Guest Op-Ed: Customer Service?

By Alison Barnet, Special to the Sun

“I can’t help you with that, miss. I can’t help you with that, miss.”  And indeed he didn’t. Why did I bother calling?

Customer service isn’t what it used to be. As one friend says, “It’s nothing.” It doesn’t exist anymore. I call it customer disservice.

My least favorite is the “customer service” that is not operated by a human being. A recording asks you to tell it what you want and then doesn’t understand. I called a company about a book and couldn’t make my request clear no matter how many times I tried. Suddenly, the automatic voice told me she was transferring me to the pharmacy—completely unrelated to my request.

I’m always unhappy to be confronted with a computerized list of options, none of which match my situation. So I have begun to hate making calls to companies or institutions where I’m likely to get someone who can’t help me, someone who doesn’t know, or someone I can’t understand. Adding insult to injury, I sometimes get cut off as soon as a human being answers and have to dial the number again.

A lot of times, especially since the pandemic, it’s often hard to make out what representatives on the other end of the phone are saying. Maybe they’re wearing masks, have foreign accents, or have no intention of helping. But crystal clear are repetitive messages asking me to hold for the next operator or telling me that my call may be recorded for quality assurance. What quality? Are they recording my frenzied yelling?

I called a bank one day and was put on hold for half an hour, subjected to the same line over and over: “Your call will be taken in the or-der it was received. “Or-der“?

By far the worst is being put on hold at my hospital and subjected to cacophony, horrible music—is it music?—loud and abrasive—BLAW BLAW BLAW YACK YACK YACK—in my ear. I have to hold the phone so far away, I don’t hear when a human voice returns. I have promised myself that I will call hospital higher-ups and complain about it but the prospect—like all other such calls these days—isn’t pleasant. One of the hospital’s recorded announcements informs me that a certain service has changed, so “Hang up now.” The voice is authoritative, and the first time I heard it, I did hang up. Later I realized it was only one in an on-going list of services.

There are situations in which customer representatives are sociable. A friend of mine contacted Google to find out how to return a package. A man’s number popped up. A company representative? He was nothing if not very pleasant as he asked for her credit card number and personal information. She finally realized he was trying to defraud her when he told her to go to CVS and buy him a $200 gift card. What will the future bring? I hope “customer disservice” isn’t the “new normal

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