What Not To Hear

robocaller

Corporate America, you’re messing up.  Big time.

My job requires me to spend a lot of time on the phone.  That kind of exposure to what now passes for business phone etiquette has made me a seething volcano of frustration.

I’ve often been tempted to unleash this rage on some clueless customer service flunky in New Delhi, but I haven’t.  Instead I’m going to use my vast experience in the oozing slime pit of business phone systems as a force for good.  To improve the lives of my fellow man.

You’re welcome.

Gather round, corporate decision makers.  If you want to make friends and influence people (i.e. make money), listen up.  Here are a few of your phone practices that drive us crazy:

  • Domo Arigoto Mr. Roboto:  Nobody wants to be called by a computer.  No.  Body.  The robo-call is the most annoying business practice ever designed by fiendish marketing gurus.  The land line is going the way of the dodo primarily to avoid robo-calls.

These always ring when we are in the bathroom.  Dashing to answer the phone, while simultaneously yanking up our pants or wrapping a towel around our wet, shivering nakedness – that’s an accident waiting to happen.  After falling flat on our faces on our way to the phone, what are the chances we’re going to want to take your survey, vote for your candidate or buy whatever you’re selling when we finally get there?  Slim to none.

If you want to sell us something, you’d better be willing to invest at least as much human capital in the process as we are.

  • While we have you tied to your chair… Don’t make us listen to a commercial before we get to where we want to be.  If we want to learn your hours, how your latest product will change life as we know it, or how you are single-handedly saving the environment by recycling old memos as wallpaper, give us the option to press *6 and hear all about it.  Otherwise, don’t waste our time.
  • It’s nice to share.  Don’t tell us, “This call may be recorded.”  No, really?  We’re shocked and appalled!

Nowadays we know we’re being recorded by your customer service department, the CIA, the NSA, that Snowden guy hiding out in the Moscow airport and who knows who-all.  It would be easier to tell us who ISN’T listening in on this call.

  • Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast. Sometimes.  Choose your on-hold music wisely.  While elevator music is boring, it’s probably a safer bet then expletive-laden rap.  Know thy caller.

Maybe mix it up a little.  One company I frequently call plays the same, Baroque-style  song over and over again.  I’ve heard it so often now I automatically start dancing the gavotte as soon as I dial their number.

  • Just between us “buds.” Knock off the folksy, conversational style recordings.  When we hear, “OK, let me look that up for you.” we do NOT think somebody is searching through an old, metal filing cabinet for our file.  This is a computer.  We get that.
  • Se hablo Inglese. Don’t make us choose English.  It’s great that your company is attuned to the needs of your non-English speaking customers.  By all means, tell us we can press 2 to complete the call in Kurdish.  But this is America. The default language on all communications should be English, with no button pushing required.

When we are calling a government office and English is not the default language, that government better be located in Juarez, and not Galveston.

  • Change Would Do you Good.  Don’t tell us, “Listen carefully as your options have changed.”   Since when…last week?  Last month?  Last year?  You and half your corporate brethren  have been running the same message for 10 years!
  • First I’ll need a little information.  In order to reach a warm body to talk about our specific situation, the computer makes us enter our account number, then our date of birth, then our social security number, then our pin number, then the street address of our first grade teacher.

Why do we put up with this?  Why do we grit our teeth, tighten our carpel tunnel wrist braces and commence with the entering?  Because we have faith that all this hassle will get us to the one person in your company who will surely be able to help us with our problem.

When, at last, we hear the dulcet tones of your customer service expert (who has been chosen especially for us), what does she say?  “May I have your account number, your date of birth, your social security number, your pin number, and the street address of your first grade teacher?”

“But, but…” we sputter, “I just typed in all of that stuff!”

“The computer uses that information to route the call, but doesn’t show it to me.” she responds with the Buddha-like calm of someone who has all day to spend on this call.  Because she does.  Unlike us, SHE is being PAID to languish on the phone.

