Do human beings answer phones anymore?

I am so fucking sick and tired of “Automated” phone services!
[sickly sweet computerized voice]

*If you wish to listen to the computer try to sell you something, press 1 now.

If you want to listen to shitty elevator muzak until your ear falls off, press 2 now.

If you’d like to leave a voice-mail message no one will ever hear, press 3 now.

If you’d like to speak with an actual human being, please stay on the line until Hell freezes over. Thank you and have a nice day.*

[/sickly sweet computerized voice]
What the hell does it take to talk to a person these days? I’m beginning to believe that human customer service reps are nothing but a myth. It seems like lately any time I want to talk to some company or another I have to talk to their bloody computer instead and give up any hope of talking to a person.

Example 1: Yesterday I tried to talk to the local Utility company to switch on the natural gas at my new home. After wading through various options on the phone for TWENTY minutes I get a computerized voice telling me that I need to apply in person at City Hall. WTF? Why couldn’t you tell me that 20 minutes ago? Now I need to buy a new phone since I threw that one at a wall.

Example 2: Today I tried to change my primary doctor on my health plan. After several minutes of phone options, I was sent to a voice-mail box and ordered to leave this, that, and the other pieces of information. Then I was informed that someone would call me back only if there was a problem. All I wanted was for someone to pull up my file, erase Dr. ThisGuy and enter Dr. ThatGuy and then tell me it had been done. Easy and quick, right? Now I have to call back (oh, joy) because I didn’t have all the info the voice-mail wanted and then I get to assume someone got it right.
Customer Service must be an extinct idea. It obviously has become so unimportant to these people that they feel they can’t bother to pay anyone to actually talk to their customers. These computerized phone systems may make things easier for them, but it is making it harder for me to keep control of my stress. It is hard to stay cool, calm, and collected when all you want to do is shout: JUST LET ME TALK TO A GODDAMN PERSON!!

Not to upset you, but you should order a pager from my wife’s company. You could talk to one of several dozen nice real live humans about your service. :slight_smile:

Thank you for you message regarding “Do human beings answer phones anymore?”

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I use my bank’s automated telephone service when I want to find out my balance, or if a check cleared. One day, I had a problem in my account and I called the number and waited for the “speak to a customer service representative” option–and there wasn’t one. There was no way to speak to an actual human being–they didn’t even pretend there was one. So I called information to get the direct phone number for my bank. I got the same damn automated service. I kept hitting “0” until I got connected to an alleged human. This creature was from sales. I asked her for a number for customer service–they don’t have customer service anymore. I ask her why I can’t speak to someone at my branch. She has no idea. I ask her if she has the number for anyone I can speak to. She doesn’t. What, she doesn’t have a company phone directory? I was so furious. What the hell kind of service company doesn’t have a number for customer service?

They should all burn.

The other day, I had a problem with my cell phone service. So I called the customer service number, input my cell phone # as requested, and punched in the option to talk to a real live customer service representative. A very nice representative answered promptly and took care of my problem right away.

I couldn’t believe it. was floored, shocked, amazed…I almost fainted.

I don’t mind automated systems so much if they easily allow you to speak to a human. In fact, I like automated systems better in a lot of cases–like calling to find out you bank balance. Sometimes it really is quicker and easier.

But, yeah, I’m with ya, Chrisbar. Most of the systems out there suck ass. A company’s true colors show in their customer service, or lack thereof.

I’ll tell you when humans answer phones - when you owe them money.
Try calling Pac-Bell to inquire about a new service, or check your account balance, or anything not involving a payment.

[irrational hyperbole]
I had to get a second phone line installed just so I can remain on hold - it’s been three months now.
[/irrational hyperbole]

But owe them money, and they pick right up.
If you call their office for an inquiry, pack a lunch, you’ll be a while. Call their payment office - half a ring and they’re on the phone demanding your VISA card number.
In no exagerating terms, I called the office to make an inquiry and a payment. I was on the phone with the main office for a solid hour, half of that on hold or navigating retarded auto-menus. Afterward they told me to call a seperate number to make a payment. I was on and off the phone inside of 5 minutes.

Ceejaytee-- It sounds like you bank where I do… could we just call it Bank of Ashmerica? No longer can you call any branch–And I was just getting used to the rules where you couldn’t even step foot in the bank without a fee. (On-line banking is much easier now that I’ve figured it out)

I remember when I wanted to access my account by phone (just the automated part) for the first time–only to realize a password had been set up for me and no one bothered to tell me what it was.

