Jewish World Review July 24, 2002 / 15 Menachem-Av, 5762
This May, the Wall Street Journal informed me that U.S. companies are
shelling out seven and a half billion dollars, give or take a buck or two,
to expand their automated customer services, which means it's going to be
even harder to connect with a real person: "Once, you could just press
zero. Now.... American Airlines requires callers to press 6 and then say
"operator." Sprint PCS recently began requiring customers to actually say
the words 'live agent.'"
Why are they doing this? Well, despite corporate efforts to hinder personal
contact, companies still shelled out $150 billion last year on call
centers. Letting customers talk to a human costs about ten times as much as
making them put their fingers to work.
This might surprise you, but I'm all for this brave new world.
Ideally, everything will eventually become so perfect that we won't even
need customer service any more. Little tiny robots will serve us our
coffee-- just the way we like it-- and if we try to get out of the store
without paying, they'll zap us with little tiny lasers. It's a win win
As a matter of fact, I don't think companies are doing enough to discourage
us from bothering them with our petty grievances. Right now, many companies
are offering us menu options that might be deemed helpful-- Press 1 for
English, Press 2 for Spanish, and so on. I suggest we limit that to one
option-- Esperanto. Frankly, I think we should all learn Esperanto anyway,
and this would give us that incentive.
If we are calling with a problem, we should be disconnected immediately, or
given the choice of entering birthday, customer tracking code, consumer
product code, Mother's maiden name, and name of favorite pet, followed by
the pound sign.
To make things a bit more challenging, make that the birthday, mother's
maiden name, and favorite pet of the CEO of the company we are trying to
reach. If the CEO was adopted, so much the better.
Make sure that all codes, when properly entered, merely repeat the options.
What if somebody actually wants to buy something? In my opinion, in the new
economy that just leads to trouble. The product will break, or not work
properly, and the company's right back where it started. I recommend making
sure you get all customers'credit information, and then disconnect them.
As a matter of fact, we might be going about this all wrong. Instead of the
companies being completely automated, WE should be completely automated.
Replace our flesh and mood swings with smooth circuitry, and brushed
aluminum. If we were robots with disposable income, life would be a whole
lot easier for everybody. Except tech support, I suppose. But they're
never around anyway.
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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Ian Shoales