How Can I Help You, Asshole!?

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The Big Lie Refuses to Die

How Can I Help You, Asshole?!

Have you thought that customer service has gotten much worse in the last decade? Are you relieved when the agent doesn't answer with, "What the hell do you want?!" I recently had an experience with the online support number for Blanchard Valley Health System's My Portal. The whole experience turned out to be due to my failing to remember something I did three years ago, but that is no excuse. I forget things all the time and the world should know that by now.

First, let me explain that my wife will never be a subscriber to Wired or manage a website. She does everything on aol.com. So, when issues like her not being able her health records and visit notes come up, it is my job to correct the problem. My original thought was that I had never created an account for her. I began the process by entering the basic information (name and date of birth) when I was interrupted with the message, "This patient has an existing My Portal account." The conclusion I came to was that I had added her while setting up my account. I could get an authorization form to access her records from my account, but she would not go for that. I guess she didn't want the BVHS to think she was incompetent. Go figure! This left me with only one choice, (dun, dun, dun!) call online support.

The chilling effect of such a drastic choice can lead one to illogical thinking. Have you ever had a support agent answer right away? Of course, you haven't and neither did I. First I was treated to the pleasant bass voice telling me, "Thank you for calling online support, this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes " but what I heard was "Welcome to hell, the only thing recorded here is my manly voice and some crappy music." Next, the voice listed my choices: 'press 1 for help with registration, press 2 for help with password reset, press 3 for all other technical help.' Decision time! Making the incorrect choice could lead to another lengthy 'wait while I transfer you to the correct department.' Choice one seems good, it does concern registration. Choice two (what do they think I am, a moron?) is the most likely to be busy. Choice three, hmmm, well it is technical, kind of.

After a bit of deliberation, during which he repeated my choices (I swear the voice had an impatient quality this time) I pressed 1. I was immediately greeted by Deep Voice informing me that, "all the associates are busy, your estimated wait time is about 30 minutes." We will discover later that the estimated wait time is always about 30 minutes, no matter when you call. I was next treated with something resembling music (perhaps Caribbean-EDM-cabana). There is a drumbeat (we are not talking about drum sets, these are played with the hands; Congas or Bongos), combined with some sound not made by any known musical instrument (maybe a theremin, the hum of a refrigerator, or Niki Minaj's voice). Every 2 minutes (yes, I started timing it after about 10 minutes) the 'music' stops' and you hope this is it, you have finally reached someone who can listen and respond. But, no your hopes are dashed by Mister Bass saying "all associates are busy now, please wait for the next available associate.

I continued to hold, every 2 minutes having my hopes raised and quickly dashed. I was experiencing so many emotional changes I began to wonder if I was suffering from a tachy-bipolar disorder. I should interject that the music does change every so often (I didn't time this, but I am sure I could if it is important; remember, I always have at least 30 minutes before someone answers). This 'new' music is different, I can make out a flute and some strings along with the percussion. The rhythm is faster, but it still sounds as if the orchestra is conducted by someone with untreated Parkinson's disease. After 36 minutes come and go (that's 16 "all the associates…," if you're counting), I decide I've had enough. It is worse than waiting for your number to be called at the BMV. Screw this, I'm done.

"Did you get that thing done for me?" Beep, beep, beep, etc., "Thank you for calling online support." I am nothing if not persistent when facing a passive threat. I tried pressing 3 and was told there would be about a thirty-minute wait, (Damn! all I had accomplished was a reset). At least I know what to expect this time. After a few "all associates are busy," I began creating lyrics for the music. The techo-Ricky Ricardo lyrics were "♪ Alexa, Cortana, Siri can't hear me ♪" ( I told you logic went out the window), The inept orchestra lyrics were "♪Jim Jordan was a terrible coach♪,"(think "Splish, Splash" for the tempo). This lasted for 22 "all associates are busy...." By this time I had come to three possible conclusions: 1. Associates were actually singular. 2. Associates was equal to 0 and the recording was the extent of the online support. 3. It was a bad time of day to call.

At about 7:30 the next morning I called again. Mr. Associates answered and informed me about a wait of about 30 minutes (confirming my suspicion that only one recording existed). I was determined to plug my phone into the charger, put the phone on speaker, go about my business, and wait it out. I was also convinced that I could come up with better lyrics this time but did not want to go on the emotional roller coaster again. Then the miracle happened, the music stopped and I thought, 'that wasn't 2 minutes.' At 31 minutes I heard a human voice asking how she could help, but I could swear I heard a yawn as well. I made some quick assumptions: the woman had recently awakened and the call center didn't open until 8 am.

I began my detailed explanation of what I believed had occurred (I am certain I heard a yawn this time). My logical assumptions seemed to confuse her. She asked for my wife's name and dob, which I gladly gave to her. This is when she told me that there was an account with an AOL address. I was embarrassed; feeling like I had farted and was desperately looking for someone else to blame for the odor. "So, all I had to do is log on with that email address and click the 'forgot my password' link?" "Yes, you should be able to do that." I thanked her profusely, assured her that I did not need further help, and hung up.

I realized I had spent nearly two mind-numbing hours trying to accomplish something I could have done in a few minutes. Luckily, I was so elated when she answered that I had forgotten any anger, There is nothing more embarrassing than shouting at someone then finding it was your fault (there is no good way to take it back). I guess what I learned from this is that any degradation of customer support is likely due to understaffed support centers and underpaid workers.

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Bruce Workman

Bruce Workman

Bruce is a retired rubber chemist. He is the former publisher, editor and head writer for the county Democratic Party newsletter.

He is currenty a freelance writer, and a political activist. Bruce likes to read, research, write, design this website, and fish.

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