I used to get annoyed with shoddy customer service, but now I have some sympathy with those caught up in the career-crushing culture of the call centre. What prospects for those poor souls who spend their days anchored to a screen, stuck to a script, with little room for improvisation? Holding your nerve, under a barrage of customer queries and complaints, with only a meaningless mission statement for protection, must be hell. Every shift, a series of repetitions, punctuated only with beeps, clicks and, the occasional expletive.
So I was patient with the man who answered my call to Green Flag, today. After the obligatory security questions, he half-heartedly asked how he might help. I explained that the renewal price for my breakdown cover had shot up, and I had been forced to look around for a better deal.
“Yeah, well, you called us out this year, didn’t you?”
“Home start, yes. A duff battery.”
“Yeah. And your car’s 13 years old. More likely to go wrong.”
“Okay. So I’m being penalised for calling you out, and for owning a 13 year old car?”
“Yeah. What prices are you being quoted online, just out of interest?”
“AXA offers the same cover for less than half the price Green Flag have quoted me.”
“Is there a price for Green Flag, online?”
“Yes. It’s cheaper still, but with a £40 excess and a limit of only one call out.”
“Yeah, well, I can’t compete with that.”
“But you’re the same company, aren’t you? Green Flag is Green Flag?”
“Yeah, but it’s the internet, innit? Everything’s on the internet, these days.”
That was basically the sum total of the conversation. I chose not to renew with Green Flag, and I’ve gone with AXA, instead. I’ve nothing against the assistant who handled my call. He was probably struggling to stay awake. At least, that’s how it seemed. What drives me to despair, is the inertia. As consumers, we’ve been conditioned to seek out the best deal, go compare, compare the comparisons, and then haggle. Firms are waiting to oblige us with a service second to none. I actually wanted to stay with Green Flag…for the right price. Instead, a short way into an unremarkable conversation, I was only offered a rather phlegmatic take-it-or-leave-it option.
I’m only surprised I didn’t hear, “Yeah well, you’re just a consumer, and you’re at the end of a contract. It’s a throwaway society, innit?”