An open letter to Indian carriers – make it easy for users to love you

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My relationship with my carrier of 11 years has been a rocky one in the past few months. Staying faithful to a carrier for over a decade is a difficult task, especially with rivals tempting me with better plans and friends rubbing it in my face when my phone had no coverage while theirs had four bars each. It is not easy. Yet, I stayed faithful. Yes, I was being tempted, but to cement my faith I got myself another connection from my carrier. And that’s when things started going downhill.

It started with me finding out that my carrier was cheating on me – it had been overcharging me Rs 300 a month for a data plan that no longer existed. The foundation of my 10-years of faith in the carrier was being shaken and a few verbal volleys later, the carrier changed my data plan but refused to refund the money it had overcharged me for more than two years. That’s when I realized that it was a one-sided relationship.

We kept having a few squabbles every few weeks since then, one of the latest being getting harassed by spam messages and calls, whose frequency increased after I publicly complained on Twitter. But the biggest shock was yet to come.

After returning from Computex on Thursday, I realized that something was wrong with my secondary number (prepaid) that had been active for over a year. I called on that number to find out that it was “temporarily out of service.” The customer care executive told me that they had deactivated the number because my paperwork while getting the connection (a year ago, mind you) wasn’t complete. Not convinced, I asked what was missing, I was told that while all my papers were complete but a signature at one of the many places a subscriber is required to sign was missing.

Essentially, my carrier deactivated my number without intimating me for something their representative forgot to get on the paperwork. To top things, they cannot retrieve the original paperwork and get my signature on it and insist I do all the paperwork again, visit their store and fill the form again if I want to reactivate that number. They can send a person home to collect my bill payments but they cannot send someone over to help me remain their subscriber. So much for being a subscriber for 11 years.

And it isn’t just me. Take the case of my friend, who also happens to be a subscriber of the same carrier. All she wants is that the carrier send her monthly bills so she can pay them. She refuses to pay them till she gets a bill, which I think is only fair. Yet, she gets hounded by the carrier every day with calls and messages. They finally sent a representative to her house to sort the problem, but it turns out he was a network guy who was told she had some network-related problem at her place. How daft can one be?

Talking about being daft, I think the folks handling every carrier’s social network channel wear the crown. It does not matter what you write, just include the Twitter handle of any carrier in the tweet and see how they respond to it with a standard “let us know how we can assist you” tweet. Follow it up with something snarky and they want you to DM them your contact details so they can “get in touch with you” to “resolve” the problem. It doesn’t matter if you actually have a problem or not, they can resolve it.

Here I am tweeting in as many words as possible that I want to port my entire family’s Vodafone connections to Airtel and the best that Airtel can come up with is a tweet asking how they can assist me. Had I been Airtel, I’d be jumping with joy and reaching out to share details of how I can port it and what special plans they can offer. But it seems that’s either beyond their pay grade or their intellectual ability. And it is with every carrier, not just Airtel.

I can’t understand why carriers cannot make their users love them. I am yet to come across anyone who loves their carrier. Why can’t they make things easy for their users? Why can’t they offer me a single monthly bill for all the numbers I have that would make it easier for me to make payments and also for them to reach out to me? Why do I have to do the paperwork again for a new number when I am already a subscriber for over 10 years with a credit limit of over Rs 25,000? Why can’t people trust them? Why can’t they be more intelligent on social networks rather than coming across as bots? Why?

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