Automated call centres will be the death of me!

This is not the first time I have bitched about customer service on an automated telephone system or a call centre. It seems the waits are getting longer; the runaround more complicated, and the service (is it even possible?) more horrendous. Like hell, they value our business!

Like hell, you value my business!

Not a week goes by that this old boomer isn’t forced to call a bank, a telecommunications company, or another service provider to sort out some technical or billing issue that the service provider would prefer to not deal with. In order to discourage me from calling and hopefully get away with overcharging me or under-delivering on services, they set up a maze of phone prompts that land me (if I’m lucky) talking to someone in the Philippines or India who speaks English as a second language and, whose voice is so soft I have to ask her or him to repeat what they said, often several times.

Lordy, lordy. My nerves can’t take much more of this. I’ve almost given up on reaching a real person at TD Bank. When their helplines are not temporarily down for some technical issue, they inform me that calls waiting are unusually busy and my wait will be approximately forty-five minutes. And, they don’t even give me the option of leaving my number for a call-back when my name reaches the top of the queue. So, I’m forced to place the phone on the desk beside me with the speakerphone on listening to scratchy elevator music that makes my teeth hurt, while I wait . . . and wait. . . and wait.

I respect that call centre representatives are just trying to earn an honest living and do their jobs, but their carefully scripted, flow-charted responses are hardly conducive to personal service.

Don’t even think about calling Sirius Satellite Radio. Their accounting system and call routing for customer service are not for the faint of heart. Not that long ago I could reach a human customer service rep somewhere in Quebec but they’ve now outsourced the service to Jupiter or Uranus. After being unable to understand or hear their service rep when I finally made contact, I was getting nowhere so I hung up, and tried their online chat service. Another hour and a half was wasted trying to determine what service I actually have and what I am paying for. I’m still not convinced I’m not being ripped off but I do not have the emotional fortitude to engage with them any further. And, their big marketing ploy about commercial-free radio is a blatent lie. I’m forced to pay big bucks to listen to their mind-numbing commercials.

My monthly cable, internet, and telephone costs would be enough to finance a first-class European holiday. But sorting through their bundled promotions (for new customers only, thank you) and à la carte shopping lists that would baffle Einstein are all far too onerous for this right-brained boomer. So, they got me. I continue to overpay because I can’t face calling them on their own service in search of financial relief. I know I need to investigate cutting my cable service and switching to online streaming but I’m too frightened to undertake such a stressful project.

I went without a Visa card for several weeks because my new one did not arrive two months after it was mailed and I kept hoping it would turn up before I had to make that dreaded call for help. It turns out the post office had failed to forward my mail while I was away . . . a service I stood in line at the post office for half an hour to pay $200.00 for. Give me strength.

A little QR code enabled me to avoid this massive lineup at the airport, but it took another passenger to steer me in the right direction, away from the line.

There is a tiny glimmer of hope in technology though. I recently flew from Florida to Niagara Falls, New York, then drove across the border at Fort Erie. I booked our plane tickets online, did an online check-in twenty-four hours before boarding, and somehow, even with my limited technical abilities, managed to save a QR confirmation code(does anyone know what QR stands for?) on my iPad. I rarely use my cell phone. That miraculous achievement allowed me to skip the check-in line that ran the length of the airport, and blasted me straight to the security lineup which happened to be moving quickly that day. I only avoided the massive lineup because a generous passenger in that long lineup told me I did not need to line up. Travelling these days requires not only a lot of physical stamina but also a lot of mental dexterity.

In order to cross the border back into Canada, however, I was required to download an App called ArriveCan and fill in all the information about our COVID vaccination status and other details for border services. It took me several tries and a few bad swears before I realized that, as with boarding passes, they only accept the information within a tight and specific timeframe before you cross the border. Once I nailed that qualification, I was home-free. But it was a lot of stress to get there with their “simple” app.

On one hand, being able to bank 24/7 from the comfort of your living room is wonderful, but just hope you never have to call them with a problem and talk to a real-life human being.

From time to time I have to remind myself that not that long ago banks would only do business with us between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., five days a week, and you had to show up in person. While that was inconvenient for working people (most of us), somehow we managed. Now we can do our banking from the comfort of our La-Z-Girl in our living room at any time of the day or night, seven days a week. Just do not have a problem that requires calling them. RBC must have a corporate policy about not allowing its customers to reach real, live RBC staff by telephone in a branch at any time. It is virtually impossible. If you don’t believe me, just try calling them.

Ahh! The joys of modern technology. We’ve come so far, but have we really? I try to keep on top of things but the stress of managing our service providers’ services and billing practices is driving me nuts. It’s becoming a full-time job. When do working people have the time to sit on hold for an hour waiting for a call centre representative? On their employers’ time? So much for productivity.

Ooooops! Gotta go! TD Bank can take my call now. Pass the Advil. Make that Extra Strength—I have to call about my cable streaming service next. And, my new cell phone has arrived so I’ll be incommunicado for the next few days while I try to sort that out. There must be an easier way to get through retirement.

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1 year ago

Lynda, I could not agree more but unfortunately it seems the way of the world.
This morning I spent half an hour on Live Chat about my recent Bell Canada bill. I thought half an hour was amazing. Sad, so sad….
Oh and by the way I was working for RBC when we actually had direct lines to all staff. When they centralized the phone system we went to hell in a hand basket very quickly. 😳

1 year ago

I hear you.
It’s just part of our life now. A new normal. I surrender.🏳

Gail Czopka
Gail Czopka
1 year ago

Well said! Customer satisfaction is no longer a priority….. Big mistake on the part of corporations because the consumer will turn to better alternatives. My best experience with product/service quality has been with Amazon…. They get a 9 out of 10 for customer service. Now there’s a success story based on customer satisfaction.