Trivia Teaser

The voice of Jim Backus is associated WHICH memorable cartoon character?

Bugs Bunny
Donald Duck
Mr Magoo

Your call is important to us


By Jessie

I had the grave misfortune to need to place a call to a government department this morning, a task I consider just slightly more enjoyable than gouging my own eyes out with a blunt stick.

I’m a veteran though, and I prepared well. I rang right on the minute when the lines opened for the day, I had my customer ID and password written down on a notepad, and a large mug of coffee and barrel of biscuits were within easy reach for sustenance over the dreary hours (days?) of bureaucratic negotiation that doubtless lay ahead.

My vigilance was rewarded; I made it through the initial ‘your call will be recorded for training purposes’ spiel and the ‘help us identify you to speed up your wait time’ voice recognition prompts relatively unscathed, with only one short burst of furious fist-shaking when the system arbitrarily diverted me to the wrong menu. Finally I found myself at the bottom of the ‘please hold, your call is important to us’ wait cue.

I was lucky.

One hour, 22 minutes and 45 seconds later I hit pay dirt – a human voice! This particular human couldn’t actually help me, and in under ten seconds of clippety chit chat had SMS’d me another number to try and terminated the call, but hey! At least I’d had ample time to reflect on the futility of my own existence while listening to the soothing background soundtrack of un-tuned FM radio. “And I know that my heart will – crrrrrrrrssssssssshhhhhhhhhh – ooooooon…”

[Beats. Head. With. Own. Fist.]

I’ve been placed on hold enough times in my life to have developed a ranking system of Customer Rage Probability (CRP). The companies with a low CRP reduce the number of menu options, keep interstitial marketing messages relevant and to a minimum, make sure you are accurately updated as to how long you will need to wait and ensure you talk to a (helpful) human within five minutes.   

Then there are the companies who I swear, have ‘destroy humanity slowly, one customer at a time’ as a key objective in their corporate mission statement.  These businesses are paragons of industrial incompetence who peddle senseless frustration through their inferior communications technology.

If only I had the power to hurl forth a plague of tax audits upon the ravenous accounts departments rusted on to these bloated administrative machines, or publicise a petty internal dispute that rocks the share price. But alas, I am a minion with nothing more than a keyboard and a poorly constructed acronym with which to vent my spleen. And in this spirit, I bring you a typical interaction with a Customer Rage Assured Proprietor (C.R.A.P):

[rings company at the break of dawn]

C.R.A.P: Welcome to [for fun, insert your own source of customer rage]. So we can identify you, please enter your Customer Service ID using the phone key pad and then press 'hash'

Caller: [dutifully enters ID followed by #]

C.R.A.P: I’m sorry, the number you have entered is incorrect or invalid. Please try again.

Caller: [with some concern] re-enters the ID number printed on the OFFICIAL STATEMENT carefully and presses #

C.R.A.P: I’m sorry, the number you have entered is incorrect. You will need to speak to a Customer Service Representative. In a few words please state the nature of your call

Caller: “Account query”

C.R.A.P: Did you say “Insurance Options” – yes or no?

Caller: No! Account query!

C.R.A.P: Did you say “Change your password” – yes or no?


C.R.A.P: I’m sorry, I do not understand your request. You will be placed in a queue to speak with the next available Customer Service Representative.

Caller: [sigh]

Hold Music: [ccrrrrrssssssshhhhhhhhhhh]

C.R.A.P: [cutting in reproachfully] We are experiencing an unusually high volume of calls. Your wait time is approximately 5 hours, 37 minutes…

Amazing Facts about Customer Service!

  • Mark Twain wrote one of the first letters complaining about customer service in 1890. He called his local telephone service “the very worst on the face of the whole earth”. Strong words indeed.

  • One place where live human beings always answer the phone lines and recorded operators are never used is the Vatican's call centre. Switchboards are staffed 24 hours a day by nuns who are members of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master.

