Just Let Me Talk to a Real Person

By Jason Menard

Ah remember the good ol’ days – when we simply had to follow a labyrinth-like maze of touch-tone commands to not get the service we required. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d look back fondly on those days, but the latest round of “customer service improvements” has proven the old adage that you have to be careful what you wish for!

If you’re like me, you’ve probably called your (insert service name here – cable, telephone, retail company) and been frustrated by the finger calisthenics required to get even a most basic question answered. Perhaps your phone’s “0” button is worn down from constant bashing of it to try to get to talk to someone, anyone!

And our refrain during these days? ‘Just let me talk to a real person!’

Our service providers heard the call and have replied! But instead of providing a proper receptionist, the powers-that-be have decided to go one better and offer ‘humanesque’ service. That’s right, automated service with that human touch! All the benefits of social interaction without those unnecessary encumbrances like a heart, a pulse – or a brain!

Oh, how I miss the brain part of the equation. I consider myself fairly eloquent. I speak with no discernable accent (depending on your point of view – I speak with the general tonality, affection, and vernacular of the average North-eastern North American male), and, when I call, I have a solid idea of what I’m looking for and the capability of expressing myself accordingly.

Now, thanks to my interaction with these ‘human-lite’ directory systems I wonder if I’m the moron or is the machine? I prefer to think the latter.

Take, for instance, a recent conversation I ‘shared’ with my phone company’s automated system. In this case, I was calling to cancel a scheduled repair appointment.

PC: Hi, I’m [fake name withheld to protect the moronic]. Why don’t you tell me what your issue is and I’ll help connect you to the right department!

Jay: I’d like to cancel a service call.

PC: Hi, I’m… [apparently I need to be told twice]

Jay: I have a scheduled service call that I need to cancel.

PC: Hi, I’m… [OK, maybe it’s a particularly bad day…]

Jay: Service call cancellation

PC: Oh, you’d like to cancel your phone service! [Quite the leap of faith here. Although, may I say, at this point I was considering it…]

Jay: No! I would like to cancel a service call because we won’t be home to answer the door when a real person – unlike you – shows up to do the repairs!

PC: Hi, I’m…

At that point, I think I bruised my fingers pounding down on the ‘0’ button. Worst of all, this was not an isolated incident. In fact no matter how basic I make the commands, and at times I’ve sounded like Tarzan on painkillers: “TV No Work!” “Need Telephone To Ring!” I still can’t seem to get through to these people – oh, sorry, ‘people.’

Yes, I know I asked to talk to someone in the past, but apparently the message – not unlike the telephone directories – got mixed up in the translation. I, and others like me, want to talk to a REAL person! Someone who can understand my clear English and point me in the right direction. Or at least someone who doesn’t send me off to the farthest recesses of the company on a wild goose chase.

What these companies seem to fail to recognize is that I’m willing to accept a few problems here and there with my services. Our world isn’t perfect, so why should I expect that from my digital cable? The connection is broken? Fine, fix it so I can get back to my life.

But what I don’t want is to spend 15 minutes on the phone trying to find the secret word combination that unlocks the door to the world of good customer service! I left my decoder ring at home, please give me a break.

I’d say that 99% of us call with a complaint, but are not overly stressed about it. However, after spending way too much quality time with the ‘human-like’ answering service my inner Lou Ferrigno takes over from my original Bill Bixby state. So, when those magic words are spoken and we actually get a human response, instead of getting a mildly miffed, but willing-to-work-with-you customer on the line these companies are getting ticked-off, belligerent – and unhappy – subscribers who are now considering their options.

Give me a human or give me a machine, but never the twain shall meet!

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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