliance to keep me from spending.

Snapshot 3 (Week 4, 5 etc): I keep getting SMSes regularly warning me to pay up the interim amount. I do not. Why should I? When I receive the bill, I pay up the amount, I reason to myself. 

Snapshots over. 

Summary of what happened thenceforth:

1) First bill amount - local calls + STD + internet usage is Rs 2100. Very reasonable. A little wary of the interim ransom amount warnings, I pay up Rs 3000 instead - just to communicate that I have more money than you can take from me, HEH HEH HEH.

2) I come back home, and there is an SMS waiting for me. Pay up interim amount of Rs 4000... !!! I ignore this one. The the SMSs stop and my STD stops too. 

And I pick up the phone and dial *366. My voice travels through Reliance-trademarked ether and reaches the English guy who tells me that I better go make the interim payment to get my STD back. Explaining to him that I have paid my bills, and fully intend to pay any further bills, cuts no ice. Questions on how come my minimal usage of Rs 400 worth of local calls, Rs 600 worth of STD calls and one hour per day of internet usage amounts to high usage falls on deaf ears.

I go to www.relianceinfo.com and check out the customer feedback section. I can either type out a one paragraph mail or have to upload an attachment. I choose the latter. I write down my sorrows in MS Word and upload it. No response for two weeks!

Time to personally enter the Reliance Customer Service Universe, I decide. I locate the nearest Reliance Webworld. The Webworld exists in its own parallel universe, pretty close to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Outside the Reliance Customer Service Universe entry-point in Vashi, I encounter the first alien. The alien has blocked a human from entering the parallel universe. Sorry sir, this place is open till 8 PM only, and now its 8:05 PM. The human gets frustrated, declares that he has not made his travel encountering the various dangers of traveling through time to be denied admittance. The alien is unperturbed, and displays considerable hostility by actively exercising its vocal chords and making various loud sounds. The human is persistent, and manages an entry. I sneak in alongside.

The universe itself is an interesting place. First thing you notice is a food counter. I almost thought I had landed up at the Restaurant at the end of the Universe or an Udipi hotel by mistake till I saw the Reliance customer service counters in a corner.

Near the toilet (it looked like one - I am not sure if aliens pee) I saw two aliens negotiating world peace by describing each other as sister-fucking aliens and mother-fucking aliens. If there is one thing that is common throughout the universe, I have long learnt, is that whether or not aliens have mothers or not, they abuse each other just the same. Perhaps its watching too much Earth TV. 

A typical day at the reliance Customer Service Universe

Reliance customer service universe

At the counters, multiple aliens are entertaining themselves. Of course, they are talking to the humans too, but their eyes are glazed as if they are in two universes at the same time. That is quite possible, as their boss too has decided to be present in both the Political meta-universe and the Business meta-universe recently. Trickle-down theory seems to be at work, and probably it works more efficiently at the Reliance Customer Service Universe. I am impressed by the capability of Reliance's customer service department in training them so well.

Almost all humans are looking variously bitter, angry, red hot, white hot and incandescent. They make loud sounds and angry gestures, and some repeatedly declare that the Reliance Customer Service Universe must be closed down. The aliens reply monotonously by reproducing verbal answers through their frontal air outlets. I wonder if they are communicating below humanly discernible sound frequencies using their rear outlets. But then, as a human, I wouldn't even know if they have rear outlets.

I listen in on one conversation between a particularly interesting alien and human. The alien is apparently female, and is attired in black T-shirt, black trousers and black hair. The alien is not too tall - about 5 feet, but I suspect it could be because it might be sitting on its rear single leg and could very well be taller if it chose to stand up. Its eyes are inordinately large, and are painted with black ink. The human screams and shouts, declares that the parallel Reliance customer service universe should be permanently shut down and flushed down a toilet blackhole. The alien is not impressed. When the human persists, it just left, almost presents its rear to the human (why? I was at a loss) and declares - "Sir, I can't talk to you!" The human is left to stew in his own juices. Are Reliance customer services aliens trained to say that? I have no idea. What does it mean? Do all customer services universes respond in a similar fashion? I am enthralled. The human is stunned, and fumes standing there alone.

I approach a milder looking alien, who directs me to a desk manned (alienned?) by someone apparently human in a salwar-kurta. Hesitantly, I sit down and explain my problem. The alien/ human seems to comprehend. Yes, I have to make the payment. Yes, it is better if I make it by cash. Yes, my usage does not seem to be high. But, no, I have to follow the Reliance Customer Service Universe practice, and pay up. A different universe, a different logic. A passing by green-shirted alien (possibly female) intervenes, re-emphasizes the rule condescendingly, and walks away. 

Can I make the payment now? No sir, its past 8  PM. I explain that I will have to make this dangerous journey to this universe again, could you please include the amount in my bill? After all, I have paid my first bill on time. I am not a cheat, or a beggar. The human/alien seems to believe me, but expresses helplessness. I am asked to return on Sunday, a day when I usually prefer my own universe, however small it is.

So here I am. I will make this trip again to the parallel universe, kow-tow before the security alien outside, and pay up the interim amount in Earth-money. And pray to the higher beings to please return my Indiaphone STD. Will keep you pathetic single-universe-inhabiting humans posted. 






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