Indonesia’s top telecom can’t communicate via telephone

Are you finding it difficult to get through to PT Telkom Tbk, Indonesia’s largest telecommunications company and one of the best known Indonesian companies outside the country? Well, customer service has always been an issue with them. In theory, the state-controlled behemoth is aware of just what a huge problem they do have:  customer service rallying calls are all over in their annual reports and investor information.

But is there anyone on the other end of the line? Depending on which customer service point of contact you chose to go through, you’ll be received variously as a guest of honor, a pain in the ass or a martian. You just never know.  All you can do is smile and be polite — and keep in mind that, despite the fact that it’s a NYSE-listed company, you’re still dealing with the Indonesian government.

By the same token, a friend at Telkom is a friend indeed. And if you clearly waive all your rights as a customer and consumer, and can just get the guy or gal to like you –or even feel sorry for you –you’re golden. You’ll find that after the Speedy technician installs your Speedy ADSL service, he’ll also help you configure your wireless router, zap a few viruses on your hard drive, maybe even check out some hardware issues — just because he’s a nice guy (and gets treated like crap at work).

If you chose to do the customer service thing in person — eg, at “Plaza Telkom” — you’ll find the scenery varies. Telkom may chose to serve you amid heaps of obsolete and unused office furniture. (Which makes sense because that’s a pretty standard Indonesian government office landscape.)  Or, you find yourself sinking into a bright yellow and blue sex-tech world of sleek  couches, laptop-enabled customer service girls (who are required to wear braces and contact lenses), with flat screens of various types stretching as far as the eye can see. Which is also plausible, since that’s a standard look in the private sector of the telecom world.   Or you may chose to play PT Telkom customer service roulette by simply dialing “147” on any fixed line.

Either way, you’ll find the line quality is OK, the electronic queue system works, the parking lot is orderly — technically they seem fairly solid. The problem is when you try to talk to someone.

You can try it yourself on a busy Friday afternoon on your way out of town. Give them a ring before you forget and ask why your phone bill seems to cost a little more every month, even though you never use the phone. (They’ll knock it off if you’re firm with them.) Or why they don’t send an invoice in an envelope via post like they used to. Or ask them why Speedy is so slow these days.

The sad refrain you’ll hear repeated over and over — as long as you dare to hang on the line — goes like this:

[Unprofessional-sounding female voice with thick Indonesian accent]:

“Sorry.

All of our customer services serving the other customer.

Please wait.

Our customer service will be soon to serve you.

[sic]

Even the worst outsource translation unit couldn’t hurt you that bad. This type of harm is self-inflicted :  -)

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