Telephonic Answering Machines: They Must Go!

Recently I tried calling a large manufacturer about a product problem I was having with my ten year old electric drill. I called the 800 Help Line and ran into the ubiquitous telephone answering machine. It ruined my entire day.

First of all, it asked if I spoke English. Really. Then it told me to listen closely because their menu had recently changed. I had called just last week and the menu hadn’t changed at all. Then it gave me several options that didn’t quite fit my interest, so I pushed “O” for an operator. Forget it. The machine babbled on and told me that I could always just go away and check their website. That wasn’t satisfactory.

Finally, I got transferred to the right department, and a second answering machine. This one also had options that had recently changed, and wasn’t about to let me near a human being. It assured me that my call was very important. Yes, I can see that. When calls are important to you, it only makes sense that you put people on hold and aggravate then beyond measure

At long last, it transferred me to a human being, or rather the answering machine of a human being. This machine assured me that they were experiencing a high volume of calls (at midnight?), and that their operators were helping other clients. I wondered: If your call volume is so high, why don’t you hire more people? I didn’t say it because I’m sure the machine didn’t care, and I was afraid that if I let Attitude creep into my voice, the computer would sense it and cut me off. I did hear a few lovely, recorded songs to let me know they were still there.

Much later, someone picked up the phone. It was an elapsed time of 21+ minutes since I initiated the call The human couldn’t help me. My electric drill had been discontinued, and they didn’t know who stocked replacement parts. They suggested I Google it.

I hung up, having learned two things: 1. Google replacement parts first. 2. Buy somebody’s else’s electric drill.

As I thought about this adventure, I wondered: What would happen if 911 Emergency Services switched to an automated answering service? I visualized this exchange:

(Dialing 911)

Hello, this is 911 Emergency Services. If you wish to continue this call in English, Press “1.”

(Press 1)

Please listen closely as our menu has recently changed:

Press “1” if you are currently being attacked and would like police assistance.

Press “2” If you are concerned about a pending attack.

Press “3” If you are witnessing a crime now.

Press “4” If you are committing a crime now.

Press “5” If you wish Fire Department assistance

Press “6” If you would like an ambulance.

All other calls, Press “7.”

(Press “O”, for Operator)

I’m sorry, I don’t understand that. Would you like to speak with one of our duty officers? If so, Press “O O.”

(Press “O O”)

I’m sorry. We are experiencing a higher than normal call volume at this time, and all of our officers are busy helping other victims. Your call will be taken in the order it was received. The current waiting time is fourteen minutes.

However, you could check our website and send us a message by clicking on the “Contact Us” icon. We will respond as promptly as the situation allows.

In the meantime, we’ll play some inspiration messages for you from our departmental chaplain.

Thank you for your call. We appreciate being of service.

And, remember this exchange when our budget for the new year comes up at the next City Council Meeting; consider now how you voted down our increase request last year.

Goodbye, and Good Luck!


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