Brian Edwards Media

Call Centre Blues – I make new overseas contacts thanks to Nokia and Hewlett Packard.

I am the owner of a Nokia 3710 flip-top phone. Unpretentious little thing: black -which I’m told is the  new black; no fancy bells and whistles; no touch-sensitive displays; tastefully plain and easy to operate. Exactly what I want.

Like most mobile phones these days, the Nokia 3710 has a radio function and I thought this would be great for tuning into the only two stations I listen to – the Concert Programme and Radio Hauraki. (Surprising, isn’t it?)

No problemo – grab one of the multitude of headphone/earphone sets around the house and Bob’s your uncle. Sadly, Bob was not my uncle, because the standard size 3.5mm plug on all my headphones/earphones was too big for the miniscule 2.5mm socket on the phone. Nokia, you see, want me to spend another 20 bucks buying their headset. Heigh ho!

Now here’s where this story really begins. I find the number for Nokia’s ‘sales and support  centre’  in the White Pages. I ring the 0800 number. I listen to the plethora of recorded options and, in less than a week, come across an option telling me the opening hours of the Nokia sales and support centre in Auckland. Less than a week later, I’ve found an option which will allow me to speak to a human being. 

An extremely pleasant Asian operator asks me how he can help. I tell him I don’t think he can help because my question is about the Nokia sales and support centre in Auckland and I suspect he’s not in Auckland and is unlikely to be familiar with what they have on their shelves.

Nonetheless, he really would like to help. I ask him whether he has the number for the Nokia sales and support centre in Auckland. He regrets that he hasn’t. I ask him whether it’s possible to call the Nokia sales and support centre in Auckland directly. He regrets that it isn’t. But he really would like to know how he can help me. What exactly do I want? I tell him I want to buy a headset for my Nokia 3710.

He brightens. He can help me with that. He will send an email to the centre, asking if they have such a headset in stock. They will email their reply to him. He will contact me with the information. I can then go, or not go to the centre, according to their reply. ‘This is how it is done.’

I say to him, ‘This is absolutely not your fault, but what you have just proposed is totally insane. I’ll go to the “sales and support” centre and take my chances.’

He says, ‘Thank you very much, sir. Have a nice day.’

At the imposing sales and support centre, at the bottom of Khyber Pass Road, the pleasant young woman at the desk finds the headset for me. I ask her whether it’s possible to phone the centre direct. She says no, they don’t have a listing. I don’t bother pointing out that this is insane or that the idea of a ‘sales and support’ centre that can’t be contacted is really a contradiction in terms.

Some of you may remember that I had a similar experience last year trying to find out where in Auckland I could buy the new HP Envy wireless colour printer. The nice young man somewhere in Asia naturally didn’t know the answer and I couldn’t raise anyone at HP in Auckland and wrote a really shitty post about it.

Not long afterwards I was contacted by Bernadette Stevenson from Acumen Republic who, I assume, handle PR for Hewlitt Packard in New Zealand.

Bernadette was great. Turned out the Envy really wasn’t on the shelves yet in New Zealand, but HP would lend me one of their  ‘review units’ till they were. Brilliant.

In the end I had the unit for a couple of months and am happy to report that the Envy is bloody brilliant, especially if you’re an iPad nut  like me.

And no, you suspicious buggers, before you head for the keyboard, I paid full price when I bought one at Noel Leeming in Wairau Park.

None of which changes my firm belief that while having your call centre offshore may save you a lot of money, it also loses you a lot of local good will, not to mention depriving hundreds and possibly thousands of Kiwis of jobs they would do considerably better.  Why? Because they know the local geography, speak the local lingo and are bound to have the phone number of the branch nearest you. It’s not rocket science!

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  1. BE. Go to dick smith and get an adaptor. Should cost you less than 5 bucks and you will be able to use your 3.5mm ear phones

    BE: Thanks Doug. Tried that with no success.

  2. This sort of thing gets right up my schneb too. I cringe when I get some mid-Pacific accent on the parodoxically-named “helpline” because I immediately know I’m in for a rough ride which will almost certainly end in tears. My latest was Vodafone – the guy couldn’t understand me and I only half understood him; it was bloody hopeless.

