Friday, November 25, 2016

When Was The Last Time You Actually Talked To A Human Receptionist?

Please hold. Due to increased caller volume, lead times are especially long today.  Please hold and we will be with your shortly. Your call is so important to us. Thank you for holding.

Sound familiar? It should. This is close to the standard answer every caller in the United States gets each and every day when they call just about everybody ... utility, credit card, department store, the government, especially the DMV to make a worthless appointment time.

In fact, I got so angry once trying to get a software issue resolved I called at 3 am in the morning and got the same recording. After waiting for 45 minutes I asked the operator, when he finally came on line, "What, there is only one person there? For the whole world?" And he told the truth admitting there was only one person answering the phone. So remember, the only business that is important to just about any company today seems to be that you should buy their product and good luck with the rest! This is the fodder for "Dilbert" each and every day!
Ernestine the telephone lady. "We don't
have to because, snort snort, we're the
telephone company."

Since this blog is about design ... the design of all facets of our lives, making a call on your phone and the response you get has been very carefully designed. In fact, I make it a practice now to compliment whomever answers before I get a taped message and long wait times. Does it help? I hope so. I know that I am sent to the person I need to talk to and even if it is their message machine, I didn't have to wait 30 minutes to leave a message.

Those of you in my age range (71) may remember a very funny TV show from the 70's called "Laugh-In." An hour
long it had a series of skits each week with comedians and actors who became and remained famous long after this show was gone. One of the funniest was the Lily Tomlin character Ernestine from the Telephone Company who would snort, it was a near monopoly at the time, snort snort "We don't have to ... we're the telephone company," snort with a wicked giggle. Her interaction with telephone customers, if real and maybe they were, would have set customer service back 100 years. Little did we know that what was comedy then would soon be reality today ... and not just at the phone company!

Just like "1984" predicted the time of Big Brother watching everything we do and ANIMAL FARM that predicted the relationships of the have's and have-not's, we live in a time where companies talk about customer service more than ever before, but where the reality, ever more less service, is worse than ever before. We wait and wait. The testament to poor product design, warranties, government forms is that more people, not less, need help, and the proof is the long times we have to wait ... on the phone or in line. If the items were made better, the product was better designed, the forms were clear there would be far less need for this. Again, the reality is proof that it isn't with a increasingly frustrated society.

Indian call centers are often the worst. What did you say?
Are you speaking English?
Telephone calls to even place an order is often a trip to the seven stages of hell. You called, placed your order and when the item didn't arrive you had to make another call to find out if the first order's call had been taken. Another wards, you had to be the buyer and the seller because "we have been so busy." Get a little busier and you won't have to worry about being busy again ... no one will buy your product. I don't know about you but ... I have a list. Sort of like the ditty from "The Mikado'" "I have a little list, I have a little list and I bet they won't be missed, I know they won't be missed."
Just hang me up to dry!

Has automation really made our lives better? How many times have you been urged to leave a callback number because the wait times are so long and then never been called back? I have seen people get a call, listen to the message and then ignore it. Is it any wonder that companies like Amazon are successful? You place your order, they repeat your order to be sure you got what you thought you ordered, then receive a confirming email after the order is placed giving you time to change something and then receive another email when the item is shipped with a tracking number. No driving, trying to find a parking place at the mall where you don't have to walk the length of a football stadium to just get inside, find an item you like only to find it is not in your size (if you're lucky its at another store), no snotty or could care less sales associate (don't you love the new titles?) nor a trek back to the car or fighting the traffic to get home because you got caught in rush hour that in Los Angeles lasts 24/7.

While we can laugh at this poster I can guarantee you that after 30, 45 or even a 60 minute wait you will not be laughing. Clearly this poster has no sense of what customer service is ... yet I bet they certainly demand it when they come calling. If companies really cared they would hire more people. I would hazard a guess that their overpaid management could do with a lot less salary that would free up money to hire those that actually have to talk and work with the public. Big box and even smaller stores had better listen up because there's still gold in them thar hills but it won't be in some big box store, it will be somewhere up in the cloud.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

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