I finally called the technical service number for the web page. Though I had to wait, I finally got through and they told me my password was my online password. I cried, “My online password is only letters…how on earth did you want me to put this on the phone…what does my PC password have to do with anything???” I finally sold my left kidney for a temp 4 digit number.

I strongly recommend pressing zero whenever you can–or just switching from a big bank to a local credit union. You can’t always bank on line–but if recorded messages piss you off ( like they do me) a credit union could do wonders for your blood pressure! (an sometimes your interest rates too)

or throwing phone through window of electric company…


I know a little about this.

I used to work for a long distance telephone company affiliated with a major American internet access company. I worked in quality control, usually auditing customer accounts to make sure that credits and refunds were processed correctly.

One day, my boss and I were handed a special project – to redesign our automated telephone system. Basically, they wanted us to analyze what the most common FAQs were and design a system that could answer them without involving our seriously understaffed customer service department.

So we drew up some nice flow charts (I spent entire afternoons just coloring those damn things) which showed our ideas. We knew that “on hold” times were way up after the most recent firings, and we knew that we could reduce customer frustration if we could get the to speak to humans more quickly. Often, people were on hold for thirty minutes only to have a thirty second conversation, so we thought we would have it streamlined a bit and everyone would be happy.

NOPE. The bigwigs took one look at our ideas, and dismissed a lot of it, saying that we were trying to “make it too easy for the customer to get through to a service rep”.

Oh. Pardon me. I thought that was the fucking idea. Maybe if you would hire a few more monkeys to answer the fucking phones and read the fucking scripts you give them, it wouldn’t be an issue.

And, Jack Batty, you are absolutely correct about the money thing. If you were calling in regarding a payment… ZING!!! You went straight to a rep, ready to take your credit card number, checking account number, first born child… whatever. We had the system set up so that you were never, I mean NEVER, allowed to hold for more than a few seconds when you owed us money.

Or, if you indicated by pressing the correct digit that you were not yet a customer of ours, your call was actually bumped to the front of the holding queue, so that our reps could pitch the service to you faster. Meanwhile, current customers, who actually needed our help, kept getting bumped back over and over again.

It was classic non-customer-service. Screw the folks we got. Get more money. I tried to undermine the system here and there. Even though I rarely spoke to customers anymore at that point, I give them all direct phone lines into certain departments so they didn’t have to wait.

God, that place pissed me off sometimes.

Then I moved away. HA!

Uh, can’t you usually press 0 to speak to the telephonist?

Thanks, SueFriendly. My bank is actually a relatively small one, CFS Bank, and usually very friendly, altho I am now coming up with things that the “F” stands for that they probably didn’t intend. They give me interest on my checking account and only charge fees for non-branch ATM transactions. Now if only they had people I could talk to on the phone.

In my case, pressing “0” does nothing. I only got through to a human once and, as I noted above, she was in sales and apparently clueless, although I think she was intentionally obstructing me.

Every once in a while it pisses me off enough to consider changing banks. And then I think of the hassles and I just give up.

The one’s that really grate my ass are when the voice tells you to put in your phone number with area code.

Then the first thing the person asks you is, what s your phone number?

So I ask them, what’s the deal?

They say, oh, it has never worked, and probably never will.


ARGH! I guess I shouldn’t complain. At least I talked to someone.

I once read a suggestion for CEOs. It was suggested that the CEO prime someone with a few questions about a product and have that someone call the company to attempt to buy that product. Of course the thrust was that it would be almost impossible for the person to actually talk to anyone. I told our CEO about this and suggested he try it but I guess he never did.

The bulk of my job is customer service and people are often near tears by the time they get to me. When I say “Hello,” I get a few beats of silence while the customer waits for the rest of the recorded message they assume they are getting.

If I have to call someone back with the information they requested, it is nearly always phone-tag time.

I design automated voice response systems for a technology company and I NEVER implement a menu layer with a revert number built in. A revert will either place the call in a generic queue or send you to an operator.

Try this when you get frustrated. If it doesnt work, ask to speak to a supervisor and demand that they make it easier to speak to a live agent.

I don’t record a menu selection indicating the revert option because the trend is to automate when you can to save money. But, there are times when a live person is the only thing that will do. The companies that you do business with should understand this or they will lose you.