    And while (‘schneb’ means nose) I’m on my high horse the on-line Yellow Pages is a source of constant frustration: I want a plumber in Kumeu, (pop. 1800) so I dial up those two parameters and what do I get? Twenty pages of plumbers, plumbing supplies and bathroom and tap merchants from Thames, Warkworth, Howick and Matamata to sift through, because some dim YP rep has told them “say you serve EVERYWHERE and you’ll get HEAPS of enquiries”. I refuse to speak to the voice recognition machines either – how ironic that Telecom, our major communications company expects to serve its clients by answering its calls with a bloody computer!

    Time for these people to learn from TSB Bank: no call centre, real people, every time.

    BE: Yes, the Yellow Pages are absolutely hopeless. However, they have a new Chair and and will have a new CEO and I understand significant changes are in the wind.

  3. dick smiths-I remember them.

  4. Dick Smith sells the adaptors. Or sellers on Trademe.

    BE: Thanks Angela. Tried that with no success.

  5. It seems to be a trade off in life. Technology products have become hugely more capable at the same time as they have become marvellously cheap. But inevitably, god being mischievious, there is a price to be paid, and it turns out to be loss of personal service.

    I smiled inwardly when I read your Hewlett Packard story. For decades HP were a truly great company. They had a unique corporate culture. For example, they never borrowed any money, everything was funded from profits. Devotion to product quality was fanatical, and their products really were of sublime quality, although you definitely paid a premium price.

    If you bought an HP laserprinter in the 80s, it would come with a smiling, immaculately besuited, neatly pressed field engineer to install it and fix it in the unlikely event of anything ever going wrong. You would pay of the order of $10,000. Those things worked for decades, but today you can buy something of very similar capability (if not build quality) for closer to $100. Corporate shenanigans and takeovers mean Messrs Hewlett and Packard are long gone (if not actually dead now, I should check). HP is just another technology corporate with the same culture as everyone else. You get about as much attention to your individual needs as anyone else who is paying around $100 for any product or service.

    When you are buying a Nokia headset for $20, you get about as much personal attention as someone buying two or three bottles of milk.

  6. Actually my experience has been the reverse – when I’ve had problems with stuff like this the Asian based call-centre people have been very helpful and had the right information.

    I suspect it would be a struggle to find many well-spoken techno-geeks in NZ who would want a call-centre type job – there’s too many better opportunities out there.

    Look at it as aid to developing countries – I’m sure you’re in favour of that.

    I agree with Zinc regarding the on-line yellow pages system – its utterly useless.

  7. A year ago we canned a phone connection to a bach in the Sounds. Recently I phoned Telstra Clear to reinstate the phone. The Philipinno call centre asked for an address.
    No actual address just a named Bay.
    No address, no phone reconnection.
    But the phone already exists with its own number. What address?
    Just a Bay and the previous number is…
    What address?
    We don’t have an address as such, just a Bay and a number.
    No address , no number.
    The operator passed me over and the saga became farcical as I was handed from one to another like a dead fish. (Try explaining what a bach in a Bay is!)
    In the end I phoned Telecom where a nice Auckland man said it would be reconnected within 24hours, and it was.
    Sad that Telstra abandoned its great NZ Help-line.

  8. And how did you reward this lack of onshore helpfulness BE? By boycotting the corporation? You have in fact enabled Nokia to point to their statistics and say “See, it works.”

    BE: That would seem to be cutting off my nose to spite my face. I already had the phone. I’m happy with the phone. The headset works OK. I’ve brought my annoyance with Nokia’s lack of a local call centre, or even just one phone at their sales and support center, to the attention of the public and I’ve grizzled about their stupidly small phone jack. I’ve even provoked you into commenting. Could be the start of a groundswell!

  9. Argh -Dick Smiths -were they not on the corner of Manchester and Hereford until a couple of weeks ago?

  10. Try Jaycar – in Newmarket

    they show 3.5mm to 2.5mm adaptors on their website
    Hopefully this link will take you to the right page

    Thanks Top Bloke. Been to Jaycar. They have those adaptors, but they don’t work with the phone. Something about them being a microphone fitting rather than a headset fitting. Beyond me, I’m afraid. But all other suggestions will be welcome.

