Dumbing down of customer service

I am going to post a sequence of emails, which clearly demonstrate the dumbing down of customer service due to the mass-market approach to service. As a customer, I dont have a face to talk to and the responses that I receive from the faceless customer service agents are mind-numbing.

This post is after a series of ‘mental harassment by inefficiency’ by ICICI Lombard, India Today Book Club, HDFC Bank, Fidelity Mutual funds and Big Bazaar in the last month alone for me.

Mail 1 (to CitiBank, dated 6-Feb-08):


I have an auto loan with HDFC Bank and have opted to pay EMI through ECS on my Citibank Account (A/c No xyz). The ECS has been happenning smoothly since August-07 till Jan-08.

On 2-Feb-08, ECS for Rs. 16275 has been done and then reversed on the same day. There is an entry in my Citibank account statement stating “ECS BOUNCE : MANDATE NOT RECEIVED “. When I contacted Citiphone Banking,  I have been asked your executive to contact HDFC Bank regarding this – I have been told that ECS instruction for this month has not been submitted by HDFC Bank to Citibank.

I am not too clear who is at fault here. Request you to confirm if I have been given the right explanation and whether I have to pursue this matter further with HDFC Bank.


This mail, as is obvious, is written after I g0t a thoroughly incompetent and inconclusive answer over phone from Citibank Customer Service. 

There was not even an automated response to this mail till 14-Feb-08 and I had to send a reminder.

Mail 2 (dated 14-Feb-08):

Hi I have not received any revert on my previous mail.  The communication that I have been receiving so far from HDFC Bank is that there is nothing wrong from their end and the ECS needs to have happened. Please revert on what needs to be done. — 

Finally I get an auto-response on 15-Feb-08.

Dear Customer,  

Thanks for writing to Citibank. We have received your Query.  The reference number for your query is abcd.  We shall get back to you in 3 working days.   Please reply to this mail for any future communication on this query.   

 Sincerely ,


Then I do get a real response on 16-Feb-08.

Dear Mr. Kannan,  

This is with reference to your email dated February 07, 2008.  We confirm that due to operational error the ECS Debit Instruction received for Rs.16,275.00 from the Service Provider ” HDFC Bank Limited ” has been erroneously returned on February 02, 2008.  We aplogise for the inconvenience caused. We assure you of our best attention at all times. 


Officer – Customer Care


After this mail, I am no more knowledgeable on what to do next than I was on 6th Feb. Here goes one more mail from me on 18-Feb-08:



The next step to be taken is still not clear to me. Will you be correcting the error and completing the ECS Debit for Rs.16,275? Please confirm when this will be done. I should not be penalized by HDFC Bank for this error. 



By now, HDFC Bank insisted on making me pay by cheque, which I have done, after having to unnecessarily visit their branch. A threat of late payment charge, for no fault of mine, from HDFC Bank is still looming over me.

I am at the peak of my impatience. This is sheer harassment by inefficiency and negligence.

Then comes an email from Citibank that pushes me off from my peak.

Dear Mr. Kannan, 

This is with reference to your email dated February 14, 2008. We have already responded your query vide email reference number xyz. The response is stated below for your reference. 

We confirm that due to operational error the ECS Debit Instruction received for Rs.16,275.00 from the Service Provider ” HDFC Bank Limited ” has been erroneously returned on February 02, 2008.  We aplogise for the inconvenience caused. We assure you of our best attention at all times. 

Sincerely,  Officer – Customer Care

Oh, yes, I am getting the best attention possible in this world. 

I can do nothing more. How do I explain to this faceless customer service machine that I deserve an answer with more clarity. Will the ECS happen or not happen? Having already given a cheque to HDFC am I going to be debited twice this month? Will the ECS happen smoothly next month?

I can only do this post now and hope that next month this doesnt recur.  I am shooting off one more mail seeking assurance that next month I will be spared of this torment.  


Am  posting this update a day after my original post.

Finally I got a sensible answer that I deserved long back.

Dear Mr. Kannan,

This is with reference to your email dated February 18, 2008. We inform you that ECS instructions are maintained with the service provider by the customer, to repay for the service enjoyed. The specific amount will be transferred from the customer’s bank account on a specific date of every month.   These ECS instructions are routed through RBI with specific Utility Code number, to the customer’s bank account for execution. Hence, on receipt of the ECS Debit Advice through RBI, your account will be debited with the respective amount.  Henceforth, on receiving ECS Debit Advice from the Service Provider(HDFC Bank Limited ) under the Utility Code number 5609124 the respective amount will be successfully debited from your account. Any inconvenience caused to you in this regard is regretted. 

We assure you of our best attention at all times.


Officer – Customer Care

This reply, had it been sent in the first place or even better given to me during my first phone call, would have saved a lot of time, heartburn and tension for me. Modern institutions, even as they are adopting newer business models and technology to cater to the mass market, have to learn to get it right the first time and more importantly, retain the human touch in customer service.


4 Responses to Dumbing down of customer service

  1. […] அநேகம். என் அண்மைக்கால அவதிகளை, ஒரு நெடிய புலம்பலாக இங்கு பதிவு செய… தேவையற்ற தவறுகளால் எத்தனை உலைச்சல், […]

  2. Yaz Okulu says:

    does anyone knows if there is any other information about this subject in other languages?

  3. Hello, I enjoy reading through your article. I wanted to write a
    little comment to support you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: