Customer service lost in translation


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Registered Shopper
Jun 24, 2008
Now we all know how frustrating it can be to be put through to a call centre where English is not the operator's first language. Don't get me wrong I have every admiration for anyone who can speak more than one language fluently - I know I can't! Simple transactions and queries fine, but when there's a more complex issue to try and solve it can be very frustrating and time consuming. I ordered a large rug as an early Christmas present for my son as it has been on his wish list for a while and ordered via John Lewis. It was on a special offer price hence ordering now. However I didn't equate the dimensions which were in cm as being 9ft x 6ft and that getting it into the back of a Nissan Micra would be absolutely impossible, and that my son who drives a slightly larger but similarly small car so him collecting it from us wasn't an option either! The order was scheduled to be delivered to me this afternoon. This morning I contacted C/S to see whether there was any chance I could change the delivery address as such short notice and should I have to reject the parcel what happens next? The call was connected quite quickly, but as usual I had to sit through about 5 minutes worth of options and them trying to redirect as many people as possible to the website, which I'd checked first but couldn't find an answer to my specifics. Eventually I got through to a lady with a very strong accent and it took absolutely ages for her to get to grips with what I was asking her and I ended up having to spell out everything phonetically. She told me that she was going to have to contact the delivery department and that she would get back to me as soon as possible. I said do I have to stay on the line, again she just said I'll get back to you as soon as possible. I said I presume you have my number and she said, no stay on the line....agggh. The upshot was that it was too late to change the delivery address and that I would have to reject the package. I asked what happens next and she was very vague and I had to lead the conversation ie "Do I have to reorder?" "Do I have to request a refund" and she told me you just have to everything the normal way whatever that meant. She asked if there was anything else she could help with and because I seemed to be getting nowhere I said no thank you and ended the call.
I wasn't aware that JL operated from an overseas call centre so I waited a few minutes and called back hoping I'd be able to speak with someone I could have a clearer conversation with and again the call was answered by a lady with a similar sounding accent, could've been the same person so I simply said "I'm sorry I accidentally called your number again". Still stressing over this massive box arriving that would take up my entire hallway and not fit into the car I decided one last time to call. Again it was answered by a foreign sounding lady, though I could tell it wasn't the same operator, with trepidation I explained that I'd phoned before but my query was up in the air. She took all my details again and told me yes, I'd have to reject the parcel and that a refund would be sent to me within 3-5 working days and that if I still want to order the product that she could do this for me there and then and she asked me the address to where I'd like it to be delivered and what time and dates I'd like - wow what a difference! Yes it did take longer due to having to phonetically spell a lot of things but I'm just so relieved that it was sorted out. I don't like to be mean but I'd love to be able to have an easier conversation when phoning up a call centre with a problem, especially a complicated problem!
I feel your pain!
I'll not breathe a sigh of relief until the goods have been delivered and the refund has reached my account as I could do without the stress of having to call them back . To be fair had I got the second agent I dealt with in the first place then it would've been fine. As I've said on many occassions I do most of my shopping with ( part of the Littlewoods group) their C/S is based overseas now and they are an absolute nightmare to deal with, it takes forever to get through to an operator and when you do it's practically impossible to understand them and vice versa. on one occassion I spent about 3 hours on the phone trying to sort out a problem, ok not all in one go but I had to make several calls due to being cut off twice, and then being told that I'd be called back and they didn't. I contacted them via their Facebook page and the problem was sorted out in about 5 minutes. If I ever have a problem now I'll contact them there first and so far that's worked perfectly for me. Their social media team is based here and boy does that make a difference!
The interesting thing is that I was brought up in a non EFL household, my Mum and Grandmother spoke mainly Greek and heavily accented "GrEnglish/Grelsh", my Dad was a Welsh-speaker and his Welsh accent only really became apparent when he was on the phone as he was from the North and, as they say, "spoke Welsh with a Liverpool Accent!"! Although, when we visited his family up in N Wales we got to hear many variations of the accent and dialects. I went to work at an international company and the receptionist used to come to me if she had clients with complex accents, Japanese and many European accents, as she said she didn't have the ear for it and I did!!! I have lost the knack for it because I frequently speak with a massive variety of people for work and in customer service and I find myself getting quite frustrated when the accent or the speed of getting the words out gets in the way of my understanding the issue at hand!

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