  11. Ahh yes I see, the nokia jack has 4 different contacts – Mic in / H-Phones out / eg one jackpoint doing the job of two so you can answer calls while listening to music.
    Very unlikely you will find an adaptor other than what Nokia offer.

  12. I would think that without the headset the phone would not perform the tasks it was bought for.Its lack of availabilty would come under the consumer guarantees act ?I have to say that some local call cetres are as bad as the international call centres.

  13. Why not just buy a small radio and slip it in your pocket? I have a Nokia phone and the headphone and plug came as part of the package. Since I never use it I would gladly give it to you except that I have long since lost it! I want a mobile phone that makes and receives phones and as for the rest of the ‘features’ I place them where the sun never shines.

    And incidentally I thought you also listened to National Radio.

    BE: Rarely. In general, I don’t list to talk radio, either commercial or non-commercial. I like classical music, rock and quite a lot of pop music. I’m not a huge radio fan. Only listen in my car. Need the pictures. I’m in love with the telly. I have been since the first time I saw it, sitting in my Uncle Donald’s London flat with the blinds drawn (only way you could see it) watching ‘Waiting for Godot’ in grey/black. I was 11.

  14. Brian says,

    I am the owner of a Nokia 3710 flip-top phone. Unpretentious little thing: black -which I’m told is the new black; no fancy bells and whistles; no touch-sensitive displays; tastefully plain and easy to operate. Exactly what I want”

    Gosh Brian now that IS news .wow

  15. The issue wasn’t about BE’s Nokia 3710 phone, as it was about the outsourcing of customer service, abroad; the implications for NZ jobs and the quality of advice and the service being received.

  16. 16

    I can’t believe I’ve just wasted 10 minutes of my life reading about someone who can’t get a headphone adapter for their cell phone.

    If that’s the most you have to worry about then really you have NOTHING to worry about.

    And yes I live in CHCH and we have a few more pressing concerns down here.

    (PS Get an iphone – you know you want to)

  17. This is what you get when you purchase items that require propirtary(sp) accesories.

    Might I suggest you upgrade to a cellphone that has universal connections. (ie 3.5mm jack, mini-USB charger, etc).

  18. 18

    Brian, love your story of your childhood discovery of the gogglebox and eternal love thereafter. If you haven’t already written that essay, please do – a very Clive James-esque moment. And good on you for resisting the iPhone plague.

    Ieuan, I think I’ve just discovered another social media phenomenon, and I’m calling it a ChchTroll – someone who insists in a comments forum that No-one’s problems could possibly be as bad as theirs because they live in Christchurch and have to kak in a bucket. (and yes, I know what it’s like, I was at home in Chch CBD for the rock and roll, and will be back there in a couple of days).

    My other contribution to Web memes is Andrew Paul Wood’s Corollary to Godwin’s Law: Any time someone in an online forum compares anyone or anything to the Nazis, regardless of conscious hyperbole or historical accuracy, some forum troll will mention Godwin’s Law with a high probability of including a hyperlink to the Wikipedia entry

  19. Maybe I am a troll Andrew Paul Wood. Shitting in a bucket is the least of our problems. Death, houses lost, keeping warm, eating, showering, moving around are all significant to our daily lives.
    And I do enjoy reading this blog -its a habit.
    But one I am fast loosing.

  20. 20

    Perhaps, kilmorest, you might try Boethus and the stoics to ease your misery. At any rate, inducing pity fatigue in the rest of the country doesn’t help anyone. I haven’t got time for fear and depression right now, I’m too busy trying to speed up recovery. We are alive. We can rebuild our lives. We live in an OECD country fully mobilised to help its second largest city, and things like that make me grateful and uncharacteristically optimistic. Recent events in Japan, with hundreds dead and the danger of radiation leaks puts our own misery into perspective. Trolling helps no one, least of all yourself.

  21. 21

    @Andrew Paul Wood, I’m not sure what your point is, I can’t have an opinion because I’m from CHCH or I’m not allowed to mention the earthquake?

    And how does questioning your opinions make one a ‘troll’?

    It may surprise you that other people, even those sharing many of the same experiences as yourself, may have different attitudes and opinions to you and like to express those in the comments section of a blog.

  22. 22

    Outsourcing to India. Sit back and enjoy.

    BE: Thanks Darcy. Loved it.