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Scratching my head

November 3, 2011

Conference call self portrait

Reading the post about customer service over at Laurie Writes today started me thinking about a weird phenomenon: modern businesses that seem unfamiliar with modern technology.

I’ve had this happen: I call my phone company. I get cut off during “transfers” (are they really transferring, or are they hanging up? One begins to wonder) a couple times, so the next time I call, I get smart and say “Can I get your phone number so I can call you back in case I get cut off during the transfer?”

“Oh, we don’t have direct lines.”

Wait. You’re the PHONE COMPANY. You have ALL the lines. Surely you can spare one for each of your employees. No.

Or say you call a business. Like the phone company. As soon as you get on the call, an electronic voice demands that you enter your 27-digit account number. Sooner or later, you are transferred to a real person. And what is the first thing they ask?

Right. The 27-digit account number. Sometimes I say “Well, I already entered that just now.”

This will provoke one of two answers, depending, I believe, on the person’s state of mind. They’ll either say “I don’t have access to that,” at which point I stop myself from screaming “WHY NOT?” or “Oh, yes, here at is,” at which point I stop myself from screaming “WHY DID YOU ASK FOR IT WHEN YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE IT THERE FOR EVERY SINGLE CALL?”

In any case: memo to Suebob – stop self from screaming.

My eye doctor took the cake though. His office is 40 miles away (in the town where I used to live), so I only go there when I have to. I needed a piece of paper from my file and I called to see if it could get faxed or emailed to me.

No. They do not fax things for customers.

Ok, then how about an email?

They do not have email.

This is what I said to that: “You…uh…um…hahaha….I don’t…you…excuse me, I thought you said you don’t have email?”

“NO, the doctor does NOT have email,” said the receptionist in a snotty tone, as if I had asked about him having gonorrhea.

I started laughing. And laughing. And whooping. And chortling. The receptionist was not amused, but I couldn’t stop. It just seemed so queer (in the old fashioned sense of the word), like refusing to change your clocks because you don’t believe in Daylight Savings Time (yes, I met that person. Another story).

That’s right. My eye doctor, in 2011, does not have an email account. I’m thinking if I told him I was Bill Gates with free Disneyland tickets, he might suddenly figure out how to log on to Hotmail, but until then, to help his patients, no. Cannot do it.

Which is why my new eye doctor is both closer to home AND lives in this century. Yeesh.

16 Comments
  1. November 3, 2011 12:23

    ….and, why can’t EVERY business have the returns technology that Target has. I don’t need a receipt (which is SOOO last century) to return something, just scan my credit card and BAM!! – up pops my transaction. Le sigh….Alas, not everyone buys on credit, choosing germ infested ‘currency’ (o.k…I like cash too, ’cause then hubbypants doesn’t know exactly how much I’m spending). Anyhoo…perhaps we should carry business cards around for all the services these companies lack and ‘hook them up’ with someone to bring them into the 21st century?

    • November 4, 2011 06:57

      We’ll all become consultants! Great idea. Fortune is in our future.

  2. November 3, 2011 13:53

    This is why Chris makes all of these types of calls. First of all, I’m a push-over. Plus, it’s funny when Chris does it because he can be psycho scary.

  3. November 3, 2011 14:16

    My bank shut down my check card a few months ago, no warning, because there had been “many compromised cards” for “some time.” I asked them why, given they alert us to everything else on intraaccount email, that they couldn’t do that individually to cards that got flagged.

    “Oh. That’s an idea,” he says. Sigh.

    • November 4, 2011 06:58

      This is why I used to love having American Express (back in the day). They were on any suspicion of fraud like bloodhounds and their customer service was great.

  4. November 4, 2011 06:49

    If your phone company employees don’t have direct lines, how do they transfer calls? Maybe they just have two big buttons, one marked “transfer” and one marked “hang up on this customer.”

    I haven’t run into the lack of modern technology problem, but once when I was spending several days disputing pretty much every charge on the doctor’s bill, I finally told the most recent customer service moron I managed to get on the line that I was going to need to speak to her supervisor. She said, “I don’t know who my supervisor is. This is a really big department.”

    • November 4, 2011 06:59

      LOLing at the idea of the two big buttons. I’ll bet they would just have pictures on them, though – maybe an arrow and a head silhouette with the slash and circle.

      “So, if someone were going to come over and fire you, who would that be? Let me speak to that person.”

  5. Jen permalink
    November 4, 2011 09:43

    I work in a technical job in manufacturing. I have a customer who refuses to give me his email address (they have 1 email address for the entire shop, not individual), and insists that I fax everything. Including 40 page reports and documents containing sensitive technical data. I have customers that do not have email. I have customers that ask that I send documents by mail. I do not understand. I don’t even give hard copies of documents to people within my own company – that is what email is for (we kill far fewer trees that way and then they can’t claim they never received it).
    The phone company thing, I do not understand either – if they can’t master transferring a phone call without cutting the customer off, then who can?

    • November 9, 2011 21:29

      Who on earth wants to read a 40 page fax?

  6. November 4, 2011 11:51

    Doen’t HAVE e-mail? For a business? That HAS to be a lie, right? You can buy a shirt at the mall without them asking for your e-mail address.

    Your eye doctor is A LIAR.

    Or a really terrible business person.

    Or Amish.

    Either way, I’m glad you got a new one.

  7. November 10, 2011 20:32

    I work for a small municipal agency. And although we have really good IT support, we have some weird pockets of anachronism. For one thing, although our whole purpose is to collect money from people, we can’t take credit or debit cards. At first, I was told that the entire city system couldn’t take credit cards, but I’ve since learned that to be untrue – other departments can take cards. But what I’ve learned is that the process you have to go thru to set up policies to do these things is so arduous that some department heads opt not to take the time or trouble. In the case of my department, my boss is a controller and, also, old and not technologically oriented. So change is too much of a challenge for her. And she does not trust her younger, more savvy subordinates to spearhead it for her.

    So on a daily basis, I have to refuse credit card payments. And, also, I issue receipts for payments that we use a typewriter to create!!!

    • November 11, 2011 06:36

      I can imagine how many people would not be able to wrap their heads around paying with anything but a card…

  8. November 26, 2011 19:15

    I work for a very large mortgage company. We have a queue that sends an incoming call to the next available agent. When our agents need to transfer a call, we have to use the same 800 # that our clients use to transfer to another department. If the client requests a supervisor, we have a phone code to enter to transfer to the supervisor queue and they get the next available supervisor. These are “account supervisors” who handle any escalations having to do with a problem on our accounts. Our direct supervisor (the person who can fire us) is not on the phones. They are considered “personnel supervisors” and clients cannot reach them. Our system is old. It is essentially a dos prompt system, so when customers ask if they can email something in, unfortunately they cant. Our only options are fax or regular mail. And the fax system is essentially a code we put in to the computer to prompt it to send a form fax letter. We never physically handle any documents. If we need to take a payment, we don’t even have an in-house payment system. We use Western Union Speed-pay and have to charge our clients $20 to process a payment. This $20 is what we are charged per transaction to use the system. I have to explain this every time a client wants to know why we cant waive the fee.

    • November 29, 2011 11:17

      That is crazy! Thanks for the inside scoop.

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