Is anybody there?

Customers left hanging on the line

It’s a frequent and frustrating experience: We are currently receiving a high volume of calls and all our staff are engaged with other customers. But your call will be answered as soon as possible. You are currently number…twenty-three…in the queue. “Twenty-three! That could take hours! And it’ll cost me a small fortune. I’ll try again la….” Thank you for holding, you are currently number…nineteen…in the queue. “Nineteen! That was quick. Maybe it won’t be too long, maybe it’s worth hanging on for a bit. But why, oh why, must they make it more and more difficult to speak to a real human being? They’re all the same. Banks, utilities, insurers, even food delivery companies now. All keeping us hanging on, and forcing us into long interactions with irritating machines and even making money from the phone calls they’re making us make! It’s a vicious…” You are currently number…seventeen…in the queue. “Seventeen! Is that all? This is costing me a fortune! It’s not as though there aren’t people looking for jobs. Among the record numbers of unemployed there’s bound to be plenty experienced in customer service, and even more desperate to train. But these businesses don’t want to know. They’re slimming down, shedding staff, streamlining. It’s all about profit, that’s what it is. Billions. Corporate greed. Shareholders’ dividends. And let’s not start on energy giants and windfall taxes. Some of these companies are making billions and can easily afford to pay people to answer the phones. Provide some old-fashioned customer satisfaction – customer service! But you can’t even find a phone number for most of them.

Please continue to hold, your call will be answered as soon as possible. You are currently number…twelve…in the queue. “Twelve, that’s halfway…almost. It’s too late to hang up now, I’m in for the long haul, see it through to the bitter end. Or go online, they say. Go to our user-friendly website. Well, I don’t want to go to the website because it’s not user-friendly and even when I do get some sort of one-to-one interaction it’s not real. ‘Hello, my name is Hannah, how can I help you today?’ Well, Hannah, you can help me by finding me someone real to speak to. You are not real! You’re a bot, and bots are not what…” Your call is important to us, you are currently number…nine…in the queue. “Number nine…number nine…number nine… I’ve heard that somewhere before. I think it’s The Beatles. My whole life is passing before my eyes. I just want to speak to someone, anyone. Please someone, answer the phone and speak to me before I forget the reason I called. That’s a point, why did I…? Oh, yeah. Soon there’ll be no one left in those massive offices and company headquarters. They’ll be deserted, totally empty. Silent rooms. With computers. And bots.” Please continue to hold, your call will be answered as soon as possible. You are currently number… “Number what…? Hello…? Hello…? Can you hear me? Is there anybody there…?

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