Your call is annoying to us

The Gazette’s Roberto Rocha has an interview with call centre unions (these exist?) as part of his Your Call Is Important To Us series. It’s not really earthshattering what they’re saying (the workers are overworked, underpaid, underappreciated and abused), but it gives us a glimpse into what the real problem is with tech support: compartmentalization.

These big companies like it if every problem you call about can fit into one of their little boxes. Change of address, termination of service, adding or removing features. Each one can have its little three-step guide and a trained monkey to go through it. Training is fast and you can outsource the job to any country with English speakers and a low minimum wage.

A lot of the time it works out. Most calls are about common problems, and it saves everyone time if they’re dealt with quickly and efficiently. Many can even be dealt with using a computer, which saves money for the company and saves headaches for the customer who doesn’t have to spend so much time on hold and can perform the tasks on off-hours.

The problem comes in unusual situations. The company has billed you twice for the same service. You’re getting billed for someone else’s account. You cancelled the service three years ago or were never a customer but now you’re getting threats from someone to pay up. When these things come up, the automated menus are useless, as are the outsourced Indian call centre workers who don’t understand your euphemisms.

In a perfect world, these calls would be “escalated” to a manager or supervisor with more training and more latitude and decision-making power to deal with your problem. But customer service is afraid – deathly afraid – to escalate calls no matter how complicated they may seem. Supervisors are either “on holiday” or otherwise unavailable (usually a lie), and there’s no one you can bring the matter to. You’re screwed. And though the person on the other end has sympathy (assuming they even understand your problem), their job is to make it as hard as possible for you to take your matter up with important people, to keep their bottom line in check.

Unusual situations are annoying pests that these companies want swatted. The system (which includes things like constantly repeating your problem to different agents every time you call) is designed to get you to give up and stop wasting their money.

2 thoughts on “Your call is annoying to us

  1. princess iveylocks

    Your uncommon situations are actually daily occurrences in today’s professional call centre environment.

    What’s really uncommon is:

    … for someone to request a statement from 2004 and then mistake it for last month’s bill (note that the system only retains a year’s worth of statements, and you are hella confused as to what 77-year-old Granny is rambling on about)

    … to ask “Is Mr. So-and-So (a legit client) there?” and hear “No. He died. Seven years ago.”

    … your client has just been released from a mental asylum (not for depression or similarly innocuous matters).

    … when someone, pissed that their account was closed due to bad credit, completes FORTY-SEVEN instant credit applications by hand, hoping to sneak through the wire again

    … someone desperately needs their only credit card (who only has one credit card?) replaced within the three-day estimate, but it takes two days for the plastic to be pressed and then FedEx takes over… and, despite all attempts to explain, Ms. Entitled just DOESN’T GET that you CANNOT PERSONALLY HAND-DELIVER the piece of shit to her house in Booniesville, Alberta…and that, honestly, you’ve had to piss for forty-seven minutes, thirty-two seconds and just cannot focus on anything else right now…

    More common, but no less delightful:

    … someone proselytizes you/screams at you/suggests rather strongly that you engage in promiscuous activities. You are being taped that day. You cannot hang up. You must mouth profanities in silence.

    … your client uses TTY technology to interpret your end of the conversation, but insists in speaking in garbled English. You cannot understand a single word. You think hate as a simple call turns into a flaming mess.

    … your client only speaks Kurdu/Inuktituk/Magyar. Your client’s English-speaking relative cannot accept that, by law, you need binding written confirmation from the client for another person to access their banking information.

    … supervisors only work 8-4, no weekends, and spend half that time in boardroom meetings. Of course they don’t return the client’s messages. Their supervisors quit last week. The department is merging/being restructured/ moribund. From the CEO down, everyone has left or is on their last pay cycle. Good luck trying to “escalate,” screaming soccer mommie; we’re stuck with each other until the corporation gets its shit together. In the meantime, take a Xanax and go beat up your kids or something. I’m not interested in your middle-class rage.

    … you/your department/this call does not have a reference number. Why? Because the company sucks ass. Because I’m more important than you think I am. Because no one besides me and you cares about this interaction.

    … your client’s son/husband is impersonating his wife/mother’s voice to access her account

    … your bladder’s gonna explode and you can’t focus on the conversation

    … your client is enjoying a blow job on the other end and can’t focus on the conversation

    … you are one step away from being fired if your call time/sales are below par

    … your coworkers only speak Kurdu/Iniktituk/Magyar. Of course they fucked up that account last time Mr. Corporate called in to make a simple, logical request.

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