Saturday, May 29, 2010

Road Rage Revisited

I am a pretty calm driver. I may get frustrated by traffic jams, but my response is usually to get off the freeway and try a different route, rather than taking my frustration out on my fellow drivers.

However, there is something else that frustrates me to no end, for which I have zero patience. And that "something" is trying to get information over the phone.

It used to be easy. Pick up the phone, "dial" a number for assistance, and someone with a lovely calm voice, in unaccented Amerian English would patiently help you. Well, as everyone knows, those days are long gone.

I try to accomplish what I need to do online. If I run into a problem online, as I inevitably do, I end up hunting for a phone number to call for assistance. This phone number is usually so cleverly hidden that it takes a good five minutes to find it. Once I find the number and call, there is the usual five minutes of recorded message, followed by five minutes of waiting on hold. (I think that the on-hold wait is mandatory just to discourage callers, even if there are customer service support people twiddling their thumbs at the other end of the line.)

A customer service person finally answers, and their accent is so thick I have to ask them to repeat everything they say, and to please talk more S-L-O-W-L-Y. We know where your customer support staff are located, Corporate Business Company; it is so obvious, please do not even try to hide the fact that they are all located in India, where they can be paid dirt cheap wages. Having already given my name, zip code and numerous other details to a recording, the human being asks me for the same information, which I patiently provide. But, of course, I am not speaking to the person who can help me, so I am transferred. THREE TIMES, and each time I have to repeat all the information I gave to the first person. Do you think I am getting frustrated yet?

I finally lose it when the United Mileage Plus customer service support person on the other end of the phone repeatedly (ie, three times) asks me why I have not yet updated Mileage Plus with my current address (I moved a month ago; believe me, it was not on the top of my list of things to do). Why do they even need this information, when Mileage Plus has not mailed me anything through the postal service in years? Why is my email address (and my birthdate and phone number if they want to be super careful) enough information to identify me? And why were they so concerned about WHY I have not updated my address with Mileage Plus? The folks at Mileage Plus asked me for so much information, it was ridiculous. (Past addresses, past phone numbers, past zip codes....note the PLURAL on all of these items, some of which I do not recall by the way.)

Paying with frequent flyer miles is a payment method, like using a credit card. Frequent Flyer organizations do not exist to identify terrorists; that is for the airline personnel and airport security to worry about. When you pay online with a credit card, you are asked for far less information.

I should issue a formal complaint to Mileage Plus. I am just not sure that I have the energy to do this. I expended it all on the customer service personnel, including the manager I spoke with (and repeated all my information to yet a fourth time). By the way, I have noticed that customer service representatives never apologize when you complain that you were on hold for 15 minutes, or that they are the fourth person to whom you have been transferred. An apology for the wait would go a long way in diffusing some of the frustration building up before one even gets to talk to the correct person. But I guess no one really cares about the customer these days.

Why do they even bother to call it a customer "service" organization these day? They should just rename it to match the actual experience. "Hello, I am your customer frustration representative". Then perhaps they would be able to accomplish their goal - receiving far fewer customer calls.

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