Don't even get me started

Customer service robots are a disaster

Press one for a full-on rant!

Upper view of sad young woman in blue blouse sitting on divan in the modern living room having data failure on a laptop and calling voice robot tech customer service.
Shutterstock

There is nothing on the current technological landscape more outdated or frustrating than dealing with customer service robots.

Okay, I take that back. I mean, Facebook refuses to stop enabling the demise of democracy – but, barring that one example, nothing is worse. I am aware that I may sound like a total Karen Who Would Like to Speak to Your Manager, but please, I implore you, suspend that reaction for just two minutes.

The current state of customer service is as follows: You encounter a frustrating issue with a product or service that you cannot solve by poking around in menus or pressing random buttons. You cannot find a solution via Google, Reddit, or asking for help on Twitter. You are forced to find and dial a customer service number in order to speak with a total stranger, something we as a society are increasingly being conditioned not to want to do. But before you can even begin the daunting task of supplying your name, address, the name of your first pet, and the last four digits of your Social Security number, you hear a robotic voice say: “For English, press one. Para Español, marque dos.” It begins.

From here you are presented with a variety of options, all of which ask you if you would like some form of information – say, store hours, which are easily findable via Google and not at all relevant to what you actually need help with. There is now a decision before you. Will you press zero or shout “operator” on the off chance that it takes you directly, blessedly, to a human being? Are you willing to take the chance that you’ll be sent back to the beginning of the recorded message? Or will you listen to each insipid, non-relevant option from one through nine, hoping beyond hope that one of these vaguely resembles the problem you are currently facing?

Are we facing down a troll asking us to answer his 'riddles three'?

What the fuck is happening here? Are we getting help with a product we paid good money for? Are we facing down a troll asking us to answer his “riddles three”? If you somehow navigate your way through the various menus and submenus with only this nameless, faceless automaton as your guide, you will either stumble upon a human being – hooray! A small victory for our hero! – or your robot companion will betray you with a simple “Goodbye,” before unceremoniously hanging up on you and forcing you to begin this game anew.

If you are able to find an actual person, you then must have your virtues as a fellow human being tested. You will be asked to be patient while the agent “brings up your account,” despite that fact that they have your phone number and you just called in using that number. You are condescended to (“Did you try turning it off and then on again?”), you will be told to send the item back (Maybe the next one will work?), or you will be sent off on another quest through an automated maze after being transferred to the dreaded Another Department. Unless of course you are disconnected, which is always, always a danger. And then there are the staticky Muzak and repetitive ads for a product you have already purchased and is not working.

Who is this current state of affairs helping? If you’re somehow under the impression that this system is helping the companies that are always experiencing “an unusual volume of calls,” I can’t see how that’s the case. Sure, robots are cheaper than humans, and this horrible experience might deter a small fraction of complainers, but mostly the system results in a horde of furious customers, which you’d think a company would want to avoid.

How in the year 2019, is it possible that we do not have some kind of solution for this that was not invented in the 1980s for customers using kitchen wall phones with 20-foot cords that are always tangled and knocking things over? How is there not a simple online form that is reviewed by a customer service agent who identifies exactly who you need to speak with and assigns that person a time to call you back? Do I need to go on Shark Tank and pitch this shit myself? I would, but I don’t have the time. I’m busy dealing with customer service!

I assure you that the people taking abuse in call centers are not this shiny and happy.Shutterstock

This is not the fault of the underpaid and overstressed customer service professionals who spend their days switching between their roles as technical support agents and untrained therapists. Those people deserve a raise and a hug and some kind of complex carbohydrates or something.

But, for the love of technology, can we please find a better way? I’m begging you. I swear to God, I am willing to have children in a world with boiling oceans and a reality star president but I am not willing to bring kids into an environment where they have to press zero repeatedly in the hopes that it will somehow bring them to a human being who can produce the emotion known in our larger society as “mercy.”

Yes, before you ask, this entire rant was about Spectrum cable. If you don’t like it, too bad. This website does not have a customer feedback survey.