Surviving Customer Dis-Service

In the past few days, I have spent time on the phone and/or computer with three different entities, trying to resolve some problems. None of the problems were life-threatening, just irritating. Two of the entities were private businesses and one was a government agency.

Basically, these entities operate as if it is in their best interest to make it difficult for consumers to request and receive assistance. Accordingly, they have developed strategies that frustrate and discourage us, their consumers.

Here are just two of the strategies they use, along with some suggestions on how to deal with them without driving yourself nuts.

Strategy 1: Use of the robo-voice. Some use cheerful, chirpy voices (e.g. Guy Smiley or Susie Sunshine). Designed to make you believe they are caring entities that really listen, their true purpose is to distract you. If you have warm feelings toward the robo-voice it might make you less willing to make unreasonable demands (e.g. fix the problem) and more tolerant of planned delays. After all, you wouldn’t want to hurt Guy or Susie’s feelings – they are soooo nice!.

As an alternative, they may choose a business-like, efficient, even cold voice such as Donna Dominate. The strategy here is to convince you that you are dealing with a highly qualified, knowledgeable, professional who, unlike you, never makes mistakes.

In both cases there is a standard operating procedure that goes something like this. The first minute is spent with robo-voice reassuring you how important your call is and how they value you as a consumer. Granted, Susie and Guy are more effusive than Donna, but it is the same game. Donna will tell you they have an unusually high volume of calls and an agent will get to you as soon as possible. (Interestingly enough,  if you were to call Donna back on any other random day, you would find they are having an unusually high volume of calls that day as well.) In Donna’s favor, she does not play squawky, out of tune music while you wait, but if you listen carefully you may hear crickets in the background.

The second minute promotes the entities much-touted survey so that you can help the entity improve their customer dis-service. Susie and Guy will gush about this wonderful opportunity, while Donna will inform you there will be a survey.

Strategy 2: Please Press. Next comes phase three: The Press. I know you’ve heard it – “Press 1 if . . .” and so on. The strategy here is to make the pre-selected  press options so irrelevant to your problem that you will hang up in disgust, thus letting the entity off the hook. Don’t give up and hang up, and above all do not press the selection that offers to repeat the previously unhelpful selections. Instead, when robo-voice has completed its recitation of the choices, say “representative” over and over. If you are calling a bank, say “banker”. I did find one entity that only responded to “agent.” There is some risk in this approach, but it may get you through  to a real person with a name and a supervisor.

Above all, this is a game. The question is, will you waste energy venting your anger and frustration at robo-voice and entity, or will you triumph by maintaining a zen-like patience and resolve?