Schuh Column: Wait – there’s more!
By Jim Schuh
Two weeks ago, I presented a column complaining about how impersonal and annoying business’ automated answering devices are. They basically tell callers the business using the apparatus doesn’t care about them and is more interested in saving money than responding to customers with live people.
Adding to the annoyance of these answering devices is a recorded voice that tells the caller, “All our ‘customer service’ representatives are assisting other callers. Please stay on the line and we’ll answer your call in the order in which it was received.” Customer service? Assisting other callers? Nonsense.
If you really need to reach the business, you’ll endure the aggravation of waiting for a human to show up on the line. Perhaps to try to assuage exasperated callers, some outfits have begun to give callers an idea of how long they’ll have to wait to speak with someone. They’ve added wording like, “We’re experiencing an extremely high volume of callers.
Your wait will be approximately two days.” (I’m exaggerating just a bit.) A few give you the option of leaving your telephone number with the firm so someone there can call you back when they have time. Maybe tomorrow or next week.
Companies will tell you the automated answering systems save you money. They make that argument, saying if they don’t have to pay salaries of phone operators, they can keep the cost of their products or service down. How can we ever know if that’s true? The net result is poorer customer service.
We’ve run into an odd problem with Ascension St. Michael’s hospital’s system that calls to remind us of an upcoming appointment. We answer the phone and we get a partial message which says, “800 Illinois Avenue” and then some words in Spanish. The system then hangs up without telling us why it called.
We’ve brought the matter to the attention of several people at the hospital, but it never gets fixed. We’re left with the impression that no one cares. That’s not very gold public relations for a hospital. Maybe someone from information technology (IT) at the hospital will see this column and take action.
How about the recorded music piped into your ear while you wait on the line to speak to an honest-to-goodness real person? Very few of the selections are interesting or pleasant to listen to. If you’re unfortunate enough to have to wait for a while, the music repeats itself. It’s a good bet a real person didn’t compose the music – it’s a product of the devil via computer.
Another annoyance is that the so-called music is distorted, making an already unpleasant waiting experience worse. Someone in I-T has the volume set too high and apparently never called the number to check what the music sounds like while callers wait in the queue. Executions may be in order.
Now onto other telephone annoyances – the kind Alexander Graham Bell never envisioned for his invention…
We subscribe to Charter Spectrum for cable, internet and telephone services. Cable companies get criticism for their high charges, and that’s probably justified. But there’s one magnificent element to Spectrum’s cable-telephone service – while the TV set is on and the telephone rings, a notice pops up on the TV screen informing you of the phone number and name or location of the caller. We think this clever invention helps justify our $225 monthly bill from Charter. Well, some of it, anyway.
We’ve avoided so many nuisance calls by looking at the screen when the phone rings, letting us know that we’re getting a call from an unknown source. Many are charities in which we have no interest and some of them are questionable. A few come from politicians and political parties. By law, all these calls are allowed, even though we’re on the no-call list.
But despite that, some hucksters try to reach us anyway, knowing they’re doing something illegal, but correctly betting that we won’t report them because the process is too cumbersome. They want me to buy hearing aids and lifeline subscriptions.
When a person errs and answers any of these calls, it’s tough to get in a word edgewise as the caller is intent on reading a sales pitch. It’s fruitless to try to interrupt them. If I do answer one of these calls (which I’ll do every so often just to see who’s on the line), I give interrupting a try but when that doesn’t work, I simply say, “No thank you” and hang up.
I don’t find it necessary to be polite to these callers. My rationale is that they are intruding into my space without invitation, so there’s no reason to be civil, especially when they won’t shut up.
A ploy – enabled by new technology – makes a recipient of unwanted calls think he’s getting a call from someone locally. “Spoofing” is what they call it – showing a local number even though the caller is somewhere far away. I made the mistake of answering such a call – it showed up on my phone as a local call and contained a name. The name was one I recognized – as a fellow who died a few years ago.
Technology has brought us some wonderful conveniences and inventions, but there’s a dark side to it as well. I wonder if we’ll ever be able to sort the good from the bad, although there may be some people clever enough to tackle the problem and find a way to free us from intrusion. At least we can hope, anyway.