Thursday, July 22, 2021

MTN is *insane*, everywhere you go!

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This is falsely attributed to Albert Einsten and/or Benjamin Franklin, but it is nonetheless a pretty accurate description of the human condition. It certainly describes my recent experience with MTN and their call centres.
One of the things you have to understand about South African culture is that most people have endured a really poor education system, where rote learning (memorization) is the norm, and people are not given the tools to understand the problem they are dealing with, but are just given a few standard scripts to follow. If your problem falls outside of those scripts, the wheels fall off. This is particularly true with call centres and "customer service" centres. The people employed in these places are trained to deal with 90% of the standard problems they encounter. If you have a problem that doesn't fall into those categories, then the results can be somewhat bizarre.
Recently I have been badgered by an MTN call centre whose sole job is to "upgrade" clients from one contract to another. What they can't cope with, is a customer who has more than one cellphone contract. At the start of the year I had three: my own, my domestic worker, and my mom-in-law. The latter was a birthday present a few years ago. So in March/April they started sending me text messages to say that "my" contract was up for renewal. Then they called me and we talked about "my" contract and it was only at the point near the end of the call where they were confirming all the details that they mentioned the phone number in question. Seriously? I told them I would chat to my mom-in-law and let them know.
Last month they started bugging me about my own phone contract. I would get a call from a call centre and if I answered it I would be put on hold. After about the fifth time I actually got to speak to an agent who explained to me that my existing contract (which ends in January next year) had been "phased out" (which is probably illegal) and for an extra R9 per month they could offer me a better contract for the balance of the contract period. Since it supposedly gives me more talk time I decided to give it a go.
During the legalese that followed I was told that all existing services and subscriptions would be cancelled and replaced with the new contract. What they didn't tell me was that migrating to the "Mega Talk XS" contract would also break the Caller Line Identification (CLID) service on my phone. So from 7 July all incoming calls show up as "Unknown", unless they go to voicemail, in which case I get to be told what the number is. Naturally I called 135, their useless "Customer Service" number. So far I cave called at the following times:
  • Thursday 8 July 08:34. 9 minutes. They said it would be fixed in 24 hours.
  • Friday 9 July 15:10. 5 minutes.
  • 9 July 15:36. 7 minutes.
  • 9 July 15:46. 2 minutes.
  • 9 July 15:48. 8 minutes.
  • 9 July 15:57. 5 minutes.
  • 9 July 16:30. 5 minutes.
  • 9 July 16:36. 9 minutes. Retentions department.
  • Saturday 10 July 11:54. 16 minutes.
  • Monday 12 July 10:51. 59 minutes. REQ000002520843
  • Saturday 17 July 11:51. 16 minutes. Retentions department. "Can't cancel a contract on the weekend".
  • Wednesday 21 July 13:29. 4 minutes. REQ000002533152
  • Thursday 21 July 10:25. 9 minutes. "I'm getting an error message".
  • Friday 22 July 09:57. 1 minute. "Our computers are offline. Please call back later".
  • 22 July 19:15. 15 minutes. "Please email a copy of the error message to us". They don't call the customer to request this information. After all, they are only a phone company. No, they wait until you call back to give you the good news that they don't have a clue what they are doing and don't understand the problem.
  • Tuesday 27 July 15:56. 5 minutes. While on hold to find out the status, I received an incoming call from MTN showing that CLID is now working.
I have tried almost every option on the 135 number, from "Customer Service" to Accounts, to "Technical Support" to "Retentions". Basically the script is the same: we will reactivate the service and it will take 24 hours to show up on the system. Even after it was "referred to the Back Office" the reply on REQ000002520843 was to activate the service. On a few occasions on Friday 9 July they reactivated CLID on the wrong number: my domestic worker's number, which was working just fine.
Obviously I can't read what was written in the first REQ query, but it either didn't say that this tactic had been tried multipe times by multiple departments, or the moron who replied didn't comprehend that this had been done before and wasn't working. Or he was tired and just hit F7 to send the closest canned reply he could think of. Needless to say the instructions didn't work, which is why we have the next REQ number, which is still "open" while everyone leves it for someone else to solve.
One of the "helpful" call centre ladies suggested I visit the nearest MTN store. During a pandemic. Wonderful. Like they are going to magically be able to press the same computer keys and get a different result. The lunatics are running the asylum. I think that's what "Bozza" means.
Update Tues 27 July: I get a phone call that shows the CLID if the incoming call. It's from the MTN Twitter team. 19 days after the problem was first reported. I don't know whether to be grateful or angry. I guess I'm glad I'm not insane.

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