Friday, March 11, 2011

Press One if You Feel Like Choking the Robot That Answers the Phone When You Call a Business

Librarians, by nature, are a frugal bunch, always looking for ways to save money without compromising service. It’s practically a science!

So when a trusted source came along and offered to save us a significant amount of money on our Internet service, I, of course, said, “Sure! Why not?”

The unfortunate consequence to this bit of budget-motivated acquiescence was that I was required to make a call to our current Internet service provider to make arrangements to cancel the ADSL so that the new service could be set up. This filled me with heart-palpitating trepidation, thinking that it was not going to be a simple process. And it wasn’t.

I kept putting it off, finding other more important things to do with my time. Things like sharpening my pencils and lining up the edges of the stacks of papers and files on my desk. I even cleaned out the junk box in my desk drawer that used to hold all the odds and ends that I’ve collected over the years with that frugal-librarian mentality of possibly finding a use for them some day. But when the IT guy who is setting up the new service walked into my office and asked if I had called to cancel the ADSL yet, I knew I was busted. I looked for more pencils to sharpen, but couldn’t find any.

So I took a deep breath and dialed. Expecting to be on hold for ever and a day, I set the phone to speaker phone and hunkered in for the long haul. Much to my surprise an agent answered within a minute and I began to explain what it was that I wanted. About half way through my request, the agent cut me off and informed me that she could not help me. I was duly puzzled, but waited for the explanation as to why. Apparently our little library with its single line and two ISP #s was classed as a “big business account” and could only be handled by our personal sales rep. I was given a direct number and the rep’s name, and then was – theoretically – transferred to him by the agent.

Here I must digress just a little. Getting to the agent was not a simple process either. After dialing I was coached by an effeminate robotic voice to first enter my phone number beginning with the area code and second to “listen carefully to the following options.” Rebelliously, I pressed one and waited. A serious of chimes indicated that something was happening and then some elevator music filled my office. I was on hold. A few seconds into the bad music another robotic female voice thanked me for my patience and informed me that all agents were currently busy but my call was important to her (it?) and that the fastest way to get service was to stay on the line. I wasn’t going anywhere. That’s what the chocolate was for. I was mistakenly happy when the bad music was cut off and a real live person – also female - asked me how she could help. The fact that she couldn’t help made me long for the bad music to return and more chocolate to get me through it.

While I was left on hold for the big business sales rep to come on the line, I admittedly made some sarcastic remarks about the situation to the IT guy who was working on the computer outside my office. I think that my call was being recorded for quality purposes and that whoever was doing the recording took offence to my complaints, because the next thing I knew the line went dead and yet another female robot told me to hang up and try my call again. So I went to the washroom.

Another deep breath prepared me to dial the big business sales rep’s direct number and after only one ring yet another robotic female answered and informed me that “the person you are trying to reach does not yet have a voice mail account set up. Good-bye.”

Not only had I had my fill of robotic females, but I was beginning to surmise that this was all just a ruse to make me change my mind about switching Internet service providers. Seriously, it is the easier option. But it had become a matter of principle and I was determined to talk to a real person and get what I wanted. I also had plans to complain profusely about the robotic females, getting cut of – by a phone company, no less! – and the big business dude’s lack of a voice mail account. So I ate a thingy of yogurt and dialed the business account number again.

Robotic female, enter phone number, listen to options… blah, blah, blah.

This time I just pressed 0 and listened while the disappointed robotic female agreed to put me through to the next available agent.

Back on hold. But this time I held my tongue so I would offend anyone and get hung up on again.

A real live person answered within a few minutes. I politely explained what I wanted and she happily asked me when I wanted the service to be discontinued. I gave her a date. Sorry, they don’t disconnect ADSL service on Mondays. But Tuesdays were good. How about a Tuesday? Stupidly, I asked why.

“It’s a manned station,” she said, like I knew what that was (or cared). “They only go out there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

A quick consultation with the IT guy and we agreed to take what we could get. Theoretically, the work order to disconnect the ADSL has been submitted and now we wait with bated breath to see a) if it will actually happen; and b) if it will happen without screwing anything else up. I am mentally preparing now for shear and utter chaos to descend as the library will be open and we depend entirely on the Internet to run our ILS. Even the simple task of checking a book in or out requires the Internet to happen. It’s going to be a long Tuesday!

I wish I knew what happened to customer service. These call answering systems have done nothing to improve it. Indeed, they have only increased frustration and stress levels for both customers and businesses. I do not understand why they have not been eliminated as the banes of existence that they are. No one wants to talk to a recording. It just does not make any sense.

The other day I even e-mailed my MP and informed him that I did not appreciate being called by a recording of his voice inviting me to participate in a riding-wide teleconference. I complain about these things every time I get the chance. I can’t even call my local bank directly. When I dial the number, I get an answering system and when, at last, a real person comes on line, he or she is in Winnipeg, has never heard of Houston, BC (and often asks if I got the right number!), and makes me cringe when they start telling me how much they know about my personal finances. It makes me cranky.

I think it’s time to start a revolution. I’m not anit-technology; I’m anti-robot/recorded messages. And I do take some small comfort in knowing that the inventor of the systems that businesses use did not intend for them to be ABused the way that they are.

I’m thinking FB page to start… We’ll see. If the ADSL switch over goes even kind of well, I might not feel as cantankerous as I do now. In the meantime, I will be giving plenty of thought to the insanity of answering systems and recorded messages and how to make a difference for the greater good.

1 comment:

  1. I got a tip the other day - when you get those robot voices.....swear....or raise your voice...or otherwise make the recorder think you're not happy! Apparently this gets a real live person real quick! And then - insist on speaking to 'customer loyalty' - and don't settle for anything less. Not sure I have the guts to try it LOL


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