When Customer Service Isn’t – Part 1

Remember when people used to complain about the automated customer service lines?  They’re still around and as frustrating as ever, but I’ve got a better one to complain about . . . customer service places where you have to play 20 Questions before you even get to the purpose of your call.

In this time of identity theft, I can understand the need for lots of verification to protect one’s accounts.  So I don’t begrudge that too much.  But when I’m calling a customer service group to deal with something that has nothing to do with my personal information, to have to answer a series of questions before I even get to bring up the reason I called in the first place is annoying overkill.

Take, for example, a recent call that happened between myself and the agent for my company’s travel group.  I was calling to set up some travel for one of my bosses, and the first question that’s always asked is for the traveler’s company ID number.  I have no problem with that question, because how else are they going to know for whom to book the travel?  But by pulling up his ID number on the travel system, you see his name, email address, home address, DOB, several travel rewards numbers, my email address (I get a copy of all his travel plans), and lots of other info that I can’t even remember.

So after I was asked for my boss’ ID number, they normally ask me to verify the name on the account and my contact number (in case of disconnection), which again is fine.  But on this last call, I was also asked to verify my boss’ email address, my email address, his phone number, the purpose of the trip (whether or not it was an external conference or an internal meeting), and whether or not he had any unused tickets that could be considered for this upcoming reservation.  I kid you not, it took 5 minutes of answering all these verifying questions before I even got to give the dates of travel, or even where he wanted to go to.

I get the same sort of inquisition when I call our IT help desk.  Apparently they have several screens that they have to fill out before I’m allowed to talk about whatever computer issues I’ve got.  And don’t EVEN get me started on trying to handle any Accounts Payable snafus!  Not only is there a required questionnaire to go through, but the call center for that department moved over to India some time last year, so I have to try to work through this interview process with people with VERY thick accents, and some of whom only know how to speak English in terms of reading prompts from their computer screen.

I understand that these departments feel the need to obtain information for their record-keeping purposes–because they’re living in fear of being considered unnecessary, and documenting each call helps show their relevance–but they need to find a way to weave these questions into the rest of the conversation; not take up the first 5 minutes of my call with them.

For instance, with the travel agent, she could have asked about the purpose of the trip while she was waiting for her computer to spit out possible flights.  There was a definite minute-long lull in the conversation that would’ve been the perfect place for that particular Q&A to occur.  Because, by the time she was done asking her questions, I was so frustrated that I wanted to just say “Forget it!” and call back another time.

Can you imagine what would happen if you had to go through a similar interview in an emergency situation?

911 Agent:  “911, what’s your emergency?”

Me:  “I’m having a heart attack.”

911 Agent:  “What’s your name, ma’am?”

Me:  “Alyx [gasp] Morgan”

911 Agent:  “What’s your address, ma’am?”

Me:  [I gasp and grunt my way through it, all the while clutching my arm, the pain in my chest closing tighter and tighter around my heart.]

911 Agent:  “And what’s a good call-back number, ma’am, in case we get disconnected?”

Me: “7-7-3 *last breath*”

911 Agent:  “Could you repeat that, ma’am?  I didn’t get all of it.”

Thankfully, I’ve never needed to call 9-1-1, but I would HOPE the conversation wouldn’t go like this (aren’t they able to locate us via our phone signal?).  And I realize that dealing with irritating inter-departmental customer service lines isn’t horrible on the scale of annoying things in the world, but still, I’m quite certain that the process could be improved upon.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: When Customer Service Isn’t – Part 2 | Droppings From the Mind of Alyx

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