Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thank You for Calling

This week Kat, from Three Bedroom Bungalow joins Toni for a chat about customer service calls. Kat is an American living in England.


When my family first moved to the UK I was in charge of setting up all the accounts for the new house.  This included of course the phone, the water, the TV, the TV tax, the electricity and the list goes on.  I however was not bothered by the fact that I had to set up all these accounts because I was having entirely too much fun listening to the messages that these companies had on their phone lines while I was waiting to speak to a real life human being. 

There was the bog standard bad muzak being played, however, occasionally a voice would break in and remind you that your satisfaction was very important.  In fact, your satisfaction is so important that the voice would then start to profusely apologise for any inconvenience that you may experience while holding for a representative.  Wait, what?  Do people not expect to hold for a representative here in UK?  Am I supposed to be connected right away all the time?  What foreign concept is this?  I actually found it so funny at first that while I was doodling on the piece of paper in front of me that I wrote down the entire hold message to read out to my husband when he got home from work.  It was that funny.

Of course I later learned that, no, I am not going to get through automatically to a representative.  British telephone customer service just dictates that they must apologise no matter what.  Even if they have done nothing wrong.  I could be calling to tell the company that they have the best service ever, but if I wait more than a tick, I had better be appologised to! 

Now I just wish that the utility companies who have the best hold messages ever would train the shop assistants that barely acknowledge my existence. 


The thing that always makes me laugh about customer service calls in the States is the voice prompt call. When my kids know I’m on one of these calls, they gather round to watch the show.

The fact that my telephone number has two fours in it kicks things off as British pronunciation apparently sounds more like “oh”. Then I have to attempt an American accent to spell my name H-A-Aaaaaarrrrr –G-I-S, at which point the kids are on the floor pointing at me and muttering about Jack Sparrow

Then I’m on hold, which is interrupted every thirty seconds by a soothing female voice telling me my call is very important to her but why don’t I sod off to the web site and stop wasting everyone’s time. Well not quite, but it’s very obvious that Internet is their preferred method of communication. Tough if you’re phoning about a computer or web site problem isn’t it?

When my call is finally answered the introduction is so long I forget why I’m calling. Last week I wanted to find out where I could by my vacuum bags, which seem to have been discontinued (just the bags, mind you). After being re-routed to Uranus and back, the nice man wouldn’t answer my question until I’d set up an account.

“Why do I need to set up an account to ask you a questions?”, I pleaded.

“So that we have all your details if you call again”, was the nonsensical reply.

“Never mind, I’ll just do a web search”.

Thank you for calling. Is there anything else we can help you with?”

Else? Else? 

It’s enough to drive you to the web site.


  1. Toni - Ugh, yes, TMI! Recently I called a college to ask them an enrollment question and before I could get anything out they asked me for my email address. What's that about? Ridiculous.

    Kat - You get big props from me for using "bog standard". ;-)

  2. omg...rolling about laughing! personally, I DETEST the messages that the companies have on their phone lines while I am waiting - cracks me up to find a human being that finds them amusing.

    I shall listen in a different light next time, instead of looking for my gun to shoot the phone!

  3. We had a terrible time this week with Verizon - booked an appointment online, they never came, was impossible to get through to a human voice about it, etc. When my husband eventually did speak to someone, they told him rather fiercely that he should never have booked the appointment online and it would have been better to do it by phone - begging the question, why offer the service then.......

    Anyway they were pretty hopeless, but did offer us all kinds of discounts and free HBO channels once he had complained vociferiously about them. That, you probably wouldn't get in the UK, for all the apologies.

  4. I must write a blog post sometime about my experience of dealing with the US Immigration service via phone . . . talk about frustrating! Fortunately, it was only for a grad school class!

  5. Very funny. My biggest bone to pick in the UK is that I have to PAY to call customer service. And that chaps my hide :) XOL

  6. Toni has hit the nail on the head here in the US. Coming from London I thought the service would be so much more fabulous they just run you though more hoops with more placating: "I understand you're frustrated" and "You know what Madam?" and more phone steps. The dishwasher guy wanted to charge me $350 for getting a olive pit out which took him ten mins. But what can you do?


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