How to get a human on the phone
Published 12:00 pm Friday, November 6, 2015
By T.J. Ray
On a lovely Saturday afternoon, two soft booms caught my ear — just as my electricity went off. Guessing that the booms indicated a blown transformer down on the street, I dialed the power company.
After the usual dialogue about office hours, a voice gave me a menu for further contact. With surgical precision, I decided the emergency number was the one to push. So I did.
Email newsletter signup
The same voice then told me to leave my name and number and the nature of the emergency and that someone would call back during business hours. Of course, I called back and each time chose a different menu option. Results: I never got through to a living person. I even considered dialing and asking the operator to contact the power company, except there was no one there to ask.
This week I called a doctor’s office. A nice voice told me to listen to the following menu before choosing. I waited and heard all seven options. Then I punched a number and got one of the extensions, at which time another voice came on the line to tell me that person was away from her desk. I was to leave my name, number, reason for the call, pharmacy, and med name. She ended by saying if I had further questions to call back and speak with the receptionist. SOOOOO, I called back. A nice voice told me to listen to the following menu before choosing. Isn’t this what programmers refer to as a Do Loop?
A day later that office called me. While we were talking, I asked the nurse how one got through to the receptionist, and she said to choose the first option: to make an appointment. As my problem had nothing to do with an appointment, I obviously had not thought to choose one.
Yes, I realize this has likely bored you, and you’ve concluded that T.J. has finally gone round the bend. Au contraire, mi amigo!
I’m just plain annoyed that in our modern world a person cannot get through to another person unless it is a personal call. In other words, calling a business or government office normally results in having to listen to a litany of useless information and in the end having no number to contact a live person.
While I know that time is money, my sense is that businesses erect these digital barriers to avoid hearing complaints and claims. It would be nice if a single corporation included “To make a comment or register a complaint” at the end of their telephone menus.
And if you’re that alarm company that’s going to be in my area and has chosen me to receive a free alarm system and keep calling back with different phone numbers each time I add you to the do-not-call list, I hope a wandering camel takes up residence on your desk.
T.J. Ray, a retired professor of English at the University of Mississippi, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.