If you ask for it, use it.

  • People…people who need people. No matter how swell your phone tree may be, sometimes we want to talk to a real person.  We consumers are funny that way.  We don’t even care if it’s a stupid person, as long as it’s a warm body.  Is that too much to ask?

Make sure this is one of the lowest hanging fruits on the first branch of your phone decision tree.  Don’t leave us wandering in the on-hold desert for 40 years, frantically pressing 0 in a futile attempt to find signs of life.

  • We care. We really do. Don’t keep telling us, “Your call is very important to us.”  After we’ve listened to this bromide 37 times, we’re not buying it anymore.  If our call was so gosh, darn important it would have been answered by now.  By a real person.

Life would be easier for us customers, and more profitable for you corporations, if you would just follow these simple suggestions.  Give me a call if you have any questions, Mr. CEO.  Better make it my cell phone, though – I just got rid of the land line.

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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98 Responses to What Not To Hear

  1. bigsheepcommunications says:

    Well said. Thank you!

    Like

  2. Maggie says:

    So true! I’ve been wondering when CEO’s are going to change their marketing strategies and stop treating consumers like unsuspecting fools who don’t understand what’s going on. No matter how pleasant they try to make it, most of us don’t have time for a lot of bs.

    Like

  3. Al says:

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    I. M. Apathetic
    CEO
    Any Corporation of America

    Like

  4. I think I love you Peg. You have said what so many of us are thinking. You missed on though, sorry this may sound very mean but I am going to say it any way.

    This goes to all the banks, credit card companys and Insurance / Healthcare companies. Do not outsource my information to a country that does not have the same consumer / credit / patient privacy protection laws the United States has. When I finally do get to a warm body please insure it is a warm body residing in one of the 50 United States of America who speaks my language as a first language. Sorry if this sounds xenophobic or even racist. It is not.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      No, it doesn’t sound racist. I think everybody who has ever had contact with a call center would say the same thing. I don’t mind if English isn’t someone’s first language, but sometimes the person’s accent is so heavy you just can’t make out the words.

      I never thought about the implications of my customer data going to a country with different privacy laws, though. Yikes – that is a sobering thought.

      Like

    • List of X says:

      Valentine, it’s not racist, but it is a little xenophobic. I am almost sure you wouldn’t have a problem with my English, even though it’s not my first language. Though, personally, I wouldn’t complain if “first languge only” were the policy, since phone conversation with customers are among my least favorite parts of the job anyway.

      Like

      • I shouldn’t use that as a criteria, it is ugly and mean and actually unintentional. It really has to do with shipping my financial / credit / medical information off-shore, this is really my issue. I don’t really have any other issue than this.

        Like

        • List of X says:

          I was not offended – I just wanted to point out that the phone rep’s first language shouldn’t necessarily be English, as long they can manage it.
          I agree with you on outsourcing the private data to countries that don’t have the same concept of privacy or privacy laws. I’ve never thought about that as a problem before.

          Like

  5. JM Randolph says:

    Amen, Peg, Amen. I recently had to give a recommendation over the phone for a former co-worker who had used me as a reference. The company looking to hire him had farmed out their pre-employment screening to an independent firm- and this was a big, six-figure, career-making job he was up for. Said screening company managed to route their calls through both Virginia and Oklahoma according to the caller ID, depending on which branch you connected with, but they were TOTALLY somewhere in India. The first voice mail I got was nearly indecipherable. Half of our phone tag (on their part) occurred during a major US holiday. When I managed to reach the person who had initially called me for the reference, she couldn’t find my name, his name, or either company’s name, even with the case number I had and we had a terrible time trying to understand each other. And the company my friend was trying to get on with (he did eventually get the job)? CNN.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Oh. My. My only experience has been with technology and low-level kinds of customer service in New Delhi. I wouldn’t think something as delicate and nuanced as a high-level job application would be farmed out, especially to someone in a whole different culture.

