My day has been busy with phone calls and catch-up work. I had 3 items to follow up on today. After all my years of experience I am still occasionally surprised at how much time making a few business related phone calls can take. Call number 1 is an erroneous $15.85 charge on my phone bill. Here's how my typical day goes with 'only' 3 personal business phone calls to clear the paperwork off my desk.
I get everything assembled on my desk (I'm very organized, you know) - papers I need to follow up on, notepad, pen, and water or coffee by my side. My questions are pretty simple, this won't take much time at all, I tell myself, knowing all the while that for the 3 phone calls I need to make I will probably dial several different numbers several times and STILL not get things settled. But I'm going into this with a positive attitude that will result in a positive outcome, right?
First number on my list of 3: dial the call, listen to the menu of options, listen again to make sure I'm selecting the right one for my specific need (or the closest guess because actually none of the options really identifies my topic), make my selection and get a recorded message, so I leave a voice mail hoping someone gets it today.
If someone actually replies today, I usually get a call back while I'm on the line waiting on hold after making my menu selection for another call. Now here's my dilemma: do I lose my place in the queue for this call to take the incoming call or not? I take a chance and decide to let it ring through to my voice mail. OK I'm still in the cycle of call 2 and waiting after 20 minutes - do I keep holding or quit this call and try call 1 again? At 40 minutes on hold, I decide to cut my losses and try another time when the lines aren't so busy. ( when? at midnight? at 3AM? Not likely since their business hours are M-F 8 - 5 Central Time.)
I check my voice mail and dial call 1again. I listen to the menu of options, listen again to make sure I'm selecting the right one for my specific need. With my option selected, I wait on hold for several minutes listening to lousy music, as I count the number of interruptions asking me to continue to hold as my call will be answered in the order in which it was received. Finally, someone answers!
"Hello, this is Alice. How may I help you?""
Me: "What was your name again please?" (I'm getting this in case I need verification of my call - I'm so smart!)
Me: "Thank you Alice. OK, here's what I need ..."
After numerous questions:
Alice: "Sorry, I can't help, let me transfer you to the department that handles that."
Me: "OK, thank you again for your help." (I stay very polite because a) this call may be monitored for customer service training and I don't want to be the "worst customer" example they use for training how to deal with crazies, and b) if I'm not nice they may just cut me off "accidentally" and I'll need to go through all of this again.)
I listen to dead silence for several minutes with my fingers crossed, chanting my mantra "hope, hope, hope". In the middle of my chant a dial tone buzzes in my ear with the mechanical message, "If you'd like to make a call, please hang up and dial again." Disconnected! And I was NICE! But like the commander at an old fort surrounded by the enemy who's sending runners out with pleas for help from a neighboring ally, this is only the first attempt and I'm still optimistic that this will go well, if only I can get through to the right person.
Right! I dial the number I have for call 1 again and go through all of the same stuff as before but now I'm even more confused because I don't know which menu option applies to the department I was being transferred to, so I select the same option which I know is wrong, but I'm in a tight spot here and I've cycled through the entire menu 3 times. I go through the whole story again with "Charles" whose department still can't solve my problem so he'll transfer me,etc.
Me: "Wait! - before you transfer me, please give me a direct dial number for the person who can help me." (I'm finally catching on!)
I am connected to the next department which also can't help me and will happily transfer me to yet another department that can surely help me. This goes on several times and I still don't have a complete answer to my question about how the charge got there, but they'll credit me the amount in question because I'm such a good customer.
During these calls I take copious notes including the names of the several employees I've reached. I just know I'll need to refer to them on future calls after I get my next statement and the correction doesn't show up. I take the papers I wanted to clear off my desk and put them in the ever growing "pending" stack (still on my desk in plain view howling at me like a hungry cat that never lets up) and make a note in my calendar to follow up if I don't receive the proper correction on next month's statement.
My morning is shot, it's time for lunch, I'm frustrated, I have even more paperwork on my desk and more notes in my calendar to follow up on. Another non-productive morning and I'm ready for a nap. I have to rest up because calls #2 and 3 have entered the "undone" zone. I'm convinced this is how, a few pennies at a time, the large corporations rake in MILLIONS of dollars from their customers who finally wear out and give up and pay the darned $15.85 - but I'm too cheap to do that so I continue to waste untold hours of my time (which is obviously worth about 3 cents an hour for all of the work I do) to correct an error. Sometimes it is more important to be right so I CAN be happy...