If I’m so important!

Published 8:02 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If I am so important to a company, why won’t they talk to me!

I tried to do things right by following their instructions online (by computer). I tried to be no trouble at all, yet there was a nagging little question. So I decided to try what the company called their “customer service line.”

In this movie, I play the part of a customer. They play the part of a customer-oriented company. I tell you the truth. I played my part very well. I am a card-carrying, paying customer of this company and have been for a long time. I had a question so I called the number they, so helpfully, provided. The sentence on the company Web site was very clear.

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“If you need immediate assistance or have a question, please call our toll-free customer service line.”

Whatever made me think that I would actually get to talk to someone, I don’t know. But, the company made their offer sound so convincing.

“Your call is very important to us,” the conversation began. I looked up the word conversation in the dictionary just so I could be accurate in describing this exchange between them and me. A conversation is a verbal exchange of opinions, thoughts and feelings. Let me tell you, by the time this “conversation” was finished, I had plenty of opinions, thoughts and feelings!

First of all here is the opinion. This company doesn’t really want to serve me. The thought? If they did, they’d get a real human being on the line who would answer my simple question. The feeling? If there were any way around it, I would go somewhere else with my business.

I don’t when the trend of automated customer service began, but we all have gotten use to it. Companies, in the beginning, probably thought that it would make them more efficient, which means profitable to them. We, the public, gave them the benefit of the doubt, thinking that maybe their efficiency would result in better deals for us. Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think any of us are getting better deals these days.

Instead we are getting exasperated. That’s sort of angry, but also includes some frustration. In my case, I simply wanted to be able to feel that someone was listening. All I had was a simple question that could have been answered in less than a minute. Is that too much to ask of a company with which I am doing business?

The voice on the other end and I call it a voice, because I am not so sure it was a person. It was a lady’s voice and she asked me a question.

“Is this a question about your order status?” it asked pleasantly. “Please answer yes or no.”

Well, it was a kind of question about my order status, but yes or no did not quite explain my situation. So I said, “I need to ask a question.”

“I’m sorry but I did not understand your answer,” the automaton said. “Is this a question about your order status? Please answer yes or no.”

What part of “I need to ask a question” do you not understand I was thinking? So I asked the same question again, but, this time, a little slower. Sort of like when we are talking to someone who does not understand English and we feel that if we speak a little slower, they might suddenly be blessed with the ability to understand a foreign language.

“I’m sorry but I did not understand…” There she goes again. So, I wait patiently for her to finish and then I yell in the phone, “I need to ask a question!”

I get nowhere and, with great frustration, the next time she prompts me to say yes or no, I say “Yes.”

“Thank you,” the voice cheerfully says. I’m glad she’s happy. Maybe I’ll get somewhere now.

“Could you give me the product number?” Another question.

Let’s see. I logged in with an e-mail and password. I have a confirmation number and the name of the product, but I have no idea what the number is. So, I give her the name of the product.

“I’m sorry but I did not understand the product number,” here we go again. “Could you give me the product number?”

I’m scrambling to find some kind of number in my mind or on some of these scraps of paper. “I don’t know the number of the product,” I admit amidst quite a bit of agitation. Then I remembered a phrase that the robot said at the beginning of the call.

“For customer service and satisfaction, this call may be recorded,” it had said. Good, I thought. This is being recorded and if I simply say my question and voice my frustration now, it will be recorded and some kind soul will hear and call me back.

“I am a customer,” I begin. “Do you remember what that means? We are the people who buy your products and we don’t care what the product number is. We don’t buy a number, we buy a product. I did not start out angry. I simply had a question.”

Man, was I feeling better. I continued, “I tried to use your Web site as you instructed. I forgot my password and you sent it to me. Thank you. The product that I wanted to buy did not appear as conveniently as I was led to believe, but I finally got to it. Praise God. After I ordered it however, I had a very simple question. I have called the customer services help line and would like a real person to call me back. My number is….”

Suddenly and with no prior warning. the robot comes back on.
“I’m sorry but your answer cannot be understood and you have spoken too long. If you would like to try again, please call our convenient and helpful customer service line.”
Uh, not today! I need to rest my nerves.