Call centres have got to be the one thing we can all agree to hate

Eleanor Doughty has been forced to hang on the line one too many times...

Tomorrow is a special day. New Flatmate Day. Ought to be a national holiday, don’t you think? I for one could do with another three-day weekend. Cheer with me now.

Our new arrival has landed on her feet finding me, a cleaning-neurotic out during the week and writing between pints of a Sunday. And maybe she’ll be nice too – apparently she likes food and pubs. I see no issue here.

But before the Bavarian beer swilling – she’s German, I’ve heard – can commence, one of the most tedious aspects of modern life requires addressing: call centres.

I dread the words: ‘call customer services’. In an office, ‘call IT’ has the same effect, this made particularly more uncomfortable when they keep you on the line whilst attending to your every whim. What do you say? Not, ‘how’s your day been’, because you know they’ve spent it dealing with technologically inept journalists that would be useless on Robot Wars.

So you’re left breathing away from the phone so as not to seem creepy and Fatal Attraction-esque. In my pre-workplace life, I had a mysterious fear of the telephone. This was partially cured by time spent talking nonsense after midnight to boys aged 15, but that came with its own insecurities, never mind the actual dialling process. This apprehension has matured and grown more niche, settling on the question of phone-based queries. Maybe it’s a British thing, something about not making a fuss. Let’s blame that.

I recently endured the tedious guilty Internet shopping returns process. Instead of dealing with the tiresome ‘press one for…’ episode that occurs with booking couriers, I trotted off to the depot myself. It was only around the corner. But this week has seen my frustration almost unrivalled. It was on attempt four to successfully re-navigate the distribution of bills in my household, that I realised it would be quicker to fly to India and man the switchboard myself. ‘Can you hold please?’ NO, NO I CAN’T.

You’d think that the simple monetary transfer from customer to the black corporate hole of our miserable utility companies would be just that. It isn’t yet that anyone except me is losing money, but it will be soon when my episodes of bad customer service have mounted to eclipse any sentimental connection I ever had with said provider.

Succeeding with these international call centres is a battle of wits. If I’d ever seen Game of Thrones, perhaps I’d apply that it to. But as I haven’t, I’ve chosen Takeshi’s Castle. You have to trip through bouncy balls of ‘press hash to repeat these options’, climb up the first hold ladder, and smash down moving doors to get through to an advisor. And once you do, it’s equal to defeating a stranger in that awkward ‘I’ll go left, you go right’ scenario that happens when you’re about to collide.

Television themes continued, I like to think of it as 0845-GET-ME-OUT-OF-HERE as I can only assume that the other end of the line is packed full of spidery connections and wobbly bridge telephone transfers. As they fail to connect you to a ‘more suitable supervisor’ – usually as your phone company blows an aneurism at the state of your bill – you’re inevitably cut off, falling into a pit of financial boa constrictors. And you still haven’t got anywhere. Where are Ant and Dec in all this? I’m sure they would be some help.

So before you uproot your household, term a problem potentially personally unsolvable, consider the customer service jungle. And google the Facebook page of your desired supermarket, there’s always a lunch break’s worth of  entertaining customer comments there. Now where’s that beer I was promised??

Eleanor Doughty is a second-year student at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow her on Twitter here. She probably won't follow you back.

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