Daily Archives: August 13th, 2010

Multi-line bull phone

Phone telephone receiverCue the choir of heavenly angels as the most as The Most Fabulous Object in the World comes into view. (And no, it’s not The Moderna Wondermajor all-automatic convenience centerette.) Ahhhhhhhh. There it sits, all sparkley and shiny as if by magic there at the end of the rainbow…

It’s pretty much the wet dream of most retail business owners that ever existed: The multi-line phone system. The fantasy of multiple phone lines each with an employee happily receiving orders all day is a compelling one. It should be noted, however, that in the vast majority of cases the person who gets a stiffy over something like a multi-line phone system is most decidedly not the same person who has to answer those incoming calls.

The reality is decidedly different than the fantasy. In our case the vast majority of phone calls start with, “I just received my shipment…” Trust me. That sort of phone call almost never turns out good. I mean, how many people call to say, “I just received my shipment and all is well?” Since we’re so inept these sorts of calls are usually the launching point into an excursion about how bad we suck.

“I just received my shipment and it’s about one-half whiskey tango foxtrot and one-half FUBAR. You guys suck!”

We’ve actually been trained to use the word “sorry” rather than the word “apologize” just because it sounds and feels more personal to the small brains on the other end of the line. The first rule of tricking someone is that they have to want to be tricked and our customers line right up for it. Yes, the primary function of this company is to be sorry. I have dubbed our segment of the retail industry as “professional apologizers.”

The owner here certainly loves his little two-line phone system. He funnels multiple web sites into it. He feels that prominently featuring our phone number on his web sites (unlike his competitors) and splashing text like “call us” all over his sites is what sets his business apart.

Speaking of phone numbers, you ever try to call Amazon.com? These bastards do it right! They make it harder than hell to actually call customer service. That’s smart. Friggin’ smart. If you are smart enough to even find the contact page, then you get to jump through hoops. First you have to log in to your Amazon.com account. They you have to select a bunch of dropdowns describing your problem. Then you have to click “email” or “phone.”

I tried it just for giggles. After jumping through all the hoops I got this:

Enter your number and click Call Me. (You’ll need an open phone line.)
We’ll call you and connect you to a service specialist.

Then you get to choose between a “Call Me Now” and a “Call Me in 5 Minutes” buttons.

Down below, in small print and ghosted, I almost missed it, I found: “Click the Call Me button or you can reach us at 1-###-###-#### to use our automated customer service system.” I don’t know if that phone number really will eventually lead to a live human being or not. I wouldn’t bet on it!

LOL! Apparently Amazon.com really doesn’t want to give up the incoming phone number to customer service. I like the way they roll. That’s where I want to work! A company that really knows how to put the customer in her place! Amazon.com, I’m proud of you. You must be a company that likes to make a profit.

Anyway, back to my boss. A natural born liar, the boss extends that particular expertise to his online business in a myriad of interesting ways. When it comes to phones, his web sites tout his “friendly customer service department” and his “specialists” who will be “happy” to help.

The first lie is that there actually is a “customer service department” much less a “friendly” one. Yes, there is a single employee who is ostensibly “customer service” and is supposed to be first to answer the phones, but just like us, she’s loaded down with tons of other duties. The rest of us are “friendly” enough people (except for me, of course) but because we aren’t dedicated customer service staff, every one of these calls we’re forced to take represents an interruption of our regular work load. Does anyone seriously think that in a scenario like that we’re going to be “happy” to help?

Secondly, the primary customer service person actually does have some training about our widgets and stuff. My job, however, is technical and the only reason I’m forced to provide backup on the phones is that I’m a warm body. That’s it! (I think being a “warm body” is my destiny.) Those are my “customer service” qualifications. I’m not a “specialist” about the shit that customers love to ask about and their myriad various problems. Our web sites brag about how awesome our customer service is, but when you call in and are lucky enough to get me, all you get back is an earful of “I don’t know” and “I don’t know.” I imagine I probably sound a lot like Marvin the Paranoid Robot when I take the call. How impressive is that?

Because of the phone we can’t properly do our jobs, and thus, our error rates go up, which, obviously, in turn increase the amount of phone load placed upon us as endless customers call us to bitch. In “boss speak” that’s probably considered a “win win” but I just call it a cluster fuck.