I miss human beings. You know those brave souls who used to man the customer service hotlines for the big companies, the telcos, the electricity, the banks and god forbid Centrelink (the place that handles the Government payments to the unemployed, the ill and families).
I seem to have spent weeks trying to sort out an assortment of issues with these bodies. I found myself growing old and dying in virtual queues of indeterminate length, I lost my mind when I became entangled in an endless loop of automated voices taking me in a circular descent into nowhere, I fought with homicidal rage as I struggled to get to a PERSON. Somebody with access to a computer who could, within a few keystrokes access my file and make the changes I required.
I needed to increase our internet usage. We’ve gone from a one computer family to a one computer, two i-pads, one laptop family. Three of us were on holidays. We killed our allocated download within a week. As the children struggled to understand the concept of a SLOW internet speed – let me tell you about the early nineties and dial-up sweethearts – now shut up I’ve got to listen to this recorded voice. Press 1 for account enquiries, press 2 if your enquiry relates to the telephone you are currently using (well technically it’s to do with the internet bundled into this account but what the hell 2 will do), all our operators are currently busy, “thank you for your call we have taken your number and will call you back to attend to your enquiry”, the little robotic voice informed me, and promptly hung up on me. I waited and waited but, just like that boy I had a crush on in year 9, my robot man never did call me back.
Undefeated from my failure I moved on Centrelink. The Government is giving an education bonus for families at the start of the school year, I just needed to change our payments from an annual payment to fortnightly payments so we would receive the bonus now as opposed to at tax time in June. Three phone calls saw me taken through a series of useless instructions that no matter which option I selected always ended with a recorded message telling me “families paid the fortnightly family payment would be receiving the bonus in their bank accounts in January”. I KNOW I screamed into the phone I WANT TO CHANGE MY PAYMENT SCHEDULE!
Boldly I continued on, fronting up to the Centrelink office, I could see STAFF, they were just out-of-reach on the other side of the room. I queued. Then the woman in charge of my access to STAFF took my query and directed me to the “priority telephones” in the opposite corner. There I sat surrounded by other people who were there before me, all sitting silently with the telephones glued to their ears. I held on, listening to an assortment of Muzak and constant reassurance that “my call was important”, after thirty minutes I gave up. I know, I’m a rank amateur, half an hour was NOTHING.
A week later, after other failed attempts on the phone and online at home, I went in again, this time I was going to get to a PERSON and have a CONVERSATION. I was firm with the lady in charge of access “I need to speak to a PERSON”. The weary woman looked me in the eye and told me it was an hour and a half wait to get to a person. Dejected I made my way to the “priority” phones. This time I lasted 40 minutes and for my stamina was rewarded with a conversation with a PERSON who politely informed me it was too late to change to change our payment schedule to get the bonus payment now, that needed to have been done last week. To change the situation for the future I would need to go online and make a claim, no she couldn’t do it over the phone, everything is done via a claim now. No human contact.
Then, because I am completely insane, I attempt to apply for a personal loan. Application done online. Email says we are approved, just need to send verification documents. Send documents. Don’t seem to be going through, into telephone queue, yes documents right. Then the text messages ping onto my phone, documents haven’t arrived. More phone calls, yes everything right. More text messages, still one document missing. Resend. More phone calls. All good will let you know in 24 hours. Two weeks later application still waiting for “loan approval team” to confirm it’s good to go, no you can’t speak to loan approval people they don’t take calls, 24 hours and it should be approved. IS THERE NOBODY LOOKING AFTER MY APPLICATION WHO CAN SPEAK TO ME!
Remember when you spoke to people, they had your file, they asked you questions, they responded when you asked for explanations, they had the POWER. The power to approve/disprove, to change details, to organise things, to help you. We’ve gone automated and it’s not pretty. Don’t deviate from the norm, tick the right boxes.
Excuse me, I’ve got to go, the computer has approved our loan, somewhere there is a Letter of Offer I have to sign, it’s just not in my inbox. Sigh. It’s very difficult to reason with a robot.