Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Humor Me: Truth in customer service

Thank you for calling customer service. Your call is important to us. Press “1” for English, “2” for Spanish or “3” for the language of truth.


You’ve selected the language of truth. Please choose from one of the following options, all of which will lead to a message that says “we apologize for the inconvenience, but we are currently experiencing an unusually high call volume.”

Actually, today’s call volume is about normal. But we recently reduced our support staff by a third and outsourced much of the work to an understaffed call center in Bangalore, India. No, I’m not kidding. If you get to talk to a representative, ask about the mausoleum of Ibrahim Adil Shah II or how the Bangalore Royal Challengers cricket team is doing.

This call may be monitored for quality assurance, which means we want to ensure that our customer service reps are doing real work and not chatting with you about something they saw on TMZ or their home-based business pyramid scheme. That sort of thing would add to our current experience of “higher than normal hold times,” which we experience every time you call.

Now, valued customer, please enter your account number. Or your phone number. Or some other number, like your locker combination from high school. It really doesn’t matter, because in a few minutes we will ask for the same numbers again, along with your zip code, social security number, password and mother’s maiden name.

We may also ask you a security question such as “What is your pet’s name?” In that case, please note that if the answer is something like “Honeyfluffins” or “Mr. Whompers” then a recording of your call may be played at a staff party -- for humor assurance purposes.

Please also be aware that, although the information we request is annoying and time-consuming, it is very important. Partly because it verifies your identity, but mainly because it delays your call long enough that you might hang up. This is important because we have experienced unusually high call volume since 1997 and currently have five customer service representatives.

Well, maybe four. One of them went to lunch more than three hours ago and we’re not sure if he will return. He yelled a few expletives as he was leaving.

We will now play a loop of moldy oldies including Bread’s “Make it With You,” Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” and Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.” We’ve chosen this soothing hold music to calm you as you wait to tell us about our defective product and/or service. It also seems to get more of our valued customers to hang up.

The hold music will be interrupted occasionally with recorded advertisements for our other products and services. You probably won’t want to purchase them because, well, you’re already the proud owner of one of our fouled-up products. But if you do want to purchase more of our stuff, a customer service rep can speak to you immediately.

On the other hand, if you’re calling with a problem, especially if it’s a dreaded time-consuming, zero-profit warranty issue, there is no way to estimate the hold time. Had you pressed “1” or “2” above, we would’ve inaccurately guessed the hold time at about 10 minutes and added that “we are currently experiencing longer than normal hold times.”

But you pressed “3,” so let’s just say you should probably crack open a book. Perhaps you could take another look at our product’s user manual and try to figure out the problem yourself. Maybe you could try to read the sections in Spanish and French. That could take a while.

Whatever you do, don’t hang up. Because we really do answer calls in the order that they are received.

And eventually, someone will answer. That person won’t be able to resolve your problem, but after you enter your account number and password and tracking number, the customer-service rep can transfer you to another representative, who will also need to ask you for your account number and password and tracking number. And maybe quiz you about Mr. Whompers.

That customer-service rep will then tell you that you are being transferred to another representative, and warn you that, “as I connect you, you might hear a series of clicks.”

You’ll hear the clicks.

Followed by a dial tone.

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