Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Option 1 - Give a damn about your customers!

The sun rose supernova tangerine. A thin seam of mist carpeted the treetops. Birdies went tweet and caw, and I was looking forward to a calm, peaceful day, just a couple of phone calls to make and then I’d be free to scribble, to walk, to do whatever I felt like.
Just a couple of calls: the first to eircom, poor eircom, up the financial Swanee, possibly about to go into receivership.
Before the call I felt warm towards eircom. They put a phone line into the new house, nailed boxes to poles and ran lines along the bohreen without charging me a penny for the installation.
By the end of the call my mind was melted, my spirit broken and only deep breathing, fierce strong resolve and an implacably optimistic nature propelled me onwards to calling the Revenue.
When people gather in groups these days we bitch, groan and moan about our dealings with domestic service providers, with good reason. Automated response and voice recognition software combine to intimidate, frustrate and inevitably infuriate us customers. We feel patronised and bullied, and by the time we’re able to do what we all want to do - which is to speak to a human being - we are in such a foul temper that the poor souls working in the call centres don’t stand a chance.
Well, they do, because I never lose it with them.
Not if I can help it.
So when I finally got through to a human at eircom, I garbled and babbled an incoherent stream of benevolent nonsense at her, trying desperately to explain that I’d been in such a good mood but after 20 minutes of being offered 8 options then 5 options the 3 options then 5 options then losing it completely with a computer that calls itself ‘I’ as if I’m meant to have empathic feelings for it, but so now god knows d’y’know the kind of way but so and I’m in a terrible state and it’s so unfair for you, isn’t it, because it’s not your fault and by the time we customers get through to you we just want to kill someone no no not really kill someone ha ha ha but you know what I mean, just that I’m sorry if I’m angry because it was your phone menu bastard menu voice system and not you, and what was your name again?
She told me her name once more, but now a cold calm suppressed her voice. Her interaction with me became understandably and suddenly very stilted. Evidently my efforts to come across as a compassionate, wronged yet generally wonderful person had failed so tremendously, that to her I sounded like a serial killer stalker sociopath having a bit of a dodgy day .
“Your enquiry?”
“Oh you’re asking me what I called about?”
But who could blame her? Tragically my opening statement had succeeded only in turning the human being I sought so long into a bloody human computer, who repeatedly failed to answer my real question. Trouble was, by this stage I had gone so far past caring that my give-a-shit cells were buried on a small asteroid somewhere beyond the Crab Nebula.
“Okay, ” I said, “let’s get this straight. There’s only one bill even though your very own computer voice thing told me I had already had two. The amount due on the bill is that big because the package I signed up for doesn’t start until the second bill, which in fact is this bill in front of me despite what you insist. The words on the bill that correspond to the sales pitch I was given say that ‘payment will be requested by direct debit from your account no earlier than 14 days after the date of the bill’, which to this man who makes a living out of the use of language means blogeddy splot, but sure looks a little as if it says that no money will be taken from my account without me getting a couple of weeks notice on a paper bill, but that’s now null and void, as the money has gone from my account, and on and on and on call me ron ronnie ron
So do I go for it?
Do I raise the game?
Do I insist on the …  Supervisor?
Not today. No no no not today, because I have just moved house and dealt with every service supplier known to the West of Ireland, the World, the Solar System, this side of the Cosmoverse and beyoooond. I have scrapped with Sky, dabbled with Digiweb, been through thousands of menus to speak to people at UPC, ESB, ABC, 123 baby you and me girl.
I’ve gone loopy loony loo. I’ve been lied to, ignored and ripped off, just as have all of you, and it makes us angry. Sometimes it has made me so angry that I have exploited my work as a freelance writer to try and right some wrongs, but only when I’ve either been lied to or robbed.
I hate doing it because it turns me into some sort of foolish and pompous Do you know what I do? bollox. Trouble is, it works, but only ever as a weapon of last resort. Why should it be necessary, when all we’re looking for is a TV service, an internet link, a waste bin provider; anyone working for any service company that means what they say when they sell to you, and then doesn’t keep you at bay by locking you away in a cell of talking computers and phone menu options.
Himself The Body tells a splendid tale about the time he was on the phone to eircom and losing it with their voice recognition drone machine. After he’d verbally exploded in a stream of ‘F’ words, the machine replied
“I may be a machine but I understand what you're saying!”

Hear me now providers all: you exist only if we use your products, but all of you are making us feel that we are Us and You, collectively, most certainly are Them.
As your call-holding loops forever remind us, we know that our calls are very important to you.
Now’s the time to mean what you say.


Paz said...

its enough to make you call the Samaritans.
Suicidal press 1
Depressed press 2......etc etc

Charlie Adley said...

Love it!

Charlie Adley said...

Apologies to himself The Body for getting his story wrong - all corrected now mate!