‘English’ constraints for power discom call centre

  • Rashpal Singh, Hindustan Times, Gurgaon
  • Updated: Jun 23, 2016 22:48 IST
Call centre agents find it difficult to comprehend the language of non-Hindi speakers calling from Gurgaon and Faridabad. (HT File Photo)

Ringing up the power discom call centre to report electricity issues and speaking in English? Someone may be hearing you but your complaint may not be registered. The agents at the call centre will respond to complainants speaking in English in yes, no, and okay but they may not register the complaint correctly because of constraints in understanding the language.

Officials of the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN) have noticed that the call centre employees, mostly undergraduates, are unable to grasp the English of people from Gurgaon, Faridabad and Panchkula. A number of foreigners and non-Hindi speakers live in these areas.

“A language problem has been noticed at the call centre and agents sometimes manage to register complaints by asking the area. If agents are not able to converse with complainants, it projects the discom in bad light,” a senior DHBVN official, who did not wish to be named, said.

The language constraint has multiplied problems at the call centre that is already grappling with the issue of call drops. A number of calls to the call centre number 18001804334, meant for redressal of power supply issues, drop after the interactive voice response (IVR) announces connecting the caller with an agent.

The 24x7 centre caters to consumers of DHBVN and Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam, distribution companies (discoms) managing power supply in Haryana. A batch of 20 agents remain on duty at night while 40 agents cater to complaints during day.

The language issue was discussed in a meeting of officials of both discoms in Chandigarh earlier this month.

An executive managing the call centre conceded that agents are semi-skilled and not trained adequately in language skills. The IT wing and manpower at the centre are outsourced from private companies.

“There is a proposal to have five extension lines exclusively for English speaking consumers. But, the problem is these agents will be free for a lot of time as complaints in English are far less as compared to Hindi,” the executive said. He said as per the system now, the agents transfer the line of English speaking complainants to a senior executive, if someone is available at the centre.

“We have asked the companies supplying manpower to provide basic language training. Majority of callers are from rural areas but a large number of consumers live in urban areas too,” Randeep Singh, superintending engineer (IT), DHBVN Hisar, said.

The DHBVN launched the call centre in December 2014 as per standards of Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission (HERC) after which all other local telephone numbers were discontinued.

Besides power supply, complaints and requests relating to billing, new connections, system improvement, and theft are registered at the call centre.

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