      Someone needs to do a hard-hitting expose of this type of business practice. Let me see, what channel could we get to do It????

      Like

  6. Oh, God, it’s the pressing 15 different numbers to quantify exactly what I need, and then getting a person who has no idea why I’m calling that makes me crazy.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I constantly find myself asking the clueless customer service minion who finally answers, “could you tell me, please, why I had to enter all those choices in the phone if it doesn’t get me where I need to be?” in a low, slow, controlled voice…because only my iron-willed self control is keeping me from SCREAMING at them!!!

      Like

  7. ginweb.1@juno.com says:

    A cordless phone carried to the bathroom could alleviate at least a small part of the problem. Also, your continued pounding of the 1 on your phone usually gets a real person. Helpful Hannah

    Like

  8. ““Listen carefully as your options have changed.”—I hate that. I’m always like, “I know I need to press 7, but what if this is the time the options really did change?” So I wait. And press 7 every time. I’m such a sucker.

    Like

  9. “Don’t tell us, “Listen carefully as your options have changed.”
    Amen to that!
    I know the options haven’t changed. I’m not as dumb as these corporations think.
    Well, I have been on hold for the past 20 minutes. Maybe I am… 😛

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Once you’ve been on hold for 20 minutes, you’re invested. Then you start doing the risk/rewards computation. “I should just hang up and call back later. But what if later is even WORSE than now? I’ll have been on hold for 20 minutes for nothing, and I’ll lose my place in line. But what if later is BETTER than now and somebody picks up right away?”

      Back and forth and back and forth until it becomes a moot point because you can’t hold it in anymore and have to hang up to sprint for the bathroom.

      Like

  10. “I’m sorry, I did not understand your response, please try again, goodbye”. ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One of our favorite things to do when it’s a telemarketer calling is for my husband to answer and when they ask for me (which is usually the case), he says, “Yes, this is Maria” in the lowest voice possible. After a long pause….and the caller wondering if I am a female heavy smoker or a high testosterone woman, my husband asks to take us off the list! This is a brilliant what not to hear list!

    Like

  11. Blogdramedy says:

    Love this. Makes me want to call YOU.

    Before I make a call, I check and see what the company’s website is like. And if there is even the remotest possibility I can get an answer via email, I’m all over that.

    Lately we’ve been getting political calls…from a party I laugh at frequently. I so love my answering machine right now.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I still think a phone call will be faster – isn’t that stupid of me?

      And go ahead and call me anytime. Just press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, 3 for Kurdish…

      Like

  12. notquiteold says:

    ARRGGGH! My pet peeve is the “tree” with nine options, but none of them fit what I am calling about.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      OH yeah. And there’s no catch-all option so you try to pick the closest and you wind up on hold forever until you get to someone who says they can’t help you and they bounce you back to the same “tree.”

      Like

  13. frodoblk says:

    My latest beef is with Cox Communications and their local helpline. They advertised for 6 months that they were changing many channels to digital. If you needed a digital tuner they would give you one free for a year. First three responses – huh? Second responses oh yeah but you’re not eligible because your apartment mate already has one – that will be $8.50 a month. (But they dropped their ad that had run 24/7.

    Like

  14. Pleun says:

    Telemarketing in Mexico is pretty much non-existent, or maybe it’s because my phone doesnt work optimally?! I don’t call them either because chances that anyone speaks English (even with an Indian accent) are super, super slim! It turns out you can do most things through email and google translator. I like my life without telemarketing!
    Great reason to cancel the landline, although how long will it take for them to start calling cell phones randomly?

