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"This call may be monitored…"

June 11, 2009

I wonder if they sometimes say that thinking that it will keep me, the caller, in line if I think Big Brother may be listening in to my call to their customer service call center.  If they do, then they are sorely mistaken.

 It would appear that Selfridge’s maxim "The Customer is Always Right" doesn’t apply to the 21st century call center. In fact, I can’t remember when in the last decade, as a customer, I was ever right when it came time to complain about a product or service.  It frequently seems that the warranty doesn’t cover the part that broke, or my pricey customer service agreement doesn’t include the service I actually need.  Wasn’t this explained to me when I purchased it? Um, no, not really.  I was being sold something, so, of course, they aren’t going to highlight what it doesn’t cover, but what it does.

The customer service people I tend to fight, and I mean verbally brawl, with are the fine folks in the "Technical Support" department.  While I’m no rocket scientist, I do have over 15 years experience on a computer and with the internet. When I finally get around to putting myself through the torture of calling for technical support, it is because I have already exhausted all the basic steps and procedures to resolve the current conflict.  They have not worked, and now I need to get some more serious conflict resolution than being walked through how to restart my computer/modem/router.

What usually starts to set me off is when my call is routed to another country to be answered – particularly if I’ve called my "American" phone company.  With the rising unemployment numbers in America, I really get irked that a job that could be handled here is being sent elsewhere. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived in a number of foreign countries and have fallen in love with English spoken, well or poorly, with a foreign accent. However, there are certain accents that do not lend themselves to telephone conversations, and when used in a monotone to read a pre-approved script, are guaranteed to have me hissing flames and profanity down the phone lines.

The next thing that sets me off is the script.  It doesn’t matter that I explain to them that I have already spent an hour going through the steps that they are insisting upon walking me through, they aren’t listening, as my actual problem isn’t a factor in their pre-scripted scenario.

"Can you please restart your computer for me?"

"I have already been through this.  Can you please put me through to a Level 2 technician?"

"No, ma’am. I am sorry, but I must determine your problem before I can help you."

30 minutes later, when it becomes clear that I knew what I was talking about in the first place, the promise of a transfer to another technician comes.  So too does the long period of silence while I’m on hold, until I hear a click, a beep, and a busy signal to indicate that my call can’t be redirected to another country for the Level 2 technician.  And I have to call back again.

 Frequently, at some point during the second call, I wind up telling the new tech, who keeps calling me "ma’am", to go fuck himself and hanging up when he asks me if I can restart my computer so he can diagnose my problem.   A number of times this has resulted in a returned phone call to my home by the perplexed tech, and at which point, I leave my husband, who has the patience of a minor saint, to talk to them as I am officially done.

The customer service rep I most frequently argue with is the automated voice activated call center.  A "friendly" electronic voice answers the phone and proceeds to give you a series of menu options and prompts.  If the system is fancy, it will allow you to speak to it rather than press the keys on your phone.  However if you have some kind of speech impediment, a barking dog or screaming child in the background this function ceases to be useful.  I can’t tell you how many arguments I have had with the snotty voiced female automaton at FEDEX and they are always the same.

"Welcome to FEDEX.  How may I help you?"

"Agent"

"Sorry, I didn’t understand that."

"Customer Service"

"Sorry, I didn’t understand that."

"Representative"

"Sorry, I didn’t understand that."

"Fuck off you sanctimonious bitch"

"Sorry, I didn’t understand that."

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