Thursday, October 16, 2008

Your call is (almost) important to us

I had to call a business the other day and run the gauntlet of their voice mail. In a galaxy long ago and far away, businesses had people who answered telephones, made on the fly decisions as to whom to route each call and transferred the caller to someone, somewhere else, within the corporation and the wheels of commerce rolled forward triumphantly.

Then we came up with toll-free numbers and Corporate America was inundated with a deluge of phone chatter. Everyone had a number--I can recall to this day a jingle exhorting me to call "Eight Oh Oh, three two five, three five three five" though for what purpose I cannot remember. No matter, were I to call it now I'd be asked in what language I wished to proceed and then advised the voice menu had changed and to ....my eyes glaze over.

If whatever it is I'm calling about were so simple I could resolve it by leaving a message for an unknown person who is never going to call me back, I'd have saved myself the trouble of calling and resolved the issue myself. And while I appreciate the reminder by The Voice (and how much money do you suppose the persons who do the voice work for the voice mail systems in this country make? Is it a flat rate, a piece rate or do they get royalties? How'd you like to be Allie AOL, 'You've got mail!") that 'this call may be recorded for training purposes' whose training?

Certainly not mine as I've never learned to NOT try again and continue to attempt to speak to a human being long after the last light has been turned off in the last USA based call center. And we certainly cannot be training the folks hired to finally respond to a phone call after the caller has mashed the "O" on the touch tone phone at least a hundred times and you discover the person on the other end and you did not go to Bangalore High School in East Punjab together as you had so fervently hoped, as that was the only way you could ever hope to get that charge for a cigarette boat the spa valet ran up on your charge plate while he was parking your car removed or to excise the purchase of that platinum CD set of Slim Whitman and Frankie Laine duets that person you used to date nailed you with as a 'now you'll never forget me, you fink!' going-away present.

Like we don't already feel like we're lost in the shuffle now we have to have faceless bureaucracies, private and public, dutifully assure us our calls are important while simultaneously denigrating us by having us audition like seals with a horn in the circus and if we're lucky, we don't get a fish for our troubles but a human being who is so impressed by our perseverance and the immediacy of our plight they put us on hold because our calls will be answered in the order in which they are received and, oh no!, the hold music playing is a Slim Whitman and Frankie Laine duet, recorded aboard Crockett's cigar boat.
-bill kenny

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