Friday, January 4, 2013

The Evil Phone Tree

After spending over an hour of my remaining life today wending my way through phone trees with robotic voices, I can state that customer service has become an oxymoron.

First I called a gigantic cable company to ask about my bill. Cheerful,their robot asked me to leave my phone number since there was a thirty minute wait. They assured me they would call back. I waited an hour for their call, then gave up and called back to stay on the line waiting for their "service representative". I waited thirty five minutes.It seems that when your company is a monopoly you do not care what your customers want. They are stuck with you.

My second call was to another giant-a government agency, that I will just say was not the IRS. Another 40 minutes of muzak, warnings about how long the wait was, and insincere apologies."We are sorry for the wait", they say, but they are not. It is a ploy to push callers to throw their hands up in despair and use the automated systems that do not need pesky humans who have to be paid.

Two summers ago, after my debit card was hacked and 900 dollars stolen, I was distraught and called the wrong bank. I will never forget it. A pleasant human answered. This was a small local bank, and not the national chain that I used that had a fearsome phone tree.

Automated service works for paying bills, but God help the innocent who just wants to ask a simple question. You will be repeatedly reminded how easy their automation is and how much time you will waste. Inefficiency, thy name is government, but one would expect better service from a for profit company that soaks its customers for well over a hundred bucks a month for cable and internet.

I will say that the cable lady I reached was nice. She did not charge me a service fee for talking to her instead of a machine. She could have, but she waived it. Perhaps she felt guilty for working for such an awful company.

The government lady was not as nice. She acted as though she had been the one waiting for forty minutes. Her mood and attitude improved when she saw I was only a three minute call- I am certain her job was not a pleasant one. I am sure callers grew angry and abusive after the digital maze they have to get through only to be put on eternal hold.

To paraphrase Thoreau, how can we kill time without injuring eternity?

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