Monday, April 7, 2014

Phone Answering Systems Drive Me Insane!

I had to call Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBS) because my account had been debited twice in February and I wanted to know why. I got out my insurance card and called the support number on the back.

You know what happened.

A cheerful, too precise woman's voice welcomes the caller in English followed in Spanish and then tells numbers to push for specific questions. I punched billing question and the electronic voice told me all operators were busy with previous callers and to please wait.

Okay, this is the norm now, right? I punched zero several times, but this system had no override to get you to an operator, only a 'that is a wrong connection please try again' message came on. They're obviously aware of these shortcuts and stopped them.

As a result, I redialed and waited. During the wait, some synthesized music played about ten bars that repeated. It was awful with what tried to be an uplifting and cheerful beat but possessed a carillon crossed with a xylophone sound. If I wasn't crazy about waiting, the music surely sent me over the edge.

Finally, a man answered, but he couldn’t help me because he couldn’t access the information needed. WHAT? This was a billing question, wasn’t it? On the punch number 8 selection? He apologized and sent me to another operator, and I was again put on suspended animation, twenty-plus minutes worth of that psychotic rage-inducing noise. Does this health company know what mental torture they are putting their clients through? Just as I was talking to the computer, swearing up a blue storm, and about to hang up, a woman answered.

It seems the operator who originally took my application put in the wrong premium amount, and so it was billed twice. Would I like the extra placed towards March’s bill? Yes, I would. She gave me an amount that would be applied to March’s bill. I thanked her and hung up. Afterward, I figured it out and I’d paid exactly March’s bill amount, and guessed the computer that did billing would figure that out.

Nope. In March an automatic deduction for eleven dollars came through my account. Feeling rather pissed because I knew I was right, I decided it wasn’t worth waiting on the phone and possibly emerging a serial killer or worse for eleven dollars.

BCBS isn’t the only company with whom I’ve had this problem. I absolutely hate corporate phone answering systems. What is the problem? Can’t they afford more than two operators (I’m guessing that number from the phone wait)? I know their CEO took home 6 million dollars last year, but they can't afford customer service? What if their client has to pay for phone minutes or use a limited minute phone access? How much do clients have to spend in time and money to have a problem solved or a question answered?

Talking it over with someone, we decided it’s because they don’t want your call. These companies bet their callers will hang up before an operator ever has to deal with their petty concerns. Yes, this is a biased and undocumented statement. I'm mad.

I understand not all callers need to talk to an operator. I use phone systems to pay bills all the time without wanting or needing to talk to an operator; no problem. And I know those 'if you want... punch this number' directions help direct callers to the right area of the corporation. HOWEVER. When I need a human, I'd like to talk to one in a timely manner without all the time and computer BS.

Okay, rant over, thanks for listening.

Update: Currently on the phone system of the 5th 3rd Bank. Laughing hysterically. Wait only ten minutes. The system is just amaze-like as BCBS.

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