Home Opinion and Features When it’s easy to find your left-handed twizzlers

When it’s easy to find your left-handed twizzlers

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After two days of constant telephone calls I still have not been able to speak to anybody who can help me

Photo: Reuters

People in business often claim they are using the latest technology “to improve our service”.

This doesn’t always work. I recently bought an expensive computer after my previous one was stolen. When I brought it home and tried to set it up I realised I didn’t know how to get started.

The machine required codes and passwords I simply didn’t have. I decided to take it back to the shop and get a technical person to help me.

After two days of constant telephone calls I still have not been able to speak to anybody who can help me.

The dealers’ computerised super-efficiency asks me to “press one for sales, press two for prices, press three for …” And I end up without actually speaking to a human.

No, I lie, I did talk to a human once, who kindly booked an appointment for the following day.

I was hugely relieved until it turned out she was from a branch far away on the other side of the city.

She didn’t have the contact number of the branch I was trying to reach.

In contrast, I was given a fancy new wireless telephone by Telkom.

It looked rather complicated and I am a technosaurus, so I took it down to the Telkom shop in Noordhoek.

A machine printed a queueing ticket for me and in five minutes my number was called.

A charming young woman patiently explained how to set up my new phone and deftly fitted the battery and SIM card. I was out of there in less than a quarter of an hour, smiling.

So much better to speak to a human than to prod buttons hoping for an answer which may or may not be helpful.

I wonder whether business managers realise how angry their customers get when they are fobbed off to talk to a recording, or switched to a “help-line” somewhere in India. It certainly doesn’t save anybody’s time.

In the time it takes to listen to all the options, none of which exactly fit your requirements, and decide which button comes closest, you could have chatted to a real person and gone away happy, with your query resolved.

The problem is probably that companies hire cheap untrained staff and then don’t trust them to handle queries.

I do most of my shopping at one particular local store because I know I can rely on its staff for fast and reliable service.

I can approach any staff member and ask: “Do you stock left-handed twizzlers?” and I’ll not only receive a proper answer but probably be taken to the shelf where the twizzlers are displayed.

You can’t teach a machine to do that.

Last Laugh:

It was the last lecture of the year and the professor ended the class by saying: “We have covered the curriculum for the year and you have attended my lectures.

“The exam papers are now in the hands of the printers. I wish you good luck and ask whether you have any last-minute questions.”

One hand went up. “Who are the printers, sir?”