Cloudy early, becoming mostly clear after midnight. Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 39F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph..
Cloudy early, becoming mostly clear after midnight. Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 39F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: October 17, 2022 @ 4:44 pm
“You have reached Banana Airlines, press one for English. Press two if you don’t remember our menu, which has changed. (Like I would have memorized their previous menu.) Press three if you want to remain on hold for 45 minutes, frustrated, while we take care of our more important customers.” Sound familiar?
I guess it is a not so well kept secret that customer service in this country has gone to hell in a proverbial hand basket, or should I say cargo plane?
From pizza delivery, to cable TV or WiFi services, to every day things like doctor’s appointments, we often wind up in push button purgatory. I am reaching that point in the movie “Network,” where the crazed news announcer is screaming out of his window, “I’m mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!”
Gone are the days when you call a company, any company, and you get to talk to a human being right away. Often, your call is routed to a call center in, say, Bangaladesh. When you finally do get to speak with a human being you are often dismayed by your inability to understand them, and their inability to truly assist you.
Being on hold for 20 minutes is not so bad. Some companies even offer you a choice of music on hold. And then, just when you finally connect with a real person, you might get a spam call from a Medicare solicitor, or someone telling you your car warranty has expired, and you lose the connection you have waited for. Not good!
Gone are the days when you could talk to a person with authority to resolve your issues. That is by design, and intended to save costs. It is also intended to frustrate the consumer. It is almost comical that after a frustrating phone session, you get an email requesting that you fill out a survey, letting the company know how they did in solving your problem. At the outset of the call, if you don’t push “yes” agreeing to take the survey, you invariably go to the end of the queue. So I say yes, and at the end tell them how badly they did in the survey.
Some companies actually give you the option of letting them call you back, and they will tell you approximately how long that will take. That is a beginning in addressing this consumer service crisis, but it doesn’t go far enough. I don’t have to tell you how frustrating it is to listen to music on hold for 20 minutes, remaining in suspended animation, afraid to veer far from the phone to do anything else but just wait. Invariably, when you run into the bathroom, your call goes through to someone.
Another source of great frustration is finally getting someone on line, and as they take you through the paces of installing the app you are calling about, or getting a program to work, and when you near successful completion of the call, and the phone drops the call, and you are back to square one. I recently had that experience with a well-known company bearing a fruit as their symbol. When I called back and waded through the whole punch one or two system, after 20 minutes more, I found that the new technician could not use “screen share” to guide me, because the prior representative was still connected to my account and thus the new representative could not help me. You would think that within the company, they could figure out who that was, and reconnect me, but alas, each call has a separate silo, and one hand literally does not know what the other hand is doing. Enough already!
Left without any government intervention, I fear the crisis will continue. Government does have a role to play in regulating aspects of the market place when the private sector fails to self-police. A schedule of fines that increase with the waiting period might be a giant step forward in solving the problem. Perhaps the appointment of a consumer task force could produce a broader array of solutions.
It is unlikely that government will act to solve this problem without substantial public pressure, however, because the government itself is part of the problem. If you don’t believe me, try calling the IRS, or any number of state agencies. They are often among the worst “on hold” offenders.
So banging the drum for reform is in order, and we must bang the drum loudly to be heard. So get out the snare drum, the bass drum and the clanging bell, and let our political leaders know that this is a quality of life issue they need to address. Pronto!
John T. Sullivan Jr. has written and published four books: “Forks in the Road” parts I and II, an autobiography, and most recently a memoir of his younger days as a disc jockey entitled “The Live 25 in Hi-Fi Jive.” He is a former mayor of Oswego (1988-91), trained attorney and former officer for the state Attorney General’s office. Sullivan is now retired. His books are available at the river’s end bookstore, and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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