    Like

  15. Perfect post. (and please, if there’s music – enough with the extremely loud tinny badly recorded music.)
    Why do each time you get passed “up the line” to someone that might have some stroke do you have to repeat all the basic info – when you know it’s there on the screen – and then have to go through the whole story again – didn’t the first 3 people tell why you were calling or make notes about it as they talked with you?
    And please stop repeating exactly what I just told you – to show you “understand” when we actually know you are stalling for time/eating lunch mindlessly repeating to customers until they get so annoyed they give up and hang up….which is your goal anyway.
    And don’t pass me around until I get disconnected…or it’s passed “closing” time/ “Please, try again during hours of ….”

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Oh, sweet Fannie and all the saints, that last bit. That last bit is the very icing atop the on=hold sh*t cake (excuse my French). I have had that happen on more than one occasion. I’m waiting 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes – I’m not exaggerating. And at 5pm exactly, I get dropped off the phone. This usually happens with a government office.

      Oh, the lamenting, hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth that ensues around here.

      Like

  16. Amen! You nailed it. 🙂

    Like

  17. PinotNinja says:

    I hate when it is impossible to find a real person. I just frantically keep pressing zero, even though its clear that short-cut isn’t working, because I just don’t know what else to do. I also sometimes just start screaming “PERSON! PERSON!” into the automated system. Not surprisingly, that doesn’t work.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I do that too. I’m ashamed to say how often I find myself, clench-teethed, shouting at the phone system. Forget about road-rage, I get phone-rage much more often!

      Like

  18. Lately I’ve been getting calls from a bank where I have an inactive account. I didn’t realize it was the bank until the same number came up on my office caller id, with the bank name, so I answered.

    Me: “Hello, this is Hippie Cahier.”
    The other side: Muzac.

    Lather. Rinse. Repeat for about a week. I figured they were calling to ask me to come back or something because if it were really urgent, they’d at least stay on the line, unless they were being robbed and Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” is code for “Alert the authorities! We’re being robbed!”

    Then this weekend I went to the ATM of my active bank and found they’d placed restrictions on my account due to “suspicious activity.” I think they know I’ve been (almost) talking with my ex.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      So one bank is NOT talking to you, but they ARE talking to your other bank? Scary.

      Thanks for the heads-up on that Michael Bolton code thing – now I’m prepared the next time I interrupt a robbery in progress at my local bank.

      Like

  19. Well said, Peg! I’d Freshly Don this bitch, if that were a real thing! If pressing zero doesn’t get me a person immediately, I become irate. The computer phone system of major corporations is contributing to the anxiety and anger of society at an alarming rate! Something must be done to put the service back in customer service.

    Like

  20. kelloggs77 says:

    AMEN…with a capital A and a capital MEN. The amount of time I have spent on the phone with an AT&T robot/customer service….well, I probably could have traveled to Europe and back.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Sometimes, here in my office, I am on hold so long I put the phone on speaker and go about my business. I forget I’m even on the phone until a strange voice makes me drop my coffee mug!

      The problem is when I want to go get another cup of coffee or use the bathroom – I KNOW that’s when a person is finally going to answer so I’m stuck here.

      Like

  21. Can you believe how short a time this has become policy? Our parents’ generation could never have foreseen this situation.

    Like

  22. dorannrule says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes! Technology is definitely slowing us all down. I think we are regressing really – back to party lines and shouting on the phone to be understood (due to language barriers and cell phone tower placement). Who knew? Great post. Absolutely great post.

    Like

  23. Darla says:

    “We don’t even care if it’s a stupid person, as long as it’s a warm body.”
    Amen to that and everything else, Peg-o!

    Like

    • Darla says:

      teehee….I seemed to have logged in as Darla and am stuck in your moderation box waiting for you to um…moderate.

      Press 1: if you want to approve this comment.
      Press 2: if you don’t want to approve this comment.
      Press 3: if you want to just give up and have wine for lunch

      Like

      • pegoleg says:

        Keep….frantically….pressing….3….3….3….

        Darlinski, how did your comment end up in the moderation box? Why didn’t you just use the spare key to my blog? You know it’s under the mat for when you come over to my place to feed the cat and water the flowers, or when you just need to get away from the kids.

