Editorial Viewpoint – They

Recently I had to make a purchase from a major retailer via the telephone and I felt a lot like that guy in the TV commercial who calls in for customer support and can’t make himself understood by the voice recognition software. Then he ends up waiting to speak to a service rep, and a recorded voice cheerfully informs him that his position in the queue is “One” (visible relief) “…hundred.” (ohmygod!!!)

As a similar syrupy voice damned me to voice-mail jail, I decided to time how long it would take to connect with a real live person. The answer: 19 minutes. Not 19 minutes of a soothing Mozart piano concerto, mind you — 19 minutes of bombardment by all manner of noxious and repetitive commercials.

The people who create these instruments of teletorture can have no sense of irony. If they did, they’d think twice about inserting those periodic reminders: “your call is important to us”. If it’s so important, why don’t you hire somebody to answer the friggin’ phone?

This was by no means the worst such experience I’ve had. That dubious distinction goes to the major Internet provider that blew up my email service and left me unconnected for four days. I still shudder when I think of the hours I spent lying on a couch, in the middle of the night, a phone cradled to my ear, waiting for the tech support person who never did answer. I still resent that this company treated me so shabbily and make every effort not to do business with them.

A couple of months ago I tried to renew a popular piece of software, and had to jump through hoops to do it, both over the phone and through their Web site. I’m seriously thinking of changing vendors next time around.

Too bad there are no statistics on how much business is lost because of the inability of companies to efficiently and politely service their customers. I’m sure the numbers would be staggering.

We’ve got a ton of technology at our fingertips and we’ve created an entire science around customer relationship management, yet we’re still fumbling the ball with our customers in the most basic of ways. This is one area where we really need to get our act together. It’s long overdue.

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