The phone call that drives us all in­sane

Midweek Sport - - NEWS -

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.

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