Press “1” to Speak to an Actual Human Being

We’ve all dealt with frustrating phone systems when we’re trying to accomplish something with a bank, large corporation, customer service issue, and more.  A few days ago, I was dismayed to realize that dialing “0” even got me into a series of options, one of which was to dial “0” again to speak to an operator.  I am not making this up.

My wife was trying to transfer some funds today from a bank in another city. It was like pulling teeth, only less pleasant.  It was much like speaking to someone who was trapped in a concrete box with earplugs in, maybe?  I don’t think I’ve ever heard her get that loud on the phone when repeating herself.

It made me think of a few choice options that should probably be added to corporate phone systems worldwide:

  • Press “0” to speak to someone with a higher IQ than the person you’re currently speaking with.
  • Press “1” to speak to an operator who is not hearing-impaired.
  • Press “2” to apply a mild electric shock to the operator.  A nominal fee will apply.
  • Press “3” to apply a severe….well, you get the picture on this one.

On a serious note, I really wish that the people who design these phone menus were forced to use them and test them frequently, as I think that would cut down on a large part of the problem.

Here’s another pet peeve while we’re on the topic – I don’t like the ones that make me spell the person’s name to speak with them. I’m a good speller, but I seem to have a knack for getting this option when I don’t even know the person’s last name, and this is the requirement.  In other words, if I need to reach Sherry _______ at the title company, it’s asking me to spell her LAST name.  Dang it.

One company that I’ve called a handful of times (they shall remain nameless here, since it might deserve a post of its own) has one of the worst phone experiences around.  You get one person on the phone, explain fully what your issue is, then they try half-heartedly to help before transferring to a specialist.  Upon reaching the second person, you must RE-EXPLAIN EVERYTHING again, since they can’t access the notes of the first operator.  Ugh.

I’m sure that companies pay big bucks for these labyrinthine systems. I think I might develop a program to navigate these menus on my behalf, perhaps with an “auto-escalate” feature, since it seems like the most common outcome (“Can I speak to your supervisor?”).

Thanks for reading my semi-rant.

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2 Responses to Press “1” to Speak to an Actual Human Being
  1. Christy Smith
    January 5, 2011 | 4:00 am

    Oh my gosh Jason! I got caught in one such labyrinth today and was wondering myself if the company that put that system in place had ever tried to use the silly thing! (I had an ext#, but had to listen to a menu of options 1-8, with 6-8 repeated!!, before the obligatory “if you know the ext of the person you’d like to reach, please enter it now” option became available.
    It becomes more and more difficult to speak to an actual person to do anything these days, and the big companies don’t do a great job at the automation side either. And then they wonder why they lose customers…

    • jason
      January 5, 2011 | 4:46 am

      Christy – It seems that I get caught in one almost weekly these days – they’re ubiquitous!

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