Please Hold – All Agents Are Currently Assisting Other Customers

I recently called a government office and got put on "hold." After being on "hold" for 36 minutes and 21 seconds, waiting for the "first available agent" at a government office to assist me, I decided to do something.

I decided that while I was waiting for the "next available agent" I would write about it … share my experience and tell you my story. After you read it, you may reflect upon your own similar experiences, and hopefully we can share not only a few laughs, but a determination to do whatever each of us can to effect change … as soon as possible.

"At moments like this, when my frustration level is high, I know it's much healthier to laugh at myself and share than it is to" vent my spleen "at the" next available agent "when, and if, they ever answer this call !

In case you can't tell already, one of my biggest pet peeves is being put on "hold" or put into que. The repeat message loop does say that I can press "3" and leave a message. if I weren't so stubborn, I would … but I'd probably have to erase it … or never get a call back!

This is a business task that I really want to talk to someone – a REAL person – about. It's not something I can find online. So, I am stubbornly, persistently, holding … waiting … for the next available … agent!

OK … what I really am is impatiently … waiting … waiting … waiting.

What has happened to customer service? I both love and lament "progress." The advent of call centers that assist businesses with the handling of customer issues, and set up customer call "queing" is "progress" I lament. Any of you agree?

As I continue to write, I hear, every couple of minutes, " All specialists are still busy assisting other customers. Your call is very important to us. Please continue to hold for the next available specialist."

I don't know about you, but I really want to know where the "next available specialist" is. Are they in the bathroom, in the boardroom, at a meeting, checking their e-mail, twittering, doing their nails, or doing …. whatever. Where are they ? And … they really expect me to think that … they think..my call really is important to them?

My imaginative right-sided brain is running amuk now. If they only knew all of the scenarios I have created in the last … let's see here … 50 minutes, 45 seconds. If they only knew the stories I have created about what they are doing to assist other customers … oh my !!!

Anybody else want to have a little fun? Let's create the scenario as if the Specialist or Agent could actually tell you what they were doing:

" This is Specialist 1106415927. I am currently assisting another customer who cannot find their car keys, which they tell me they need in order to drive to this office to ask me why they have been unable to reach someone to resolve their problem. However, Until they are able to tell me exactly where they left their car keys so that I can assist them in finding them, I cannot come to the telephone to assist you with whatever problem it is that you may have. There are no other Specialists here, as we have not yet received our Government Bailout Dollars, so all other Specialists bailed out. Actually … by now … you may have figured out … that I have bailed out also.

And, by the way, all you will ever receive at this phone number is an ongoing, endless message loop that says: All specialists are still busy assisting other customers. Your call is very important to us. Please continue to hold for the next available specialist . "

These little vignettes are only a brief example of what was running around in my head. If nothing else, the waiting experience created by all those "agents assisting other customers" has given me an opportunity to exercise my imagination … wondering … wondering … wondering … what on earth all the agents are doing. I'm talking about those agents who … according to the recording … want me to believe my call is really important to them.

After 1 hour 5 minutes, 36 seconds, I'm not really not sure if I can afford to wait any longer for the specialist who really wants to assist me. I wonder if I can send a bill for the long distance charge to the government agency I'm waiting for … or if they'll send it back with a promissory note for payment stamped "Pending Bailout."

I could … leave a message.

But I'd have to bite my tongue.

I'd be way too tempted to tell the "specialist" what I thought they were doing while I was waiting for them to take my very important call. Or … tell them what I think they should do to themselves … while I am waiting … for them to answer. "

That's my story … and yes … I'm sticking to it because that's exactly how it happened.

Now I know that I am not alone in my frustration. And I know that call centers, with specialized processes for handling calls, are all a price we pay for wanting more … for expecting more … from the businesses and services (including the government) that we work with.

Knowing I am not alone in my frustration does not keep me from frustration, however.

I am going to make a very deliberate choice, now, to turn my frustration around, and to see this as an opportunity. I know that many good people, and many good companies have, in fact, tackled this problem already. They understand that customers are unforgiving. We want "immediate" response. We've been brought up and trained that way.

My customer service mission, therefore, is to ensure if I ever use a customer service center, it emulates only those highest in quality and best practices for customer service delivery. And (if given the opportunity) to suggest to certain government entities that it would help improve their product and image if they would evaluate and upgrade their call center processes for better service.

Perhaps we could create "a government for the people" – one that was actually accessible.

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