I’m working my way through college for a large catalog company. Approximately 75% of our calls are “Where’s my stuff?” and “I sent something back to you; did you get it yet?”. So the automated system is set up so that the very first option customers get is order information. Another 20% of our calls are “I don’t like it. I want to return it. How do I do that?” So the 2nd option on the automated system is information on how to read the invoice that CAME IN THE PACKAGE.

Unfortunately, customers would rather spend lots of time on hold to hear the same information from a live person. Before asking the question, of course, the customer MUST bitch about the lengthy wait time. We explain that the same information is available on the automated system. They say they’d rather hear it from a live person. We say, essentially, well, that’s your perogative. What I really want to say is:

“Listen, bitch. Our paycheck is based on how many calls we take per hour, and you are affecting my pay, goddammitt!!! If you would have just shut your fucking mouth and asked me the goddamn question for which you wanted the answer when I answered the phone in the first place you’d be gone already!! WHAT!!! You DID listen to the computer message? And you’re talking to me because…? BECAUSE YOU WANTED TO KNOW IF THE AUTOMATED SYSTEM WAS TELLING THE TRUTH!!! Oh geezuz h fucking christ almighty you are fucking KIDDING ME, right?? No, ma’am, the computer system is set up to LIE to you. No, not any other customers. Just YOU…” :mad: :mad: :mad:

Oh, is there more. I’m still crafting my pit thread on what NOT to do when you call customer service.

You think these are bad, at least private businesses are trying to make money and keep you as a customer.

Try calling a government office like INS or VA. Talk about phone systems from Hell. When I was in D.C. trying to get some information from the INS I finally gave up and drove to their office.

As Fugazi indicated, just try getting a number for customer service at an INS office. They have phones, but they must be secret phones, because even the INS national “help” line doesn’t know what the numbers are.

I spent hours one evening punching numbers and waiting on hold for Gateway, Inc. They sent me a computer I did not order. Yes, there it was at my doorstep; all 3 boxes. They wanted me to pay $100 return shipping!!! There was no phone menu for such a circumstance. This was a very long and complicated situation, involving several layers of management and weeks of back and forth to get this thing out of my house. Every time I needed to speak with someone, I had to punch meaningless numbers and wait forever.

To make matters worse, after waiting on hold for 30 minutes at a time, the system would hang up on me! Stupid Gateway! :mad: I’ve had this happen elsewhere, wait…wait…wait…only to get one of those fast busy signals that mean you are SOL.

The other thing I can’t stand is that seemingly every automated message these days starts off with “Please listen to all menu choices, as our options have recently changed.” It is a trick to keep you from punching “0”! The options haven’t changed. They just don’t want to talk to you.

It’s bad enough getting automated service when you call them, but the other way around is even more preposterous. Robotic sales pitches. Why do they do this? What idiot would buy anything from an automated voice? The phone rings, I answer, and there’s HAL saying “You have been selected as a recipient of xxxxx for only $xxxx please press 1 if you want more info or 2 to just immediately buy whatever crap I’m pitching.”

Fuckin robots.

Check your local laws, you might have been able to keep it free. :slight_smile: Or at least write a letter telling them you were… bet they’d have gotten on the ball then.

They still have those? I haven’t got one in years – in fact I thought that they were illegal now.

I got one about a week ago, I was from my own phone company, so maybe that means it was OK. I hung up, but I suppose it could have been asking me if I was happy w/ their service or if I wanted a free service, and therefore nod selling anything.
The link first makes it illegal:
It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States -
(A) to initiate any communication using a telephone facsimile machine, or to make any telephone call using any automatic telephone dialing system, that does not comply with the technical and procedural standards prescribedunder this subsection, or to use any telephone facsimile machine or automatic telephone dialing system in a manner that does not comply with such standards

and then later sez it’s OK (sorta):
Such standards shall
require that -
(A) all artificial or prerecorded telephone messages (i)
shall, at the beginning of the message, state clearly the
identity of the business, individual, or other entity
initiating the call, and (ii) shall, during or after the
message, state clearly the telephone number or address of such business, other entity, or individual; and
(B) any such system will automatically release the called
party’s line within 5 seconds of the time notification is
transmitted to the system that the called party has hung up, to allow the called party’s line to be used to make or receive other calls.
I dunno. I got one tho, and it pissed me off.