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The call centre curse

call centre

Call Me Old Fashioned

By Debbie Reynolds

If Siri is your nemesis, then you’re probably just as enraged by ubiquitous so-called customer-care centres.

With technology taking off faster than a Gupta to Dubai, we’ve managed to very successfully lose the human touch. We talk to our mobile phones and then expect them to answer intelligently. Sometimes they do, which is kind of scary, but most times you get the standard, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”


Or, better yet, some gobbledeegook that has no relevance whatsoever. “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog,” was the recent answer to my simple question, “Talk to me please?”

So, getting me started on contact centres means settling in for a tirade of epic proportions.

There are few words to explain how irritating it is engaging with a recorded message that can’t possibly feel your frustration.

The dreaded load-shedding strikes…

Which is exactly why some wise-ass marketing expert decided it was a good idea to not have an actual human being answer your call until you’ve had a good old “cooling-off” period.

In the dark

Take a recent example. You’re sitting in the dark, no electricity, but it’s not your scheduled load shedding time, so there’s got to be another problem. You phone the electricity faults line and straight off you get a recorded message giving you a long explanation about loadshedding and which blocks are out and when.

You don’t need to know this, but never mind. A few minutes later, you get your chance, which goes something like this: “To report cable theft, press 1. To report current outage, press 2. To speak to an agent please press 3.” You press 3. (Yes, please, I would LOVE to speak to an agent.)

“Thank you for calling, please be patient while we transfer you to the next available representative.” A few minutes of dodgy background music and then: “All our representatives are busy assisting other callers. Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and your call will be handled in the order it was received.”

Now read: From ambush feeders and foragers to a new book

Okay. On comes another song, only slightly less elevator muzak than the last. Finally, the music stops. “Pick me! Pick me!” you scream.

No. Another song starts playing, by which time your cellphone battery is on its last legs. Did I mention you were in the dark and getting very hot under the collar with no fan or AC in KZN’s delightful February weather?

By this time you may be feeling just a touch frustrated.

Your cellphone dies. So, you switch to the landline which is in the darkest room in the house (because you hardly ever use it) and, yay, you have to go through the whole performance again.

Events in the KZN Midlands

The good news is that your call is free, so you don’t have to pay for your pain. But best of all, when you do get through to a real live electricity department agent, they are usually very efficient and helpful.

And you’re so glad that someone is actually talking to you, that you are all sweetness and light, which makes for a much better “customer-care” experience.

Now, if only Siri, my virtual voice assistant for more than six years, would at least call me by my correct name. For some reason she thinks I’m a female dog.

* Debbie Reynolds is a former newspaper editor and currently a freelance writer, foodie and PR consultant. This is a monthly column run in The Meander Chronicle


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