Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D               [ Back ]    [ Home ]    [ Next

OPINION COLUMN “Here’s a Thought.”

Push Number One

I had to make a phone call to a business the other day regarding an invoice and to ask one simple question; it took forty-three minutes. I dialed the number. Automated voice came on.

“If you have a push-button phone, dial 1; if you have a rotary....”

I pushed “one.”

“You have reached the main menu of AAAAAA corporation. Listen closely to this menu. You can push your selection between two breaths and a fast finger anytime during this message.”

I listened. Fifteen choices came up. When the message had finally ended, I forgot the number I was supposed to push. I hit the button, and again listened to the menu.

“....number 14 for financial -“

I quickly hit 14 in case I forgot the number or the machine changed it on me.

“You have reached the payroll department. Your call may be monitored -”

“No!” I stupidly yelled into the mouthpiece. “I want billing!” I hit zero for operator.

 I said. “I’m trying to reach the billing department to discuss a an item I was charged for twice that-“

Automated voice: “Hello, you have reached AAAAAA Corporation.” For the third time I heard the menu, and again I tried button #14 since it was the department closest to what I wanted. Payroll came back on. Back to hitting zero. I listened to the menu for the fourth time but this time I held for ten minutes hoping a human would come to the phone.

“May I help you?”

I was ecstatic! It was a real person. I went through my problem with her, detailing the matter in hopes she could check her computer and fix the problem right there.

“That’s a billing problem. Let me connect you.”


Click. Dead. Then, “....If you would like to make a call, please....”

Fuming, I dialed the main number again, listened to the menu for the fifth time, waited for a voice. Surprisingly, I got the same one I had the last time. “You disconnected me. I’m trying to talk to someone about the error in my bill and -“

”Please hold.”

I could feel my panic. They were going to terminate me again.

“Payroll Department,” answered the voice.

“I want discuss a bill. I’ve been transferred -“

”This is Payroll. You want billing. Hold please.”

“NOOOO!” I was wild.

Next voice: “This is billing, can I help you?

It took me seven minutes to explain the problem to her.

“I’m sorry. I don’t handle that; if you’ll just hold, I’ll transfer you -“

”Nonononono.” I explained it again when a different person came on.

“The person you want to talk to isn’t here right now, but I can connect you to his voice mail. In the event we get disconnected -“                                   

”I want to talk to a, without being put on hold, transferred, hung up on -“

”I’m sorry. We’re having hiring freezes and are short-handed which -“

”But I’m the one here with a problem. Look, just put on a real person.” My teeth gritted.

“I’m sorry but Mr. Dithers isn’t in and isn’t expected to be in for the rest of the week, and since you refuse to leave your message on a machine, I’ll have to transfer you to -“

“Listen, no more machines, voice mails, wrong parties, disconnections, re-dials, menus. I want someone who’s experienced in these matters; who can talk to me right now!”

Utter silence on the other end.

Seconds later: “Yeah?

It didn’t instill confidence in me. I tumbled into my problem all over again, itemizing it...even embellishing it.

‘Yep,” responded the voice. “My granny had same problem; yepper she did.”

“Who are you?”

“Well, I, like work here...janitor..pre-near’ ten years now.”

“Put that other person back on.”

Right off she scolded, “You said you wanted someone experienced in -“

”Just how big is this place?”

“Three of us, counting the janitor.”

Three? And you have an automated voice system, with fifteen departments and -“

”We’re very high tech.”

I decided to write my complaint rather than talk to someone.

Everywhere, all around, businesses are doing this, relegating humans to “things” talking to things.

Here’s a thought: Why not go back to the old style of having a human being politely answering your call and then referring  it to the proper department where another human being–knowledgeable and experienced–can help you? Now that would be a new twist on a newer idea.


Computer Word count without headings/blurb: 733

Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D. 

Copyright 2002 Nan Hayes