Traverse City Record-Eagle


September 18, 2007

Foodie With Family: Loud kids, voice prompts don't mix

I spent hours upon hours on the phone both before and after my move trying to get all my address and utility changes made.

My kids inevitably crave my attention when I'm on the phone. Having all five of them using me as a maypole or trampoline while trying to make all these phone calls was rather trying. I had a little time to reflect on what I'm about to say, and I don't think there are too many people who will think I'm exaggerating when I observe that voice prompt customer service hotlines are evil incarnate.

Much to my chagrin, it seems that these voice prompt systems are the hottest fad in the customer service industry. At least 10 out of the 15 or so companies I had to call had one of these torture devices in place.

After four calls to one particular company where I would reach a critical point in the process and one of my kids would yell something causing the system to either hang up on me or say, "I'm sorry, I didn't understand your response. Please repeat your account number," I was close to going loopy. I put the phone back on the receiver. I wheeled around on my heel (a move I've perfected despite being none-too-graceful) and faced the handful of kids who were looking up at me with wide, innocent eyes and cat-eating-yellowjacket grins. After being asked, "Why is that one vein sticking out so far on your forehead, Mommy?" and "How come your mouth is shut so tight, Mom?" by the child who had been practicing yodeling while holding onto my ankles with one hand and beating a drum with the other for 30 seconds, I paused. After taking several deep breaths, I suppressed the urge to call a convent to navigate their system in order to join. I reminded myself I only had 18 years to go and said, "OK guys, it's like this. I have to make this phone call. These people have a system that responds to sounds. Any sounds. Especially loud sounds. If you make noise, it sends me to a different part of the company where they cannot help me. It will take me much longer to finish this if you keep making noise. Can you all please go out on the porch and wait? I will call you in as soon as I am done. Oh, and if you're all really quiet, we'll make a batch of cookies and eat them all when we're done."

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