Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nameless Faceless Phone Rage

I hated automated messages, but what I hate even more were automated messages you had to talk at, which did nothing but exacerbate the problem. It was bad enough already that I had to call you to report a problem, but when I then called to report a problem and had to respond pleasantly to the ever-so-pleasant phone voice on the other end, it was just a hop, skip and a jump away from me being stabby.

This morning I played auto-message jump with who I am going to call Greg, the automated voice responder for a major telecom company.

Greg had a pleasant and cherry voice. He wanted you to know that talking to him was okay. That he knew you might have a problem and that he was happy to be here to help. Greg's voice exuded warmth  and friendship. His dulcet tones inspired the most mellow and easing of feelings, because, now, here, in this moment, you had Greg and he was going to walk you through whatever problems you were having.

Greg asked "What is your problem related to, say…" And then started giving you things to say into your phone.

When Greg didn't understand he practiced good listening skills by saying"I'm sorry, I think you said - is that right?" Somewhere, someone had taught Greg a few different tag questions and he used them all very well. If he really couldn't understand he was all happy to say "I'm sorry. I didn't understand. Can you repeat that?"

Greg was all about getting to the bottom of my problems. His voice was calm and even throughout. Unlike my voice. The more time I spent on the phone trying to tell Greg my problem, rather than just selecting a number from a drop-down list and punching it in, I got a little more stabby.


"I'm sorry. I didn't understand. Did you mean -"

"No, you fucking cock sucker I did not mean - Human. I want to talk to a human. Human. Operater. Fuck. AHHHH!"

"Did you mean 'home'?"

"No, human, fuck you let me talk to a human."

It went on this way for almost forty minutes with me getting more pissed off while Greg (ever calm) tried carefully to repeat back to me what he thought I was saying so that he could help me solve all my problems.

"Did you try restarting you router?" Greg asked pleasantly.

"Do you think I could be spending twenty fucking minutes on the phone talking with you if I hadn't already done that you fucking asshole?"

"I'm sorry. I didn't quite catch that. Did you say 'no'?"

I believe that Greg had been programmed with one singular purpose and one purpose alone. To dissuade anyone from actually completing a conversation and get people off the phone before it actually cost the giant telecom company money via the employ of a live human person to actually talk to you. As I grew more and more enraged at this stupid phone voice I had to remind myself that eventually I was going to have to talk to a  human and I might, maybe, want to calm down.

Finally, when I was just about ready to throw my phone across the room, I got a human.

"Hi, I’m Sara and I'm really pissed off. Your automated message service had utterly enraged me and it may take a few minutes for me to calm down."

"Thank you, ma'am. Yes, I understand completely. We have to use that automated service when we call through to other departments and sometimes I start to see red before I even manage to get through."

It was like we are kindred spirits.

Perhaps this was Greg's purpose. He made everyone so angry that in the end you were able to commiserate in your hatred of said enraging animated voice, making it easier to get the problem taken care of. Perhaps this was some sort of ingenious invention of a bored Customer Relations VP. The positive effect of having a real live human to talk to was so overwhelming fantastic that was almost orgasmic; to have a response that was in no way scripted.

Rather, I thought though, that the real reason was to temper a deep-seated post-traumatic response to calling customer service. Already I felt I would rather spend an afternoon rocking back and forth in a dark closet than calling and trying to walk through the almost labyrinthine redundancy that was the voice call-in menu.

You won this round, Greg; you won this round.

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