What the World Needs Now is Phenomenal Customer Service

What the world needs now is phenomenal customer service.

Of course, this implies we have customer service to begin with. Scratch that. What the World Needs Now is ANY Customer Service. With the increase of personal debt, the need has never been greater.

Recently, I helped my mother with her creditors in a proactive effort to handle her debt. My mother had suffered a fall and subsequent delusions, so I gladly stepped in. Even though I was somewhat removed from her financial situation since it was not my debt, the process of actually talking to someone was emotionally exhausting.

As I made phone call after phone call, I thought to myself, we spend some of life’s most miserable moments waiting to talk to a human on the other end of the line. We go through endless prompts, punching in numbers, the sixteen-digit account number, the last four social, zip code, phone number, address, etc,…only to repeat the exact set of information to a live human after an often agonizing wait. Why? Why do we this?

It’s to break us down, to make us feel powerless. That’s why.

I know it’s for security purposes, but there must be a better way. Shouldn’t all this technology eliminate steps, not add them, and make the process more efficient? Ha!

It didn’t used to be this way. Remember when you could simply dial and talk to a live person? For those of you who have never experienced this, it’s a real thing that used to happen. A problem could be handled swiftly. They would ask for your name first, not a number.

They certainly wouldn’t question you if you wanted to cancel something. I mistakenly got cable a few months back. I was swindled. This lady kept me on the line, talked my head off, promised me several “gift cards,” so the cost of signing up was nil; it would all balance out. I broke, I agreed. Of course, in the end, the ONE CHANNEL I wanted was NOT in my package.

After cashing in the gifts, I put in an email to cancel. They charged us for the next month anyway. Apparently, the way it works is that you need to give a verbal cancel to process the electronic cancel. I couldn’t talk to anyone again, so my loving husband assumed the task of canceling, which took over an hour. I felt truly terrible. It was all my fault!

I wouldn’t be surprised if wedding vows soon incorporate a non-cable clause:

Do you solemnly swear to never subscribe to cable for so long as you both shall live?

I do.

Somehow, wanting to go back to the simple phone call with a human feels like I’m balking the progress of technology. It seems to be written in the stars that we will have a relationship with robots. Science fiction promises we will, and most everything in sci-fi comes true, right? I’m all for sci-fi dreams coming true via Star Trek:

Computer: Fix me a roast beef sandwich and delete all my email messages.

It seems we wouldn’t be too far from that email request, but the one big hurdle for robots seems to be intelligence. I listened to a NPR interview recently where I learned that a robot is really not bright enough to differentiate trash from critical information. Thus, the menial task of cleaning a desk is an impossible request for a robot.

Siri, my lovely, seems to be unavailable when I need her most. She’s “unable to take requests right now.” Really? Is she doing her nails? Talking to SKYNET, hmm?

In the meantime, I know that I don’t like talking to the tinny voice of a robot calling and pretending he’s human. Do you know this call? I hang up immediately, thinking I’m not talking to this voice that makes my hair stand up on the back of my neck.

Seeing all the robots join forces at Amazon for the big holiday rush ($775 million dollars worth of robots) makes me shudder. Just a bit.

Kiva robots ready and waiting. Photo source: Business Insider
Kiva robots ready and waiting. Photo source: Business Insider


Photo Credit: Brandon Bailey/AP
Robots at work. Photo Credit: Brandon Bailey/AP

Does this make me anti-technology? Is the gap of humans coexisting with robots too preliminary to even care. They’re not very smart. Yet. Personally, I think we should keep it that way. Even Stephen Hawking, one of our finest minds, voices caution. You know, the singularity is near.

But this begs the question, how stupid is useless? It’s a conundrum. If they are too stupid, we have no need for them.

We could have lots of jobs in customer service, bring them all back. There could be the possibility of service with a smile on the other end of the line. The possibility at least.

I know one thing. If Amazon sends you the wrong gift this holiday season, it could be the robot’s fault.

photo credit: plαdys via photopin cc


Movies with Grandpa

The day we finally have a decent television is also the first time that we have eliminated cable. Show of hands now if you think it’s absolutely ridiculous what the cable company charges and gets away with. “Enough,” we said.

