Last week I called into work to ask a quick question. Much to my surprise, I was greeted by the infamous automated response generic voice mail system. As long as I have been there, we have always had live operators answer the phone. I wrote it off, thinking I had caught them at a particularly busy time and gone straight to voice mail- but when I called again a couple days later with the same result, it hit me – The Powers That Be had installed a PHONE TREE. Without so much as a warning or a “people who work here should call this number” next to the digits for the back line.
The phone tree at my work is just as infuriating as all the other phone trees out there. The first thing it says is, “If this is an emergency press 5″, which I did since I figured that was a good way to get to a live person. After the phone rang for 35 rings and 5 minutes, I hung up and tried again. In our case, the magic combo is 7, then 3, which gets you to the operator. I learned this through trial and error, as most of our clients have- after all, what can a soulless automatron do to help you when your pet is in the hospital and you want an update? It makes no sense.
Phone trees are sneaky now. They know that you used to be able to push “0″ and bypass all the annoying stuff, so they make you do other combinations in order to reach a live person that involve actually listening to each step, and should you try to bypass it with “0″ or “#” or whatever, you get spit back to the main menu like a bouncer escorting you out the side door after a long night. If you stay connected at all. The complexity of these annoying things is beyond aggravating. It’s worse than playing Myst.
After trying with little success to talk to an actual person regarding my student loans (they had been bought by another company and I had no idea what was going on or where my bills were coming from- no way an automated answer could help me), not a single option got me to a live person. I tried every cranny of that tree, investigated every branch and leaf. In frustration, I pressed every key at once and was in the process of slamming the phone on the counter repeatedly when I heard “Hello? Um…hello??” between bangs. I don’t recommend this technique, though as far as I can tell it was the only way to get to a customer service rep at this place. Kamikaze phone tactics, sacrifice your headset and we will let you speak. Get you so mad you don’t remember why you called. It’s the new generation of “excellent customer service”, otherwise known as “We don’t give a hoot so hang up and try again later when my shift is over.”
Thanks to a lovely man named Paul English, who had suffered enough at the icy hands of the robotic phone operator, we now have an easier way to get through. He started a blog to accumulate the “secret codes” to get through to a flesh and blood human; he had so many hits he began a website, gethuman.com. There are 500 companies listed, with a forum for other companies as well. Big Companies, be warned: we are on to you, and dangit, we are not going away until we can GET A HUMAN on the horn. I will not be dissuaded. Just ask my duct taped handset.