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Location: Fort Myers, Florida, United States

People tell me that my sarcasm and cynicism will get me into trouble some day. We'll see.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Phone Hell

Just went through Phone Hell today - again. I'm sure you know what I am talking about. You want to talk directly to a Customer Service Representative because you are certain that you have a unique question that cannot be answered through the myriad of options they make available to you via the automated system.

I believed I had that today. My wife changed jobs and got a new insurance carrier. Turns out the carrier uses the same on-line prescription drug facility as the old one. But the on-line interface still pointed to the old carrier. I was certain that nobody has ever asked, "How do I change my wife's insurance carrier in the on-line interface so she can continue to access her medications under the new carrier?"

So, like a fool, I called the medication facility. Of course, I automatically got dropped into the automated system. And this one wasn't the usual "press 1 for" this and "2" for that. This is one of the newer systems that try to initiate your venture by allowing you to ask your question in plain English.

"Why don't you tell me how I can help you today?" it queried, expecting to be able to make heads or tails out of my response. Do they really expect me to answer that honestly?

I was tempted to respond in French, to see if it would switch to that language, were it not for two things: I don't speak French, and I would not understand the responses and would have to start over. Plus, who wants to be in French Phone Hell?

"I'd like to ask about benefits ..." I offered, wondering on which path that would lead me.

"Do you have a question about benefits?" the lovely female voice asked, seeking confirmation of my request.

Well, DUH, I thought.

"Yes," I responded.

Of course, you can probably imagine where that took me. Down a host of other options that specified everything under the sun except for that which would have answered my question. Every option offered related to my existing coverage, but naturally nothing had to do with changing coverage.

Once I got to about the ninth choice, I got fed up and just pressed 'zero.' As you may have learned, pressing zero will sometimes get you a live person.

Not this time, of course. What pressing zero got me was a statement I have never heard before in my years of circumnavigating through automated response systems, and made me realize I was truly in Phone Hell. Ready?

"I know you want to speak to a Customer Service Representative, but please try to continue to use our Voice Response System to answer your question. In the event that I cannot answer your question, I will connect you to a Customer Service Representative."

So let me get this straight. The system's smart enough to recognize the sheer frustration level of their users, and has been programmed to ignore such pleas for assistance, choosing instead to try to talk them back into navigating through the automated system?!?

Here's a thought, oh great conglomerate to which I must bow down, (since you are my ONLY option, in this case.) If you KNOW I am trying to reach a live person - CONNECT ME TO ONE!! Is that too much to ask?

Were it not bad enough that the system is toying with me, but to state with pseudo-authority that "I will connect you IF, (and ONLY if,) I cannot help, and when I am good and ready," leaves me with the feeling that these auto-systems have been granted WAAAY too much power.

I finally gave up and simply refused to answer any more questions. Apparently THAT'S the key to getting a live person - make them believe you have lost your voice from yelling into the phone, or simply have passed out in thorough exhaustion from the voyage.

At any rate, eventually I got a real person - a nice lady named Melanie, who spoke English just like a native American. (I don't mean 'Native American' like an Indian, I just mean someone who was born in the US,) and she was able to help me.


Blogger scout said...

Ha! I despise voice-activated "customer service." I recently called the California DMV to pay my VLF by phone and encountered the silver-tongued devil. I'm not sure how many times I had to repeat my VIN number, but toward the end I sounded more like a machine than the one I was talking to. Not that it's that much more difficult to make myself understood to a robot than to a burnout DMV employee.

Here's a neat database of hacks to navigate your way through the phone purgatory of many large companies:

Friday, June 23, 2006 1:06:00 PM  
Blogger The Sarcasticynic said...

I wish I had "Scout's" list when I called. As would be happenstance, the company I called is on that list. Good to know.

Friday, June 23, 2006 1:21:00 PM  

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