Service of “Hello, Hello Is Anyone There?”

December 12th, 2022

Categories: Communications, Customer Service, Pharmacy, Technology



Image by Nebraska Department of Education from Pixabay

I called a pharmacy to see if it would deliver a prescription and instead of speaking with someone up the street, I ended up at a call center in India. The person kept asking me when I wanted to make a Covid vaccine appointment. He disconnected me—inadvertently I suspect–and I ended up in a survey. You can imagine what grade I gave each of the questions between 0 and 10 about the effectiveness of the call. I got a person but…..

When calling an insurance company or large corporation I must be in a good mood, preferably on a sunny day. I know in advance that my question won’t fit one of the choices—“Press One for billing; Press Two for technical assistance,” etc.—or that I’ll be directed to the website and that I’ll be left hanging and frustrated.

Wall Street Journal reporters Rachel Wolfe and Allison Pohle wrote: “It’s Not Just You: Businesses Are Making Their Phone Numbers Hard to Find” with a subhead “More customer-facing phone numbers are being replaced with chat boxes and virtual reservation systems that can make connecting to an actual human being next to impossible.”

They reported: “A 2,200-person Morning Consult poll conducted for The Wall Street Journal shows that about half of respondents said they had to search a company website extensively to find a number in the past year, and 41% of all respondents said no number was available. Some 43% of survey respondents said they prefer talking with a customer-service rep over the phone, while 5% prefer talking to a bot through instant messaging.”

Replacing a phone service with automated chat functions or with communications through social media is cost-saving but is it good for business?  “Consumers say those options leave them spending hours sorting through FAQ lists, sending emails to nowhere and talking to less-than-helpful chatbots to resolve issues that could have taken minutes to fix with a human on the phone.”

The reporters wrote about a 26 year old who frittered away five hours trying to reach an airline with nothing resolved. Her brother and father had no better luck. Finally, a customer service rep fixed the problem on Facebook Messenger***. According to that airline “the shift to digital service ensures customers get the information they need as efficiently as possible. The airline says it had found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels and that live agent support is available 24/7.” Really?


Image by lindsayascott from Pixabay

***Are you up the creek if you’re not on Facebook?

A large Las Vegas hotel uses a digital tool that wasn’t working for one guest who tried using it a few times to report he had no hot water, so he didn’t bother to try yet again to note there was gum and hair in the sheets. Calling the front desk didn’t work either. He landed in “a general call-services center.” And in person? “The line at reception often snaked around the hotel lobby.”

Only after the Wall Street Journal reached out did the system accept an update with a driver’s license change on a customer’s profile at a major car rental service. The customer had tried unsuccessfully to provide the info for over a year during which time he’d rented many a car.

The reporters offered a tip: A free online database, “GetHuman,” shares intel on how best to reach 10,000 companies. The director of operations told them: “……. users are very particular about where they are spending their money right now. It’s a bad time to be making enemies.”

Do you have tricks for getting through to a company that doesn’t want anyone to speak with you? Are there any companies that do it right?


Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

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13 Responses to “Service of “Hello, Hello Is Anyone There?””

  1. BC Said:

    Serious medical implications for deaf people. If you are totally deaf, it is next to impossible to get thru the computer robot system. Still difficult even if you can hear! At first connection, I ask for an operator or customer service rep., and almost always get connected.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    BC,

    You have a magic touch, or your vendors are topnotch and haven’t yet resorted to tossing all customers on the junkheap of one-response-fits-all-this and listen to the chatbot-and-live-with-it-that.

  3. ASK Said:

    I’ve had to resort to chat bots on occasion, and I’m always amused when a bot can’t answer a question; at that point I usually get a phone number!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    You are lucky. It’s not always the case.

  5. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: I agree typically it’s a nightmare and difficult to get in touch with a human. But I must give credit to NYS DMV. Took a while last week to connect with human, but once I did, he was super knowledgeable and helpful.

    But my sister recently really won. She finally reached a human at an airline after trying to book on her own and using live chat with no success. She was ultimately able to rebook a canceled trip due to covid and use points. But even better she saved over $1,000. Round-trip NYC-SF-NYC will only cost $45 and that includes human interaction fee of $20. Crazy to have to pay a fee to deal with a human, but in this case well worth it!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Linda,

    I have spoken with empathetic civil servants on occasion and am so grateful to the point of relief.

    Your sister is amazing! A one-way taxi ride from Manhattan to Kennedy International airport could cost what she is paying to go to SF roundtrip!

  7. Kathleen Said:

    Agree, what a dreading task awaits to call companies. Usually I scream “Representative” ad nauseum and usually finally get a human. Twice we have to call Verizon each year (after trying unsuccessfully via computer) to turn on and off a summer cottage. I always mumble “Shouldn’t the PHONE company answer a phone with a person?” !!!

  8. Lucille Grippo Said:

    Such a timely post! A similar situation just happened to me. Over the summer a well-known gym (Planet Fitness) offered free membership for high school students. My girls took advantage of it. When September rolled around the senior asked if she could continue with membership for $10 per month. I agreed and was prepared to accompany her to get a “full membership” She was told “you do everything on their app”. It worked just fine until yesterday when she got an email that her payment could not be processed because they want a bank account on the account with a credit card as back up. I went down there in person – 20 minutes each way to be told they could not help me as everything is done through the app or online. The workers do not have access to individual account billing. I would have to go home and have her do it electronically. Needless to say, she is still not able to fix this issue and there is no “help line” to talk to anyone.

    It is beyond frustrating!

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Kathleen,

    Don’t get me started about the phone company. It brought me to tears for years at the house. We’d be weeks without phone service in the middle of nowhere. Grrrrrrr. Not a warm feeling when your partner isn’t in great shape.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucille,

    What a disgrace! I wonder who sold the company such a program and who at Planet Fitness agreed to buy it.

    Here is yet another example of how the term customer service increasingly becomes an oxymoron.

  11. Martin Johnson Said:

    Martin on Facebook: The bot says,”Speak to me as you would anyone. I’ll understand.” The catharsis may help, but I need an agent. AGENT! REPRESENTATIVE! (Repeat) “I see you want to speak with someone. Just stay on the line and I’ll connect you. All of our agents are busy helping OTHER customers. Just stay on the line until the Rapture and before the Apocalypse an associate will get back to you. To expedite, please say or use the keypad to type the last 4 digits of your great grandfather’s immigration visa, use at least one capital letter and three special characters. Sorry, I didn’t get that. Please call back another time.”

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martin,

    Superb! The one thing you haven’t done—that I know of—is write a play or movie script. That’s next!

  13. Martin Johnson Said:

    Martin on Facebook: I’m 91. If not now, when?

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