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Press 1 for … “Pardon ?”

Posted by Big John on December 29, 2007

According to another of those polls, the facet of modern life that most pisses off people is being held in a telephone queue before being able to speak to a human being. 

Yes, I agree, but what drives me completely bonkers is when I do get through and hear … “Thanrrrrrrrrrrcallrrrrrrrrmyrrrrrrrrrdetrrrrrrrrhelpyou?” … or some such gibberish, which often comes complete with a thick ‘Geordie’, ‘Scouse’ or ‘Brummie’ accent.

Now there is nothing wrong with having a regional accent, but not when it comes at you at five hundred miles an hour ‘spouting’ some meaningless greeting delivered by some ‘bored out of their skull’ call centre automaton.

These days I find that I spend most of my time when making these calls, trying to ‘translate’ what young little Miss “How may I help you ?” is saying, after asking her to spell her name and slow down for the tenth time.

Having established that I am speaking to Bernadette from Belfast or Sangeeta from Smethwick, I then have to interpret my slightly ‘Cockney’ version of  ‘The Queen’s English’ for her, while trying not to inject any humour into the conversation: for I have found that the simplest of jokes normally brings complete silence from the other end of the line. This is especially true if that line ‘ends’ in Manila or Mumbai.

With the influx of workers from the newest members of the European Union, I suppose that I will soon be asked for my mother’s maiden name by Boris from Bulgaria or Slobodan from Slovenia. I think I’ve already been ‘helped’ on one ‘Help Line’ by the not very helpful Helga from Hungary.

However, not all strange accents lead to communication problems, for there is one number that I call regularly, and the girl who answers is always polite, never has to ask for my name or address, instantly understands what I want, and sees to it that it is delivered to my door within half an hour …

…     and she’s bloody Chinese.  🙂


4 Responses to “Press 1 for … “Pardon ?””

  1. A trick worth knowing is that many of these wretched numerical-menu systems have a chink in their armour: when the voice starts “Press 1 for…”, try pressing 0 (zero) as this often puts you through to a human.

    Not only can there be problems with accents and cultural differences but frustrations may arise because the agent at the other end of the line slavishly follows a script and if your enquiry or complaint isn’t on the script, you never get anywhere with it.

    The expertise of the agents can vary enormously. If you are not satisfied with the response you receive, it’s worth ringing up again later as you may then get someone more knowledgeable and helpful.

  2. yo John,
    I too have been in the blog-o-sphere for four years and have gone through four different sites. First there was Blogspot, then Gblog, then bolg-city and the Toad. The Toad has been crashed for a week and there are no replies to my e mails so I’ve kinda given up on that site.
    I finally succumbed to the highway robbery of Blog-city and rather than go through the ridiculous back and forth of getting my old site transfered to the new system I just changed address lines and started anew.

    Most of our call stations in Canada go through Montreal or someplace in New Brunswick due to the need for people to be bi-lingual, French and English. Having been in the armed forces for 16 years the accents are not a problem.

    Help lines are similar to the Help section of most computer programs, they can answer any question except the one that’s asked.

    Happy New Year!


  3. Ginnie said

    I am working hard on my New Year’s resolutions and one of them is to not let these things get to me….
    Hope you and the missus have a nice New Years and all the best for 2008.

  4. Big John said

    Thanks for the comments ‘Silver Tiger’. I note that you and John-Ward make a similar point about asking ‘non-scripted’questions. I always get a laugh when ‘instructed’ to carry out some action and ask … WHY ? It always completely throws them. 🙂

    Good resolution Ginnie, but if I didn’t let these ‘things get to me’just a little bit I wouldn’t be the loveable grumpy old git that I am. 😉

    Happy New Year to you all.

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