Dante’s 4 Circles of Customer Service


Phone Call Frustration

Dante’s Inferno has been redesigned. In the modern era, the punished must now travel the new circles of Hell. In Dante’s upgrade there is a moment of frustration, when all hope is lost when you find the number to what you hope is your salvation only to be plunged into these new cycles of Hell. Be warned, as you strive to reach your goal, you will have to trek through the multiple circles that only Dante has experienced. Let’s take a moment to map out the four circles of Customer Service Hell.

Circle I: I said NO!

Not too long ago you could call a company and get a gruff, gravely monotone voice.  Remember the intimidating voice, putting career smokers to shame, apathetically waiting on the other end of the line asking what department you required. The replacement: a cheerful, recorded prompt offering up assistance. Don’t be lured into a false sense of hope, this voice is definitely not your friend. Instead of pressing a number for your choice, the voice tries, unsuccessfully, to interact in a conversation. You have to tell robo-voice what you want.  Technology has come a long way but this upbeat assistant listens like a five-year old, getting most responses incorrect, and sending callers off into an automated void, never to return. What happened to those gruff, too many cigarette laden voices that used to answer and direct our calls? At least would get you to another person and sometimes you could even enjoy a little banter with them. I think the gruff but more efficient operators have joined the ranks of the obsolete workforce in our country; that same obliqueness the whole working class has been graduated toward. If the economy needs stimulation, bring back the bored customer service switchboard operators, gruff monotony and all. However now instead of a semi-efficient person connecting calls we have cheerful robo-voice leading to callers’ red-faced screams of “NO!” ringing through the neighborhood.

Circle II: What’s in a name?

No, your name isn’t Steve, Mike or Tammy, never anything remotely close to a typical name. Your accent, and the fact you can’t pronounce you own name “Joe,” gives that away. Why must you start the conversation off with a lie? If you want to earn my trust, let’s start with proper introductions or, even better, just don’t give me a name at all. If your name has more than seven letters in it, maybe I don’t want to know it and honestly I probably won’t remember it. Perhaps instead you should offer me the vowel-to-consonant ratio and let me decide if I do in fact want to know your REAL name. “Oh, your name is Hemavatinandan Chattopadhyay. Ahem. Well. Bob Jones it is”. I don’t need to feel personally connected to someone half way around the world working the night shift in some dark and noisy room with a hundred other low talking liars. What I need is my issue resolved, not a new friend because I have the internet and credit card for that unless of course, my broken internet is what I am calling about, then by all means, fix my problem.

Circle III: Customer Service Craps

Since the cable company has multiple call centers, it is a game of chance if you are going to get a representative who works in this hemisphere. If you do, it feels like hitting the 1 in 10 chance at the craps table. Once you get someone who essentially understands what you are saying and doesn’t read from a script, you have a better chance of actually getting your issue resolved. What a novel concept, a customer service representative who would actually serve the customer-it is almost revolutionary. However, roll snake-eyes and you will be sifting through the language barrier while they read from a script of responses that leads down the rabbit hole to confusion and frustration- aka Circle 3 of Hell.

Circle IV: Show Me the Money

If sending the call centers overseas is saving the company money then why are my rates going higher each quarter. What are you spending money on by sacrificing your customer service? With the state of the economy and so many people out of work, wouldn’t a company get more publicity by hiring local staff to answer the calls? Bill collectors do not seem to have any issues with keeping their workers local. You can definitely understand these abrasive collectors as they accost you for payment and ask stupid questions like, “Why was the payment late?” Sometime try giving a stupid answer like “My dog ate my checkbook?” Companies that ship their support overseas seemingly are not worried about their brand loyalty. No wonder we do not pay the bills on time. Here Fido! Good boy! Here’s a snack …

Overall, as our economy moves from manufacturing to service based companies, we seem to be losing more of the essence of “service”. Jobs are shipped overseas to people who cannot even claim English as their second or third language. We replace people with automated voice recognition systems which resemble a conversation with a child all while we scream into the receiver to be understood. And of course, I do not want to press one for English, let us just assume English is our language and all other languages can press a number. In addition I do not want to sit through a list of numbers and language combinations-I am not calling the United Nations.  I want my real customer service back from industries built on service. Since we no longer manufacture much anymore, why not attempt to excel at something like customer service. I think it is time we leave these modern circles of Hell. However, in order for us to do that, we must first call in to Customer Service select 1 for….

Until next time…

© 2010 Jerry B. & Christine B.

Related Articles: Monday Morning Stupid Questions; Five Winning Ice-breakers For The Office; Southern Girls and Work Place Perversions

3 Comments on Dante’s 4 Circles of Customer Service

  1. Standing “O”! I love this piece as I have talked to more Customer Service people than I care to count. 90% of which could barely understand english or were some autobot that hung up on me before I ever got my problem solved after 30 min on the phone with it! Anymore when encountering a voice automated system I just start pressing the * about 20 times. Sometimes I get lucky and actually get to speak to someone. Even luckier when they speak English and are stateside!! Jackpot! Let me go buy some lottery tickets!
    I was once on hold waiting to talk to a representitive for an hour and a half. I just put the system on speakerphone til someone answered…can you guess which corporation this was? It was Southwestern Bell aka AT&T! Thats right I am naming names! Calling you out! Of course that was back in the day when it was still Southwestern Bell. But their CS hasn’t improved any. Recently spent 2 hours at a store just trying to move my daughter’s phone line from my name to her own-what a nightmare! Oh and it doesn’t help that you are smiling at me when you are useless!!!

  2. Were you actually reading my mind…were you eavesdropping on all my complaints??? Have you heard me holler at the damn machines on the phone…and why do I have to PRESS 1 for English…this is America….English is spoken here….let the foreigners PRESS 1. Have you heard me ask to speak to a HUMAN….or….someone that speaks English….that I can understand??? You nailed it…anyway!!

  3. Given your state of mind one may wonder if Customer Service is more related to the Inferno or the Purgatorio? The dead putting life into some kind of perspective.

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