The Caring Face of Abu Dhabi’s Oil Companies

The oil and gas operating companies which make up the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company really do need to work on their customer service.

Calling the front desk of these major oil and gas companies would often be the stuff of comedy, were they not major oil and gas companies. It is not uncommon for the phone to go unanswered when you call the main switchboard, the call ending with a helpful message telling you there is no answer. Or you get the engaged tone, as if you’ve called your friend and his teenage sister is hogging the line. Either way, this is pretty poor for any company, never mind the headquarters of a national oil and gas company on which a good portion of the nation’s prosperity relies. Try calling the main switchboard of Shell in The Hague during business hours and see if you get an answer.

Sometimes you don’t even get this far. I called one of the national operating companies this morning, on the main switchboard number displayed on their website, to find myself connected to a fax machine.

Getting your call answered is only a minor hurdle, however. Things are not usually straightforward from thereon. For starters, the call – at the main switchboard in the headquarters of a national oil and gas company – is often answered with:

“Ullo”

In fact, this seems to be the standard method of answering a call from almost every telephone in the organisation. When you have made your request to the main switchboard, there is no “Just connecting you now, sir” confirmation, just an abrubt change in sound on the line. And where they actually connect you to is a lottery in itself. Asking the main switchboard to put me through to the Commercial Department has landed me in the Mail Room on several occasions, where the helpful mailing clerk has suggested I try the main switchboard if I want the Commercial Department. It usually takes about 10-15 minutes of being bounced around between unanswered phones and unhelpful employees before you actually get to somebody who might know a person who can help you. Once you find such a person, you cling to their direct number for dear life.

Visiting in person isn’t much better. The receptionists vary between operating companies, and some are indeed pretty good. Others, however, are on their mobile to a mate when you approach the reception desk, and if they don’t ignore you entirely they attempt to find out what you want whilst continuing their conversation. They are also not too good at listening. When you visit a company, you get a slip of paper with the person’s name and location on which forms part of your visitor’s pass. Half the time I end up with a stranger’s name on the slip of paper, whose name may or may not have vaguely resembled the chap I was going to meet. Which then leaves me with the problem that I do not know his location, and have to ask around. This leads to more hilarity as people who sit next door to the chap I’m trying to visit deny all knowledge of his existence, or read the incorrect name on my visitor pass and tell me I’m on the wrong floor.

In short, it is an utter shambles. It really needs to be sorted out.