Customer torment systems

Let’s be honest. The real purpose of automated phone-answering systems is to serve companies, not customers. This is not customer service, it is company service. Why pay an employee to answer phone calls and actually help customers solve their issues with your products or services when you can torment them instead with a maddening automated system that is set up to deal with every problem but theirs?

I can cite several frustrating experiences with these systems. I’m sure we all can, but I’ll mention only today’s  to illustrate. For several years we have subscribed to both the News & Observer, based in Raleigh, NC, and the New York Times. The News & Observer carrier delivers both newspapers to our driveway every day. This morning, we found in our driveway today’s edition of the News & Observer and a copy of today’s Wall Street Journal. Oops. We don’t care to read the Journal. The carrier made a simple mistake and delivered the wrong second paper. That’s OK. Such occasional slips are inevitable and certainly are quickly forgiven.

When I phoned the News & Observer Customer Service number to request our copy of the Times, I was required to speak my answer to an automated recording of the N&O’s list of choices,. The list did  include “delivery problem,” and eventually I was connected to someone speaking with a heavy accent, who directed me to call the New York Times, despite the fact that the Times is delivered by a News & Observer carrier. I don’t need to tell you that, of course, the Times‘ carousel of choices did not include one that addresses my problem, a simple one. I didn’t receive my paper this morning, and I would like someone to send me a copy. Today would be nice.


Word of advice. Don’t ever try to reason or argue with or explain your problem to the automated sweet voice. She won’t listen. With the Times, however, you will be offered the option of taking their survey.

Automated, of course.

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