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 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 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 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!, 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.

6 responses

  1. Precisely why I so hated working the service lines and why I so loved The Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy!


  2. **Sometime the day after Shenanigans Inc got their new high tech phone system**

    Mr. Jenkins approaches Tim’s desk just before lunch holding a binder in front of him. “Oh hey there Tim, how is the new phone system working out?” to which Tim replied “Pretty good Mr. Jenkins, everything seems to be running fine and the Customers appear to be happy as well.” Nodding and looking overly pleased with himself Mr. Jenkins lifts the binder up to about shoulder height and begins jotting down some notes.

    But for some reason just before departing he turns back to Tim and asks “By the way Tim, have you changed your mind about coming to the company picnic next week? I hear your salsa is epic.” Tim having now completed his final customer Transaction before lunch pulls himself away from the monitor to look over at Mr. Jenkins, mulling over the idea a bit in his head. “You know now that you mention it Mr. Je……. OH DUDE! NASTY! Dude you totally have a stiffy rite now. Dude what the heck? Did you just get that from reading the new Multi Line Phone System report? Dude that’s messed up.”

    Mr. Jenkins is now visibly shaken, how had Tim so easily worked out his dark secret? Even worse what if he tells Brenda in PR? “Oh um, no I was just checking out that new intern over in packaging earlier, I don’t know what your talking about!” As he quickly glances about the office before making a hasty retreat.

    Tim only smiles to himself as he stifles another laugh. Thinking to himself “Well I guess I wont have to worry about him asking about the Phone system again for at least a week”. Meandering his way to his car. Maybe today is an Arbys day.

    -I actually know a lot of people who work in customer service and tech support, so I can just imagine how fun-tastic it can get. But the good news is, even amazon cant avoid a call or two. There is an online service known as “Get human” that you can look up that shows you the quickest route to an actual person if it exists. And most of the notable companies with Phone based customer service are on them. I use it when I order things through UPS or FedEx etc.


  3. See, that’s seriously horrible. I’m not saying that customer service is an awesome gig – I’ve worked it and it sucks big-time – but a company needs one! Doesn’t the company run the risk of losing lots of pissed off customers because people answer the phone who SHOULD NOT NEED TO? I mean, damn, no wonder you’re irate if you’re forced into a job you never signed up for!


    1. You’ve heard of bait and switch. What if that happened to you on a job???

      It would be one thing if I applied for a job and was told, up front: “Just to let you know, even though we call this job XYZ, that will actually be the smallest fraction of your duties. You’ll mainly be answering phones, providing customer service and working sales on the retail floor. Still want the job?”

      At least then I could make a decision with something loosely approaching informed consent.

      What really sucks is to be told, “This job is XYZ! Right up your alley. You’ll love it.” Then, once you are irrevocably committed (by accepting the new job and putting in notice at the old job) only then do they tell you about certain realities.

      I personally think that is a shitty thing to do to another human being.


  4. You sure you don’t work in an Outpatient Pharmacy? We rotate the phone duties. When my turn comes around I usually lose the nasty, cranky patients whilst putting them on hold or transferring them to another dept. Whoops! Heh heh.


    1. Are you implying the dropped calls are somehow deliberate?

      Touche, touche! 🙂


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