Gorgeous Dunny has provided today’s Guest Post, with one possible antidote to the slings and arrows of modern living. Many thanks, GD. Fellow Pubsters, please enjoy!
(Image Credit: Yes Minister)
Bob Ellis observed that, in the old Cold War days, many American writers cited the long queues at Moscow stores as proof of failure in the Soviet Communist system. If so, he said, then modern capitalism is also failing if our telephone queues are any guide. We can no longer be connected to a bank, a large business or a government department without going through a tedious computerised screening system.
Delays of 10-15 minutes are regarded as pretty normal. My own personal record is 75 minutes before even my patience ran out and I hung up. It was to the Tax Department – so I couldn’t even realistically complain. I have had a delay of 35 minutes waiting to talk to someone at my credit union in Melbourne. Credit union? Aren’t they supposed to be run for the benefit of members? Most readers would have similar nightmare delays to disclose.
At least in the old Moscow queues, the customers got the chance to joke and complain to each other. With the phone queues, you are entirely alone, just occasionally hearing the sound of recorded messages. The only humour is in the odd message such as, “We’ll get to you very soon. Please don’t hang up. Your call is valuable to us!” But after a few repeats, even that attempt at black humour wears a bit thin.
As a way of coping, I wrote a short script for a revised version of the old Yes, Minister TV series. I hope readers may be inspired to do similar.
“Minister, good news! Calls to government departments have dropped by 80% since we completed the new call centres.”
“How can that be good news, Humphrey? I thought the idea was for people to use them to get government information.”
“Not at all, Minister. The aim is to give people the illusion they can get government information. The computer screening barriers are designed to frustrate them until they give up. You know of the Henry Ford Customer Axiom?”
“Axiom?? … Hmmn. … Oh, I know! You mean, the customer can have any coloured car they like as long as it’s black?”
“Very good, Minister! Very sharp today! What we offer is a modern variant. Anyone can inquire any time about government business just by ringing that toll-free number. Nice touch, that. They know they’re not paying much for the calls. But we don’t say anything about how long it’ll take them to get an answer, or even if we ever answer it.”
“But shouldn’t we be offering a better service by talking to them?”
“To a point, Minister … and very brave, too.”
“B-B-B-Brave? Did you say brave?”
“Well, Minister, I ask you, would you really want taxpayers, who are voters after all, to know how little we can actually do for them? Should we tell them how quickly we’re outsourcing and privatising everything?”
“Um, … er, … well, … I see what you mean. But … but, what if somebody found out nobody uses them? Why not just close the call centres down? We have trouble getting staff to last at them anyway. How do the banks manage theirs?”
“Minister, … Minister. It’s better to continue the automatic systems, set up additional barriers at the second and third points. That way, enquirers are bound to give up before they get connected. And they’re none the wiser about what we’re doing.”
“But, … but,… what if somebody needs really important or life-support information?”
“Websites, Minister. Expand the websites. And I wouldn’t think too much about the banks for a model. Do you know their call centres are in India? A sing-song voice at the other end won’t impress voters. Well, what would you like us to do, Minister?”
“Um, er, ah … Set up additional automatic phone barriers and expand the websites.”
(Image Credit: Yes Minister)