The phone call that drives us all insane
I MUST inform you that while reading this article you are being recorded for something I’ll spuriously call “training purposes”. Got that?
Back when I was starting out in the news trade – in what now feels like black and white telly days – things were a lot different.
If there was something mildly controversial coming up at the planning committee – a supermarket scheme that was upsetting the locals, for instance – I’d ring up the corpy’s head of planning to get a quote, and normally receive one straight from the horse’s mouth.
Parents short-changed on their child benefit could find a number in the phone book, dial it, speak to a grown-up, and have the matter sorted out there and then.
And anyone with a genuine complaint or query to make about any aspect of public or private service would be immediately put through to the manager, as that was where the buck would stop.
Younger readers might read this and think that I once lived in some kind of nirvana – and in some ways it was.
A world where people took responsibility for their roles in life and stepped up to the plate when asked.
A world where phone numbers were identified by their area code and thus directed us to someone local, and not a generic 0845 prefix which takes us to a call centre 4,593 miles away in Mumbai (which is the actual distance from my home, fact fans).
A world where everything you said WASN’T recorded for “training purposes”.
A world where the customer was always right.
But this shiny new supposedly connected world doesn’t believe the customer is right any more.
If anything, we’re presumed automatically wrong or mistaken – and begrudgingly agreed to be correct only if we first adopt the tenacity of an angry October wasp.
Who hasn’t spent hours waiting to get through to their bank – well, the banking group’s call centre – listening to that dreadful music?
Who hasn’t been told “I’m afraid I’ll have to terminate this call if you continue to be angry?” after you were only enraged in the first place by their dumb inability to understand your complaint?
And who in life has ever had to listen to recorded customer phone complaints as part of their “training”?
Grown adults are now treated like children by kids in headphones who couldn’t run a bath.
And their employers deliberately hide behind these call centres, as it means minimum wage frontline staff in shops and public services are excused from actually helping you out, meaning you’re more likely to leave whatever it is alone just to avoid the mind-blowing hassle of the phone call.
Computer says no? Every bloody time.