You know the drill.
"Your call is important to us. Please listen to the following five options carefully. Press one to be connected to our most inexperienced operator, someone who cannot possibly resolve your problem. Press two to begin a trek through another six levels of equally useless menus. Press three to trigger a system bug that will immediately disconnect your call. Press four to listen to 37 minutes of insipid music-on-hold, punctuated every 30 seconds with, 'Your call is important to us. It has been placed in priority sequence and will be answered by the next available agent.' Press five if your attention span is so short that you need the first four options repeated."
If only they were that honest in describing the available options, I might not get quite so upset. At least it would be good for a laugh.
Option four raises an obvious question: If my call is really so important to them, why can't they hire enough agents to answer it in less than 37 minutes? Somehow, I doubt the veracity of their concern.
What's more, if you need a human response, it seems that no matter which option you select, you end up with the same person who is equally incompetent at answering any question that you ask. I think that there really is only one department. They make you press all of the buttons just to keep you from bothering them for a little longer.
I swear that the people who program these Integrated Voice Response systems--that's what they call them, IVR for short--have never actually used them other than in a simulated environment where they run simplistic test scripts that don't come close to approximating real life. The tests likely prove only that the IVR system is very good at answering questions that are so trivial that no one needs to ask them. If the programmers ever did have to use IVR to accomplish something important in their lives, I'm sure that they would immediately quit their jobs, foreswear all communications, and move to a mountaintop commune to live in silent contemplation of nature.
The insanity is not limited to the multilevel, useless IVR menus.
What really bugs me are some of those IVR systems that ask you to punch in your 16 digit account number before they let you speak to a human. I don't know about you, but when I first encountered this, I thought, "Great. Now here's a company that really gets this information technology thing. When I finally do get to talk to a human, he or she will be well prepared with my full account information up on the screen." Sometimes it does happen that way, but, more often than not, what is the first question out of the operator's mouth? "What is your 16 digit account number?"
The rest of the conversation usually goes something like this:
Me: "Why the heck did I have to key in my account number--after having entered 11 digits to call you and five digits to get through your multiple levels of menus--just to verbally repeat my account number to you now?" (I usually use something stronger than "heck", but I don't want to get in trouble with the FCC. Who knows what they are monitoring and regulating these days.)
Operator: "I'm sorry, but the system does not pass that information along to me."
Me: "Why the heck not?!" (Again, use your imagination to replace "heck" with something stronger.)
Operator: "I don't know."
Me: "Maybe you should make a suggestion to your superiors at XYZ Company. If I go through the bother of keying in the number, it really would be helpful if the system passed it and my account information along to you. I understand that computers can do that sort of thing these days."
Operator: "Don't tell anyone that I told you this, but I don't actually work for XYZ Company. I work for KnowNothing Telemarketers Inc. and have never been within 3,000 miles of an XYZ facility."
Once I realize that the conversation is going nowhere, I get on with asking the question that I called to ask. Invariably, that requires a preamble explaining the problem that I am having. After all, if it were something simple, I probably wouldn't have had to call in the first place. After I spend several minutes describing the problem, the person on the other end of the line often says something like, "I'm sorry. I don't deal with that. I'll have to transfer your call." Of course, even if they miraculously fail to accidentally disconnect my call, none of the information gets passed along to the new person. When I finally do get a suggestion from someone, it often ends with something like "Try that" or "I think that should work."
Depending on how doubtful I am about the suggestion actually solving the problem, I might ask if there is a way to call the operator back directly so that I don't have to go through the whole explanation again. No, of course not. So when the "solution" inevitably fails, I have to repeat the long preamble after going through the whole "press one for ..." exercise again. It typically turns into a loop that would be endless were it not for the fact that I eventually give up and live with the problem. Life is just too short.
Can somebody please direct me to that mountaintop commune for frustrated IVR programmers? I want to join them. Either that or beat the crap out of them. (Use your imagination to replace "crap" with something stronger.)