I have had some ‘official’ things to deal with for a while now that I just kept putting off. Or at least I did until today when I grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and decided action and not procrastination was the order of the day……..now I know why it took me so long to get to it.
I thought I was just lazy and accepted this as my default option, but actually I now think it is more serious than this and I am suffering from a modern disease called ‘Aarghitis’. This disease first strikes as you enter adulthood and start collecting customer numbers and an array of security questions you have to remember the answer to in order to speak to anyone from whom you purchase a product or service. At this stage the disease is in its early stages and you don’t notice many symptoms apart from mild irritation at having to answer stupid questions like the name of your granny’s first cat.
As you then mature and become involved with more and more companies and organisations you continue to collect passwords and PIN numbers and of course they are never the same for any 2 companies. The disease then starts to develop and you feel a vague unease which manifests itself into a bit of a twitch anytime you need to contact one of your suppliers, for that is what they are (usually). They supply a service to you so you are the customer and therefore contacting them should be a pleasure. They should be ready and willing to help so why would you twitch?
Well it all starts with the 1st voice you hear which is invariably a pre recorded voice. It is usually cheery and chirpy and reels off a selection of numbers you can press to get you direct to the person you need to speak to. The first problem with this is that normally the selection you want isn’t there, or is couched in ‘company speak’ i.e. what the company calls it bears no resemblance to how you would describe the issue. So, you press one of the numbers that says ‘if you would like to hear those options again please press……’
No, you decide that none of those numbers are quite what you are looking for so you press another number that you think vaguely resembles the issue you want to discuss. There is now another disconnected voice that gives you a pre recorded balance on your account / amount of minutes you have left on your phone contract / when your next payment is due…..you get the idea…….and then it says ‘goodbye’.
Goodbye??? but I didn’t get to speak to a human being! At this stage more symptoms of Aarghitis begin to appear. You can feel your body tightening ever so slightly and your blood pressure begins to elevate. You may say something that denotes frustration in a minor way but you carry on with the task of attempting to speak to this company, and redial believing that perhaps despite listening to Mrs Chirpy twice, that you somehow missed the correct option for you.
No, even on this second attempt your option is definitely not there so this time you press a number for ‘all other enquiries’, if you are lucky enough to be offered this option . If not, you just have to keep dialling, pressing numerous options until you hopefully, get to speak to a real person.
Once you have pressed this ‘all other enquiries’ option you are secure in the knowledge that you will soon be speaking to someone about your problem. One caveat to this is that you may now in fact be in a queuing system and ‘soon’ is a relative term. This queuing system is a result of one of the miracles of modern technology that allows companies to keep an eye on how many calls they receive, what are their peak call times, how long the calls last etc. It is sometimes called a call monitoring system, or interaction management system. In fact it can be called many things but irrespective of what it is called, it spews out fancy colour coded reports on all of the above. This means that managers can sit around a board room and discuss how many calls the company took, or lost, and when.
What it DOESN’T mean is that there will be a human being to answer all those calls, just that they can track them. So there you are in the queueing system. You will now have to listen to some inane music with frequent interjections by another chirpy voice thanking you for your patience. After about 4 or 5 of these you can feel yourself begin to get very angsty. You start shuffling in your seat, staring out the window, in fact you may even begin to pace the room. If after about 10 minutes you have still not had any contact with a human being other than a pre recorded disembodied voice then it is advisable to go and make yourself a cup of tea which will alleviate the symptoms of Aarghitis slightly.
Whilst making the tea it is also advisable not to hang up as you will lose your valuable place in the queue and suffer from increasingly serious symptoms. At this stage there are a number of possible outcomes – you run out of time and have to put the phone down, your telephone supplier has decided you have run out of time and disconnects the call, the call is answered and then immediately cut off by the company employee (sometimes they do this because they can’t be bothered to speak to you / are having a bad day / are about to finish their shift and you might keep them back / need to get their call answering statistics up), the call is answered but they need to put you through to another department, or the call is answered and you get your issue resolved. The last option is obviously the option of preference but it’s place in the list is no error. It is placed last as it is also the least likely, and anyway before you get to resolution you have to pass the security quiz, and that is always fun! Now where did I write those answers down?
So, just getting your call answered is no mean feat and neither is it any guarantee that the problem will be resolved there and then. That could involve being put through to other departments, being called back (but this not happening meaning you have to redial and go through the call system dance again), having a ‘thingy’ sent out to you, signing up to another enhanced contract etc etc. No matter what, by the time your issue is hopefully resolved you will have experienced most of the major signs of Aarghitis – quickening of breath, raised temperature and blood pressure, tightening of muscles (especially jaw muscles), grinding of teeth and possibly the raising of your voice also. Sometimes in extreme cases you will see red, your blood will literally boil and you will lose all sense of reason.
The symptoms will abate when the issue is resolved, or the call is over, but this is a disease that is a bit like the herpes virus. Once it is in your body it will not go away. The symptoms can be relieved as per the actions above but you will have what are commonly referred to as ‘flare-ups’. These occur when you first become aware that you will have cause to contact a business , company or organisation by phone and are prefaced by the cry of ‘Aaaarrrgggghhhhhhhh’ at the mere thought of going through the previously described rigmarole of attempting to access any form of customer service again.
It is unfortunate that there is currently no cure for Aarghitis but I hope these following coping mechanisms will be helpful to you. One way of minimising these symptoms is to contact the business in question in writing, be that in letter form, e mail, or via social media, thereby avoiding all human contact and / or, call waiting time. Another useful tip is to pay a visit to this very useful site http://www.pleasepress1.com which allows you to circumvent some of the more annoying call waiting systems. The very resourceful gent who set this site up has compiled a list of frequently called numbers and the options afforded to you in their queuing systems.
The outcome of my official business today? Hanging up the phone after a 27 minute wait and sending an e mail instead. And also the discovery of pleasepress1.com. I do hope the sharing of my experience and this website will help any of you out there from suffering as I have done, and I do hope to have the Aarghitis helpline for fellow sufferers up and running soon.
Good luck fellow sufferers. Be careful, it’s a jungle of phone lines out there.