Customer Support in Saudi Arabia

Customer Support in the Kingdom can be a real mixed bag and requires a lot of patience. For example, if you subscribe to the Aljawal (STC) mobile services you will be connected to an automated menu with a grating male british accented voice “Welcoming you to Aljawal customer service.” The first menu alone provides 9 choices of options to select but not a one of them will connect you to a customer service representative! The convoluted menu choice is very unclear and when I break down to call it is usually because I have a problem I cannot resolve and need to speak to a PERSON. It can easily take 20 minutes of navigating the automated options before finally finding one which leads to a real person. At no point does it give a choice “if you have a problem and need to speak with a customer service representative press 0.” I also learned that unlike other automated systems there does not seem to be a bypass where pressing 0, # or * may lead you directly to a person.

Once you finally do reach a person IF they speak English they will likely be very polite. It is evident they’ve been trained on what to say but politeness does not equate to service. Most of the time you will ultimately be told they will make a trouble report and forward it to the service department! With any luck, ones problem may get resolved in ten days. In my case, my phone simply stopped allowing me to send SMS messages. When I attempted to send one I’d get the error message “Message sending failed, not allowed” in spite of my phone bill fully paid with credit and having the right SIM centre number programmed. Ultimately this error requires some kind of resetting of my phone from the STC computer centre to correct but that can usually take 10 days to 2 weeks. Why do I sound so sure? This is a recurring problem that crops up every 2-3 months.

Orbit customer service can also be as irritable. You again go through the usual automated voice messaging system and if you’re lucky, it will stay in English and not switch to Arabic which can create some challenges! A person will eventually respond but most of the time their customer service reps do not speak English so you will keep getting put on hold (if not inadvertently disconnected) until finally someone who speaks English is found. Again be patient and you will listen to a lot of loud elevator music during this experience as well.

SABB bank is equally as confusing with a mirage of many selections and choices without leading to a person. Why do these automated customer service messages think I have the time let alone want to listen to all 25 selections and choices they may be offering?

I have not been in the States for quite some time so I can’t say if customer service and voice support is as convoluted in the States or not. I can say I do not recall such extensive and long-winded automated voice systems which allow ones frustration to build rather than subside.

I have learned that most Saudis when requiring customer service or assistance try to use their Wasta and personal friendships rather than go through the standard route of calling a business’ support number. I can certainly understand why!

12 Responses

  1. I have always said that this thing called “customer service” does not exist in Saudi Arabia

  2. I certainly have yet to experience what I would call “true” customer service and support here.

  3. I assure you all, “customer service” in the United States involves the same frustrating, convoluted trek through automated systems. I’ll do anything rather than phone. I’ll email, surf the net, ask my colleagues, or even drive to the company’s office (if there is one) rather than use the phone system. The phone has become a medieval torture device, to be avoided by civilized folk, even when it rings.

  4. I have found that even the web sites of the organizations cited in the post do not offer adequate customer web support either.

  5. Yep, use wasta if you’ve got it, and if that fails send your driver with a note.

  6. Oh, isn’t technology a wonderful thing!!! LOL!! My mom works for a group of doctors who treat cancer. She has been the operator for 15 years! She is really afraid that one day they are going to come to her and tell her that her services are no longer needed because they will switch to an automated phone service. Carol, you probably don’t have this problem because your kids are grown,but I absolutely hate the automated service that wants you to speak your answer. Yeah right, with kids talking,singing,fighting,and whatever else they can think of while moms on the phone!! With all that background noise all you get is “we’re sorry we did not understand your response,please try again,and again,and again” It never ends!! Ugh! ; )

  7. customer service is not what it was designed to be.. but still if we compare to wht is considered ‘good’ arnd the world KSA would get a pretty bad rating. but most of the time ask around or Google it cuz I’ve found soo many answer’s for mine n other ppl’s. but then again not everything is there like in the case whn something like the DSL conn. is not workin
    n wasta.. doesnt always work either.
    its like constumers vs the co’s

  8. Carol,

    I don’t know if this will help you, but there is a website
    that is supposed to tell you what yu can do to circumvent the phone menus and get to speak to a human being right away.
    It does seem to address other countries, but I did not check to see if Saudi Arabia is one of the included countries.

  9. Personally, I think they should outlaw those automated “customer service” programs… they only end up delaying the process, and displeasing the customer. I do, however, enjoy asking the human being (provided I’m actually able to navigate the options to get to one!) where they are, geographically speaking. You’d be amazed at how many different countries I’ve spoken with trying to resolve a relatively insignificant issue! I’m just happy I don’t have to pay the phone charges! 😀

  10. This is schizophrenic. Here we are, blogging from countries on opposite sides of the globe, all of us united in the effort to find ways of circumventing the system which is set up ostensibly for “customer service” but accomplishes the opposite- customer disservice.

    Oh, it does accomplish one important goal of companies. It eliminates salaries and health benefits that would have to be paid to real people who would be answering phones and delivering real customer service.

    Do I sound angry? Well, I am old enough to remember when young ladies got jobs as receptionists. Their sole responsibility was to answer phones in a timely manner and help callers in the most efficient and pleasant way possible. Her job security depended upon her skill in providing this service. It wasn’t an easy job.

    In those days, one could pick up the phone and get the desired info, or be connected to the right person in a matter of seconds, not minutes or hours or three phone calls later or even not at all.

    I am surprised and disappointed to hear that other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have copied this rather undesirable Western business practice.

  11. Absolutely right on the money, Marahm! I can remember those days as well, and I’m afraid we’ll not see them again in our lifetimes – or perhaps ever. It’s not about “customer service”. It never really was. It was always about just what you said – eliminating salaries, health benefits and pension plans for real people, so that the corporate world could increase the bottom line.
    Follow the money… that’s usually what it takes. Well said! 😀

  12. Valerie – thanks for the link. I will check it out and I’m sure many others will too.

    Lofter, Marahm, I also agree wholeheartedly with both of you.

    Thanks for all the comments.

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