        Like

  24. lisaspiral says:

    THANK YOU! Where’s the sign this petition and it will be forwarded to all corporate heads in America button?

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I called WordPRess to find out how to embed that petition button in my post….I’m still on hold.

      Like

      • Ha! Nice touch.
        This is one of my biggest beefs with trying to settle matters on the phone with people who I AM PAYING to provide service. Those menus. Grrrr…….
        I once expected customer service, with a person, helping me the customer, not an eternal journey through robophonecop hell. Grrrrrrrr…….

        Like

  25. Yes! It’s exactly the same here in the UK, the same words and everything, we obviously copied you over here, so I’m blaming you a little bit…not you personally of course, but your people. Sometimes none of the options they give you seem exactly right, and you end up in this loop of pressing different things and always ending up back at the first menu! The first big company that loses the automated stuff, and goes back to real people answering the phone right away, will get all the customers, and that will pay for the people – It’s simple! Why can’t they see that?!

    Like

  26. So here’s the weird thing — why is it that some companies do all they can to avoid talking to their customers (with the schemes you’ve mentioned) and yet others do all they can to call people to be their customers (tele-marketers)?

    Like

  27. Great list. Every item is a legitimate complaint. I ran across a new one recently. Once the auto-answer decided I needed to talk to a human, the ring went through to them. When it was answered, I got, “Your call is important to us. Please leave your name and phone number and we will return your call as soon as possible.” Oh my. I made the call in the first place when I had the time to do it. Now I have to stay around the phone for who knows how long to receive a call from them? I did not leave a message. I called the next morning very early and actually talked to a human!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I”ve had that happen too> i can kind of see that they want to lessen your onhold wait, but that totally ignores that you called when it was more convenient for YOU.

      Like

  28. Jackie says:

    I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve settled for an unsatisfactory product or felt like I’ve been downright robbed because I get something that’s broken or completely wrong and I get rerouted, dropped, and generally beat into submission by a robot. It’s very effective, because I’m only willing to give it about an hour of my time before I give up. And an hour isn’t long enough to win the machine war.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I sometimes think it IS their goal that we just give up in disgust. And you’re so right about the machine war. They have a built-in advantage because their robots never have to leave the phone to go to the bathroom!

      Like

  29. pmahaney says:

    Peg you just said it for all of us…and you did it in English! Whoops I hope those CEO’s speak English?

    Like

  30. Go Jules Go says:

    “Listen carefully as your options have changed.” GAHHH!!!!!!!!

    Just yesterday I made a call where I had to listen to that, and then they asked for all of my information, told me they would transfer me to the right department (despite my MacGyvering through their 4 sets of menu options with 8 chocies each), put me on hold, came back and said, “I’m sorry I just lost all of your information; I’m going to need you to repeat everything you just said.”

    At least he sounded a little embarrassed. I guess they’ve come a long way in developing robot emotions.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      “MacGyvering through their options” – snort! It probably did help a little that the guy sounded a little embarrassed. Usually they’re so bored and/or annoyed that you’re bothering them, that just ratchets up the frustration.

      Like

  31. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I feel mostly sorry for the elderly among us who never had to deal with this in their youth. They get so frustrated and flustered by all the options and number punching. It’s cruel. Companies need to provide better websites that let the consumer know exactly which number and/or extension to punch in. And as an aside – I have to wonder if there’s a human on the planet, even a very lonely one, who’d sit and listen to a robo call.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You are so right. I think half of my job as an insurance agent is running interference for my elderly clients who just can’t keep up with tech and big corporations.

