I miss telephone operators.
It used to be that when I had a phone problem, all I had to do was dial 0 and a real person immediately answered. The operators were unfailing cheerful and well-mannered, and they seemed to care that I was having trouble. If they couldn’t fix the problem themselves, they always knew where to direct me for help.
Last week I was experiencing some telephone frustration. I needed to send an important fax, but every time I punched in the number a recorded message came onto the phone line saying, “This number cannot be completed as dialed. You must first dial a one or zero before the area code and number.”
The problem was, I DID dial a one every time I tried to send the fax. The fax failure notification that printed out with each unsuccessful attempt had the fully correct number printed right there on it. And yet the recorded voice kept insisting that I was omitting the first digit.
Controlling the urge to throw the phone across the room, I instead called our telephone service provider. All I wanted to ask was why the phone wouldn’t recognize the number I dialed. But that question was not on the list of recorded options. I went through five separate automated menus before finally receiving a message that a real live person would be with me after an approximate wait time of 13 minutes.
Seven minutes into holding, I was interrupted with a pressing situation at the center that had to be seen to immediately. With great reluctance I hung up the phone and never got back around to calling again because I just didn’t have 20-30 minutes left in my day to spend wrangling with advanced technology.
I understand that automated phone systems save businesses thousands of salary dollars. But I miss the human element. When my particular question or concern does not fall within the parameters of pre-recorded options, I feel shut off from help. I’ve actually had recordings hang up on me if I took too long to decide how best to categorize a query they hadn’t anticipated.