I dread calling companies. It is not about customer service agents. I am always polite, patient and understanding. I make it a point to treat them as valuable people, just like how I liked to be treated. This is not what I want to talk about. No, my problem is that helpdesks are still organized to capture and effectively handle 95% of customer inquiries while most of those can be done online nowadays. When I call, I call for that last 5%. It is my last resort. It is when everything else fails to solve my problem. This after going through the app, FAQs, talk widgets on their site or emails. I only call when I literally have no other avenue available to me to try to solve my problem. That is how much I dread calling companies.
Typically it goes like this.
You call and you get a chipper voice telling you about the “main menu”. While listening to the 7 options, I try to classify my problem in one of those buckets. Usually, at number 7 I am puzzled which category to choose. Since the chipper voice has no patience, it starts to repeat all the options. This is good because I already forgot which number was which while still pondering which option to choose. At the second run, I typically lament and choose something which is close.
The next step is “identification”. They ask you for an account number or something similar. Nobody including me knows that number by heart so you go click open their app and find the number you are looking for. Usually, that number is 9 digits long or something which requires you to go back and forth between the app and your phone app. Meanwhile, the chipper voice is announcing “I didn’t quite catch that – please try again.” That is the moment, I just write down the number on a piece of paper and afterward enter it in the phone app.
Then you get transferred to a real person. Finally. Another chipper but real human voice announces themselves; “My name is X. How can I help you today?” You explain your need and then we enter the “identification” procedure. “Let me pull up your account. What is your account number?” Despite that my phone number is tied to my account or that I entered my account number in the beginning, for some reason we always have to go through the whole process again. Usually, I have to recite all my personal details before we can actually start to work on my problem.
We are now 5 minutes into a typical call.
Next comes the dreaded “Hmmm”. The “Hmmm” means “I see your problem, but I cannot help you.” The nifty transfer comes in. I dread those the most. Transfers are tricky. While companies usually have proper call queues for their frontend support agents, this is often the case with secondary support agents. This means that 2 out of 5 calls end up with a hangup. The only option then is to call again and start at the top and do the whole dance again. This is the moment I start to get anxious about my connection. You know you’re going to be talking to that priced secondary agent who is going to help you fix that problem, but you know cannot reach them directly. Please do not hang up on me!
We are now 10 minutes into the call.
The third chipper and human voice announce themselves. “How can I help you today?” “My name is Robert. As I just explained to X, I am calling about Y.”. “Of course, let me pull up your information. What is your account number?”. Dutifully you explain your problem in detail again and provide all the details they need to pull up your account (again) and verify your identity (again). And then the dreaded “Hmmm” comes again. This time “Hmmmm” means “I am not sure what to do here. I need to ask someone else.”. This “Hmmmm” means I am going to put you on hold for a minute. I feel my blood pressure rising because this is another critical moment with a big chance of a “hangup”. I have gone through 3 identity checks by now and the level of effort to get here again is mounting in my head. I dutifully wait on hold. A couple of minutes go by and the person comes back on. The third chipper voice tells me that she fixed the problem for me, but it won’t be reflected on your account until tomorrow. She tells me “It should be alright now. If it is not changed by tomorrow, please call us again.”
20 minutes I hang up not feeling accomplished at all. I might have solved my problem, I might not have. Who knows. I’ll know by tomorrow. I cross my fingers that I do not have to go through this dance again.
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