      Like

  32. I now work in my mother’s office. I am not doing work for her (mostly), I am just doing my work in her office space. So, as a result, I listen to her talk for hours on the phone all day long. And she is the most polite human being on the planet to telemarketers. It blows my mind. She will sit there and calmly listen to their pitch the whole way through, ask them questions, and then ever-so-politely decline their generous offer. After a month of listening to this, I said, “Mom, you can just say you’re not interested and then hang up.” She tried it. It went like this,

    “Hello! Yes, this is she. If I may interrupt– what is this pertaining to? Oh, that sounds lovely, but I am afraid I am just not interested at this time. Oh, no– YOU have a good day! Okay, thanks for calling, and call me back later! Yes, yes I’d love to hear from you! Bye-bye now!”

    My mom also listens quite happily to all the robo-options. Some day I’m going to find out what she’s on, and then I’m going to get me some.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      My husband is the same. He gets on the phone with telemarketers and is totally interested in their lives, hobbies, etc. It is inconceivable to me! He and your mom must be on the same funny juice.

      Like

  33. Elyse says:

    Peg, I read this yesterday, and I have been thinking wonderful thoughts about you ever since. You are far nicer about this than I am, though. It makes me want to kill.

    One of my very first baby blog pieces was about this very issue: http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2011/05/31/i-cant-get-no/

    Memries …..may be beautiful

    Like

  34. I love that “Okay, let me look that up for you.” Thanks, Betty Lou, I sure do appreciate your help! By the way, can you top off my coffee and cut me a slice of that apple pie while you’re at it? I don’t know whether some marketing wonk decided that people would respond better to that sort of down-home canned response, but whoever said “Yes, we will do this,” needs to be flayed.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      The folksy crap is so condescending and annoying. What, is Betty Lou supposed to be our new BFF? I think I’d rather they use a tinny, mechanical voice so we all know where we stand.

      Like

  35. List of X says:

    If I get into a complicated menu where I have to enter all my data only to have to repeat it to the a person, next time I just enter all 0’s to mess up their system and get transferred to a live person because the system can’t identity me. That is, unless the 1st zero takes me to a live person first.

    Like

  36. I usually don’t get that far along into the process.
    More than 5 seconds into a call like that and I’m looking to introduce the phone to the nearest large, blunt object I can find.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I HEAR YA SIG, the problem is that then I am the one who suffers. I need to invent a way to give the person at the other end of the phone an electric shock – nothing really painful, just something to get their attention, you know?

      Like

  37. Pleun says:

    Have you read this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23877479 Brilliant! I’m gonna get me one haha

    Like

  38. Valerie says:

    I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I have a call that is very important to me, I put it on hold for at least 45 minutes. Makes it more delicious.

    Hugs!

    Valerie

    Like

  39. Yes. To all of it. My favorite is my bank that gives me a three minute speech about the benefits of having a new PIN and press (a different number so I can’t skip the message) if I don’t want to do this…every three months. I said I don’t want to change the PIN – it’s bad enough my account number changes every time they sell my bank!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I’m an insurance agent and I have a company who has had a message for the last 10 months “you may have heard of the Affordable Care Act” (Obamacare) and I always yell at the phone “why, No! What could ThAT be? I’ve been living under a rock for 3 years!” Makes me crazy.

      Like

  40. I have to admit, that although I HATE the automated systems, I actually had one call where the music was so good, I actually asked to be put back on hold so I could listen to the whole song…a moment of weakness.

    I apologize to everyone.

    Like

  41. We got rid of the land line two moves ago and have never regretted it. Now we both get calls on our cell from a company that blows a big ship horn and says, “This is your captain speaking”. We have never listened to the rest of the message but we do refer to “The Captain” on a regular basis.
    “Who was that?”
    “The Captain”
    “Oh, Captain, my Captain”.

    Like

  42. I sense a little frustration here. I may be wrong, though. Press 5 if I have misdiagnosed your tone and you wish to return to the main menu.

    Like

  43. muddledmom says:

    YES! YES! YES! I hate making calls to anyone with “customer service.” It’s more like customer torture. I just start yelling into the phone “HELP,” “AGENT,” and various other things to get to a real person. They make it so difficult to get through sometimes.

    Like

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