  • A recent (American) Customer Rage Study found that about 70% of customers feel rage toward companies about service problems. And they react in one or more of these ways: 57% never do business with the company again; 28% yell or raise their voice at a company employee; 8% curse and 8% threaten legal action. 15% say they want revenge on the company, but only 1% report getting it.*

*SOURCE: Emily Yellin, Your Call is (not that) important to us: Customer service and what it reveals about our world and our lives, Free Press/Simon & Schuster

Do you have a customer service tale to share?

Jess x

27 Responses to

Your call is important to us

January 30, 2013 at 6:28 PM

hehe jessie sounds like centerlink .. and telstra talk about being put on hold and then you cant understand them but what do you do

January 30, 2013 at 7:04 PM

Sometimes when the computer says, 'Please answer Yes or No', I answer 'Yes or No'... I'm pathetic, I know.

January 30, 2013 at 7:38 PM

Not only government!! I took our new Micra back to Nissan dealer for second service, was told it needed to be takes kms away from there ofr repair to tyre, when I asked what was wrong, teh office person said I'd get service manager to call me within 30 minutes. 2 months later, an still waiting, even after follow up to servic ephone call they always make, again promised service manager call within a few minutes....... Car wont be serviced there again.....

Scruffy1 said:
January 30, 2013 at 8:43 PM

ROFL! Sounds like our ISP company. And Telstra; the council; centrelink and a thousand other machine directory answered places. Great name for them.

3femmes said:
January 30, 2013 at 10:03 PM

I try the following. I sit at my computer with beverage and sustenance and open You Play. I put the machine directory on speaker-phone and regardless of its question i ask for a customer service operator. Sure enough, with perserverence it gives in and eventually asks me if I would like to speak to a customer service operator and then I take my chances with the human operator ...and at the same time I get a chance to finish the crossword as well.

January 30, 2013 at 10:07 PM

My bank has "voice recognition", which is announced in a very pleased way, as though it is the latest in technology (for driving customers crazy). I have a similar experience to Jessie, where I am misunderstood at every point. But my worst gripe is a huge menu of numbers, NONE of which are applicable to my enquiry. So I don't press any of them, and they repeat said numbers again. I've been known to yell "HELP!" which worked on one occasion - I was put straight through to a real person.

mommyscat said:
January 31, 2013 at 10:46 AM

I recently called the consulate of my native country because I needed to renew my passport. After about 20 minutes of shuffling through the different menus and pressing 1,2 or 3 etc. I was told they no longer mail out passport applications I had to download and print one out from their website. I can see how this will save them a lot of money but I was equally concerned about people that don't have access to the internet, and yes there are people like that. How will they be able to get a passport renewal form?

derekn said:
January 31, 2013 at 4:24 PM

I reckon this will end up as one of the longest blogs of all time. How about we start a class action for the time we waste while "they" save money hiding behind "technology" that only hinders customers? Most large corporations these days have a "how can we NOT help you today" mentality. Please excuse all of the quotation marks. Do what I do with Citylink in Melbourne. When they ask what you want just say something totally inceomprehensible. Again when they ask you to repeat say some combination of letters without vowels. You get through to a human pretty quickly that way.

Mojito said:
January 31, 2013 at 5:31 PM

Not quite the same but at my work 'they have a policy that all phone calls will be answered' and this annoys me because when I ring a person and their phone is busy, it diverts to someone (anyone else) and of course, they cant help, so I end up having to dial again and again or giving up.

Ryu said:
February 01, 2013 at 1:47 AM

You should all move to Brisbane and call the Brisbane City Council 24 x 7 by people in brisbane. Problem is that if you ring telstra direct and are silly enough to even mention the word Brisbane, you end up at the Brisbane City Council who kindly say they cant help but might have a number they can transfer you to except that it is 2 in the morning and no one else is working not every govt office is out to drive you insane but telstra is another story

February 01, 2013 at 10:24 AM

hehe ryu totally agree

gracie10 said:
February 01, 2013 at 4:33 PM

I am no longer with telstra - at all. I now have my phone, internet, and mobile with a company who have 24/7 help, with people who understand what you are saying, and furthermore, I can understand them. If wait times are long, you can request a call back. After asking someone at telstra, 'what seems to be the problem' and receiving the response, 'thankyou, i am having a very good day', I think the move was justified. Also of interest was my final bill. At the top it stated that I owed them $5625.00, at the bottom it listed the more reasonable, and correct amount of $56.25 which is the amount I paid them.

