I find it amazing how much big business has changed the way we think over the recent years. We no longer drink our own free tap water, but pay money to buy someone else’s free water that comes out of a different tap. We’ve grown confused wondering if “ultra soft” toilet tissue is better than “ultra strong.” We actually think we are getting a good deal when we pay a monthly fee to receive “free” shipping. We come to expect that if we want to fly, we need to buy a plane ticket for our baggage as well. And we’ve learned to accept that virtually no business is going to answer our phone call. Why is that?
In this time of life when people are getting offended left and right by what others say and do, all businesses, from supermarkets to cable companies are getting a pass from us for ignoring our phone calls. We’ve just come to accept that when we have to contact a company for any reason, we will not be talking to real live person, at least not right away. No, we’ll be greeted after the second ring with a “thank you for calling our business” message followed by “please note that some of our menu options have changed” forcing us to listen to the entire list of options before pressing the number that we hope will lead us to someone who can actually help us. This is usually followed by another list of confusing options to choose from.
We have come to an understanding that companies want our business, but they don’t want to talk to us. What we if started interacting that way with our loved ones? What if moms starting telling their children when they wanted something, “You are very important me. Please stay on the line and your request will be answered in the order received?” The truth of the matter is this: if we were so “important” to you, you would just pick up the phone and talk to us!
I think that there just might be a special place in hell for the person who invented the phone tree. Even super-small businesses and local churches have come to “realization” that they are actually “helping” people by making them sit on the line pushing various numbers in hopes of speaking to a real person only to be connected to a phone line where the person is “unavailable.”
Way back in 2016, Discover Card started promoting the fact that when customers call their customer service line, they will actually be connected to a real, live human being. I’ve been surprised that other companies haven’t followed suit. Yes, I understand that it is expensive to hire receptionists but there was a time when companies understood that by doing so was a cost of doing business. If want your customers to have a favorable opinion of your company, talk to them!
More and more, online companies hide their customer service phone numbers on their websites or don’t even offer them at all. Instead, they try to encourage you to send them an email and you can expect an answer back within 24 hours. Gee, thanks. You offer “same day delivery” but can’t manage to respond back to me within the hour?
If you really want to lose my business, here is how to go about it:
- When I call you, don’t answer. Ever.
- Greet me with a generic “thank you for calling” message.
- Tell me how “important” my call is to your company but be sure to waste my time telling me information that I’m needing like your store hours, where you’re located and how I might be able to find the answer to my question by visiting your website before even offering me a choice of menu options.
- Offer a full range of confusing sounding phone options that all sound vaguely similar but none that sound like the one option that I really need.
- Do not offer the “to speak to an operator, push zero” option.
- Be sure to offer voice recognition software that will never understand when I say the word “representative.”
- While I’m holding, be sure to play one or two scratchy, outdated songs from 25 years ago over and over again.
- Be sure to interrupt that same scratchy outdated music every 30 seconds to get my hopes up thinking that someone is actually going to talk to me only to hear again how important my phone call is to you and how I should stay on the line and someone will be with me shortly.
- Make my holding experience even more frustrating by sharing other services your company offers every minute or so in-between that same scratchy outdated music.
- Randomly hang up on me making me have to call you and go through the whole experience again.
(Main image: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.