While it is not novel for most local merchants and companies, some national ones seem to have suddenly discovered that caring builds business.
Case in point: having a live, animate, breathing representative answering the phone.
Several banks and credit card companies actually advertise that a real human being will be there when you call them. It is an interesting concept for those of us who have often played telephone roulette.
You know the game.
The voice comes on the line and explains that since you last called the company has changed its entire phone system. This is to throw you off right from the beginning. If you remember what you did last time, it will do you no good.
Thus, you are destined to listen as the soothing mechanical operator outlines what happens when you select each number. Don’t rush — some systems make you go back to the beginning if you select one without hearing all the possibilities.
You now choose the closest solution to your issue and push the assigned button on your touchtone phone. (If you are still using a rotary dial you will have to send them a letter, although from now on that letter will not be delivered on Saturday.)
Much of the time it is not obvious what the problem is or what your questions are. You have a general idea and estimate which number to choose.
A friend of mine suggested that when you get a machine and want to talk to a real person that you start hitting “0” over and over. He believes that this takes you to a human being.
It only works once in a while. Most of the systems have caught on to this game and raised the stakes.
If you are lucky, at very least the choices conclude with: “If what you want is not listed, stay on the line, and this call will be answered in the order it was received.”
What most of us really want is help. If we knew more we wouldn’t have to call. So we find ourselves in a queue of others who have little or no idea of what they need. Either that, or their reason for calling is very complex.
Some of us find Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond passé. Sometimes the music while we hold is classical, soothing for our restless souls. From time to time there is no music at all. Instead, there are pitches for new products and services.
Most of us are not good at waiting. Even if we grew up before instant breakfast, we still feel entitled to instant gratification.
But there is good news. Old-fashioned customer service is coming back. The ads proclaim it! We just might have to hold while they reinstate it.
• Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4231 or emailing DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.