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The Customer Is Always Disconnected

June 11, 2005|Kathleen Clary Miller | Kathleen Clary Miller, a writer in San Juan Capistrano, has just completed her memoirs.

"Customer service no longer serves the customer!" cries my 87-year-old father. "You never talk to a person anymore!" He ought to know about customer service; he ran a business for 40 years and insisted the customer came first, was always right and required, at all cost, the personal touch. I'd listen to his repetitive diatribe, all the while saying to myself, "I will never be like that."

Wrong. Upon receiving an unexpected letter from my long-standing financial institution notifying me that my account held insufficient funds to cover a utility remittance, I hastily picked up the phone to correct the bank's erroneous conclusion. Instantly recognizing the commencement of the all-too-familiar litany of recorded instructions, I hung up. This level of false accusation called for a speedy defense, so I hopped in the car and drove straight over to the bank.

What luck! I opened the door to the bank to find myself the sole patron of the lavishly decorated lobby, four tellers at the ready, green lights above their stations flashing. I pranced forward, only to be politely but firmly informed that in order to solve my dilemma I needed to cross that very room and lift the receiver of a courtesy phone. I then would be connected to customer service in a heartbeat, all my anxiety soothed.

I could do that; no problem. Receiver in hand, I reached for my glasses so that I could decipher the push-button codes. After choosing my language of fluency I was led through the menu maze of options, none of which addressed my particular need. Feeling like I was in a recurring bad dream I desperately wanted out of, I pressed "9" for "further options." Instead, I was disconnected.

How was this any different from dialing from home? I tried again; this time punching in "9" got me right back to the language choice where I had started. Had they tricked me because I only speak English? Should I negotiate in un peu of my 30-year-old college French? Or admit that I am guilty of being the only person in Southern California who has never taken Spanish?

At last, I surrendered and remembered the U.S. mail option. I would write to customer service and even abandon e-mail. I was suffering from technology-overload-stress syndrome and needed the comfort of a tried and true method of communication. Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night would prevent my message from getting through. I hurried home and began to type:

Dear Sir or Madam:

After attempting to reach a customer service representative in vain, you are now required to contact me if you want to address the recent matter of what you think are insufficient funds in my 40-year-old, solvent checking account. Your dilemma can be solved only by navigating my menu:

Hello, you have reached Kathleen Miller. Your call is very important. Please leave a message so that you feel you are being heard, even though you have no reassurance that I have, in fact, listened or understood your situation. Press 1 for adult language; 2 for teenage.

Then press 1 if you are going to solve my problem; 2 if you are not willing to do so.

If you pressed 1, please press 1 again if immediately upon hanging up you are getting into your car and driving to my front door with the papers I need to sign to cover check No. 733; press 2 if you are bringing the documents I need to withdraw the money that is, apparently unbeknownst to you, in my account so that I may transfer it to another financial institution where there are tellers instead of telephones.

Press 3 for further options, which will cause you to be immediately disconnected.

You have left me with no further option.

Pressingly Yours,

Kathleen Miller

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