Wow! Today is an awesome day to have no idea what I was going to write until 10 minutes ago. When I woke up this morning I had absolutely no useful thoughts. I couldn’t even decide what I wanted to eat for breakfast; I merely stared at my various boxes of cereal, trying to remember how to make the cereal get into my bowl. And then what are you supposed to put on it? Water, cranberry juice, mustard – there are so many liquids it could have been!
Fortunately, I had to call my credit card company, and they handed me today’s topic on a silver platter. I’m going to be traveling internationally coming up, and so I wanted to make sure my credit card would work properly (some credit card companies put an automatic hold on your card when they see international charges as a hedge against identity theft). So I called American Express, listened to the interminably long list of menu options, and politely said “Representative” when it was my turn to do so. I didn’t curse once during the hold period. I was a model caller.
Then I got this message: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are experiencing extremely high call volumes today. If you have a non-emergency question, you might want to call back in 24 hours.”
That surprised me. I’m used to the standard “we are experiencing an unusually high volume of callers” line, which is their nice way of saying, “I hope you can deal with the fact that there are other people in the world and that it might take us 4 minutes to talk to you.” But I’d never heard, “Dude, we are totally swamped. It’s a freaking nightmare over here. We seriously might not be able to talk to you for like an hour or two.”
However, since I was in the car and had no one else I needed to call, I decided to wait. If I made it home before they answered, then I would try back tomorrow.
And then, after I made it through that menu without hanging up, I got this message: “Please remain on the line. A representative will be with you in under a minute.” And no more than 90 seconds later, I was talking to a person.
Way to go, American Express! You weren’t busy at all; you just really didn’t want to talk to me. That’s the first time I’ve seen a company actively encourage people to hang up without getting their questions answered. I wasn’t even asked to go to your website to resolve my issue there. You just seriously don’t like me, or anyone else like me. That’s awesome!
I’m heading to the store today to buy some stuff and I really do hope that every store closes its door when they see me walk up, only to re-open them when I’ve gone around the corner. Or how about this for an answering machine message: “Hi, this is Jeff Havens, I could come to the phone right now, it’s sitting right here in front of me, I’m actually watching it ring, but I deeply, deeply don’t want to talk to you. Call back tomorrow if you want, but I’ll probably say the same thing then, too. Beep!”
The customer is always right? How about “the customer is always annoying”. That rolls off the tongue better. Thanks, AmEx!