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November 01, 2013



I just had a go-round with AT&T over my DSL, and was I PO'd! I think I'd rather talk to the machine than to a customer "service" agent who dismisses my questions and suggestions and ignores me for long periods of time. I also have a huge problem with customer service being outsourced to other countries. I don't care how intelligent that person in India is, if I can't understand him because of his accent (which in normal conversation I find beautiful), it's just going to cause annoyance. After an hour and a half and five phone calls with three different people, he finally agreed that my suggestion would work. And it has. The scripts drive me nuts - if I call customer service and they can only follow a written list of instructions, they aren't going to be helpful. Give me a customer service agent who actually knows the system. Whew. Deep breaths. No need to get worked up over it all again...


I see all of that and raise you . . . none of the machines ever understand what I'm saying. Even a phone-in parking meter ten miles from where I was born. I had to put on an American accent to get it to understand my registration number.

Deb Romano

Today is November 1. I know you all know that but maybe someone can tell me if today is 10 days after August 6. Hmm? On August 6 I called my health insurer to ask for a list of specialists in my area. I tried the "0" trick but received a response telling me that "that is not a valid answer. Please press a number on your phone, corresponding to a valid answer". I tried a couple more times and was told in a sterner tone by the Computer Lady that I had to choose a "VALID answer". Eventually after about twenty minutes, and I don't remember how or why I got her, I managed to reach a human being. The human being told me that she and her coworkers are insured by the same company and have the same frustrations in trying to get through the telephone "mess" when they have questions about their own personal insurance matters. Then she promised to send me a list of specialists "within five to ten business days." Since it has still not arrived, I wonder if I might be counting the days incorrectly?


Sandi, I hate their scripts and the way they make you go through what they're told to tell you. It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that after the first time, you know to try those things before you call. I'm so glad your own approach worked!


Catriona, I'm sorry you had to assume the American accent, but I would pay to see that!


Deb, I'm sorry you had to go through that, but I'm glad your insurance company's own employees have to go through it.

Donna Andrews

Kris, interactive voice response systems are pretty high on my list as well.

Carol-Lynn Rössel

I've pretty much given up even asking for help online. The last time was this summer when I tried to get my dedicated negative scanner to 'interface' with my Mac. I did everything they said to do before and after they replied and it still didn't work. So I went out and bought a different one. I spent three weeks of my life on that item. I could have been, oh, writing.

Kristina L

When I've had issues with Comcast, sometimes I end up in sort of a dead end in the voice menu, where it doesn't let me do anything else, and I have to call back and listen to their commercial again. Frustrating!

The worst 2 times were when I called on the weekend. I ended up talking to 2 different people who were so scripted, it was like talking to a computer (and not a well-programmed one). However, every other time I have called Comcast, the people have been nice and helpful.

Louise M. Signorelli

I'm a computer consultant and I once did a consulting job for a major computer company. I had to use their laptop and it wasn't configured properly. I called their internal tech support line to get the info I needed. Went through the multiple-menu dance, pushing dozens of buttons and, for what seemed like hours of talking to their tape recorder, I finally got a human being. He had none of the information I'd been forced to record. He was also in India and we couldn't understand a word each other said. I got his email address, and we corresponded that way - got my problems at that time solved. But it took forever. Luckily, my contract was very short-term. I refuse to consult for that company again and I refuse to buy any of their products. If they can't treat their own employees and consultants any better, I shudder to think what it would be like to be their customer.

Storyteller Mary

Customer service is a misnomer for these systems. Sometimes yelling "I want a human being" helps . . .
Even worse are the incoming robo-calls. I've changed my answering machine message to: if you are a friend speak up now, and I'll come to the phone. If you get to the beep, leave a message.
Most of my friends know exactly why I have the message, though strangers might think it's peculiar.

Judy Dee

Nothing beats the human voice but if it doesn't have the answers or doesn't even offer to find them, "customer service" is the wrong term. I'd prefer "customer inquiries" so I wouldn't be expecting service. I wouldn't be happy if they weren't helpful, but at least I'd be less disappointed. Instead of choosing a language, I'd rather be offered a choice of recorded or human-source information. There are times when you just want the address or hours. When you have a complaint, sometimes you can't even understand the accent of some people (or be understood) even if they are only in the next county. Sounds like sour grapes as I read this over, so I think I'll go on to more positive thoughts :)


Donna, they sure do make life harder than just reaching a person.

Carol-Lynn, I try to avoid asking for help as much as possible, too. Sometimes it seems as if technology just gets too complicated. Replacing an item with another brand sounds like a sensible solution to me.


Kristina, landing in a dead end must be the worst! How could their programmers allow that to exist. Sorry about you having to listen to the opening crap again.


You're right, Louise. If a company can't treat their own consultants and employees better than that, their treatment of customers has to be worse. Sometimes language is a problem with the tech support people. The ones I've been dealing with lately seem to be in the Philippines. Sometimes I understand them okay, sometimes not. I hate having to keep asking them to repeat something.


Storyteller Mary, I will try that the next time I need to interact with one of these infernal machines. I know I shouted a whole lot of other things at them!


I agree with you, Judy, that they should call these departments something else if they aren't prepared to offer service. The accents can also be difficult. I hate always having to ask the person to repeat what s/he just said, but I often can't understand. Dealing with these aspects of life today sometimes puts me in a negative place, too. I hope you pulled yourself out of it. :)

Hank Phillippi Ryan

When Jonathan is not home, there are times when I cannot even figure out how to turn on our TV. That is SO ridiculous!

Elaine Viets

I'm only responding now, Kris, because I spent three hours trying to re-activate my Virgin Mobile cell phone.VM rejected my credit card and took my phone out of service.I went through their voice menu, which is absurdly cheerful, then got a human who said that the Virgin Mobile computer rejected my credit card. I called American Express, and the Amex person said my card was fine and agreed to stay on the phone and tell Virgin Mobile it was OK to charge it to my card. More menu time, with Amex on hold with me.
VM could NOT fix the problem, but promised to call me back in two hours. Haven't heard from them yet.


Hank, it's the opposite in our house. Somehow I got to be the person who's responsible for setting our DVR and downloading On Demands. I want to re-negotiate our TV! I agree with you that TVs are getting too hard to work!

Cathy Cole

I almost deleted an email I received from my "health care provider" about a survey, then remembered that most surveys have a section for what I'll refer to as personal venting.

I loathe their voice response system more than any other. I speak American English to an American company's Voice Recognition System. I enunciate clearly. I do not have any sort of speech impediment. However... whenever I called them, I was repeatedly misunderstood and misdirected further into their Maze of Doom until I blew a gasket while on hold. I can attest to the fact that some VRS are programmed to hang up on you if you use hold time to vent.

I was right about that survey, and in the personal venting section I told them what I've already said here about my enunciation and lack of impediments. I also told them that, since they forced me to call them at least once a year, they should at least make an effort to have some sort of system that doesn't (1) turn their customers into raving lunatics before they are allowed to speak to a human, or (2) provoke aneurysms since they are trying to hold down the cost of health care.

I have a feeling that I was not alone in getting that off my chest because the last time I had to call the company, that Machine Dude understood every word I said!


Good for you, Cathy! You scored a victory for all of us. Way to go.

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