Tannita said:
February 01, 2013 at 8:05 PM

Merry Meet, I called vodafone once, , , , , was put on hold, , , I put down the phone for two hours, , , then picked it back up, , within a minute of picking it back up, , i was put through, , , , , I have not tried this since, , ,but often wonder if this could be a trend to be followed, , , , Blessed Be,

February 02, 2013 at 6:46 AM

This blog could be made a lot longer if we start to talk about outsourcing. Can anyone explain why Aussie companies like Telstra, Optus and Virgin outsource to India and the Philippines when foreign companies like Toshiba, Sony and Samsung have Aussie call centres???? I'm afraid real customer service as those of us of a particular age knew it has been replaced by bored, apathetic robotic 'humans' who really hate their jobs.

larchie said:
February 02, 2013 at 10:27 AM

I've been on hold for so long the phone has run out of battery just when I got through to a real person..:-(

February 02, 2013 at 5:24 PM

... what about being left on hold when they played Greensleaves in the background

bunbarian said:
February 02, 2013 at 11:57 PM

Glad to see Centrelink got a mention. I think if they were not a Govt. Dept. they'd be out of business!!!! I rang once about my fortnigtly summary to obtain my Newstart Allowance. was told no need your file is marked as such. Yes you are right on payday a short time later rang the bank for a balance. No Newstart Allowance. Went into the local branch and was told "Telephone call centre operators don't know because they are not trained. " Guess what got a letter from Centrelink 7 days later which stated "You do not need to submit your two weekly statement anymore." GEESH!!!!

bunbarian said:
February 04, 2013 at 12:47 AM

Jessie can you please contact me re using your article in my newsletter?

pando said:
February 04, 2013 at 5:02 PM

I know this is going to sound bizarre and is against the trend but I have been dealing with Telstra Business in the past couple of weeks. They have been fantastic and I have been able to understand them all. Today I got a message saying they had long wait and would I like them to call back in 22 minutes... which they did! Also during last year I used the telstra mobile live internet service with regards to my sons mobile and the response and results were fantastic!

gofer said:
February 05, 2013 at 10:02 AM

iinet actually call you back when they say they will, and ALWAYS fix the problem with no fuss!!!

mommyscat said:
February 05, 2013 at 2:41 PM

Speaking about not being able to understand the person on the other end of the line, I was called this week by a charity group, never did find out which one because the person calling had such a strong accent I could only understand the word charity. I asked three times for her to repeat herself straining to make out what she was saying, till I finally gave up and said I'm sorry I cannot understand you and don't want to take any more time trying to figure it out.

February 05, 2013 at 3:41 PM

so true scat

Mojito said:
February 05, 2013 at 10:35 PM

I agree golfer, I have had a lot of good experiences when dealing with iinet. I am registered with 'no calls' number but for some reason charity's are exempt!

February 06, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Don't you hate it when you are on hold and start doing something else with the phone on speaker. At last you're answered but not only have you forgotten the reason for your call but you can't even remember who you called. Not a good start...

hils2329 said:
February 06, 2013 at 10:50 AM

I had one of those calls supposedly from Microsoft where they tell you "We've just checked your computer and it has a virus". Felt really wicked this particular day so kept the lady on the phone whilst I supposedly did everything she asked me to do, asking stupid questions along the way, anyway after ten minutes I got bored, so started to laugh and told her that I didn't come down with the last shower of rain. She told me I wasn't a very nice person, which of course made me laugh even more. Then she hung up on me - that's a switch!!!

pando said:
February 06, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Hils... I pass those ones on to my 13 year old son and he has a lot of fun with them. One day he just said... Can't talk now I'm in the middle of a game of COD and the other end said "Good game I'll call back later.""

February 06, 2013 at 4:25 PM

Pando... that is so funny must remember to try this next time I get one of those calls.