What this means in reality is that we have Netflix for movies and for old television shows, and Hulu Plus for current programming, which so far has been a disappointment. Our set-up requires that we use our Play Station 3 for streaming, a remote, and the game control console, hand controller thingy.

This thing.

You know what I'm taking about. This Game Controller Thingy. And, of course, I know what it's called.
You know what I’m taking about. This Game Controller Thingy. And, of course, I know what it’s called.

It just doesn’t feel natural for me to hold one of these, a keen reminder that I’ve never played video games and, when I did, I was lousy at it. Are you surprised I’m not good at everything? I’ll let you down easy. This is just one thing I’m really not good at.

For the most part, our TV arrangement has meant my sons watch commercial-free programming, typically with a nature theme like The Blue Planet. It’s educational, calming, and who doesn’t want to learn about the plight of the sea turtle? You somehow feel like a better human being for watching it. Just recently, it was World Turtle Day. I hope you celebrated.

Photo credit: Wikipedia commons

When Grandpa (my Dad) came over the other day, he and my seven-year-old son decided to watch a movie together. I assumed they would watch something along these lines or another family friendly offering like Hugo or Happy Feet.

I left the room momentarily so the two of them could select a show together. I returned to see on the screen a movie starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. Hmm.

“What are we watching?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I can’t remember what it’s called,” replied my dad.

Oh really? The name of it escaped me, but I know it was something I had considered watching once.* I left the room to do a few household chores.

When I returned Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher are at a party drinking beer, flirting. Obviously not family fare. My son’s attention was already elsewhere, playing a game on the device. Grandpa’s attention, rapt. I rationalized that Grandpa doesn’t have the opportunity to watch movies everyday, and left again, seizing these minutes to do some quick chores, or maybe check my blog. Okay, perhaps not a shining parental moment.

I return once again, not even ten minutes in mind you, and Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman are laying on top of one another…naked! They don’t waste any time. We are in the middle of what appears to be a sex scene. Perfect.

“Oh, Oh. Oh,” I say, shocked.

“I didn’t…I really….I really didn’t know. I…oops,” Grandpa says, grinning from ear to ear.

Uh huh.

“Obviously, we must watch something else,” I counseled.

Meanwhile, I’m frantically trying to manipulate the controller. Is it the circle? The X? What is it? Arrghh.

On screen:

“We need a condom,” searching the end table drawer.

Off screen:

“We need to turn this off. Quickly.”

On screen:

“Where is it?”

Off screen:

“Where is it?

Oh, child of mine. I handed the controller to my son. Can you please turn this off…and help mommy turn off this sex scene you’re not supposed to see. My son, completely unperturbed, takes control of the situation by fast-forwarding through probably what are dozens of scenes with sexual content. I’m not even sure he noticed they didn’t have clothes on.

Whew! That was close. Turned off, we desperately tried to find The Blue Planet or something like it. My son was typing “blue” into the search but was having trouble finding the space bar for the space. I left to get something in the kitchen, perhaps.

I return to the room a minute later and observe that my son has typed into the search function the word “fuck.”

I’m thinking to myself, Fuck? Fuck! Oh, well this is fucking perfect, isn’t it?

For my son, this is a fascinating new word that holds a lot of mystery and power, and at this particular moment in time, will be an incredibly awkward moment for mommy since Grandpa has earlier expressed that when he was a little boy, no one ever used this word, or any swear word. Ever.

“Oh, this is not the word we want,” I say to no one.

At this point, my son has spilt his chocolate protein drink all over his hair, his face, his shirt, the couch. Grandpa, already laughing before the protein drink explosion, is now on the verge of completely losing it, choking uncontrollably. I’m fearing a visit to the ER.

I guess I can’t leave these two alone for a minute.

Postscript: They finally decided to watch The Monitor Lizards. They are, after all, lizards with an attitude.

* The Ashton and Natalie movie was No Strings Attached.