Much as I enjoy marketing guru Seth Godin’s insight into the twisted world of self-deception, he went a step too far.
When did companies start talking about, “unexpectedly high call volume?”
Are they really so inept at planning that the call volume is unexpected? For months at a time?
Even non-legacy companies like OpenTable are using it to describe their email load.
Once an institution starts glibly lying, it’s a slippery slope. A reality distortion field moves from on-hold time to diesel emissions.
Let’s be clear. Nobody, with the possible exception of someone’s grandma, believes that customer services is “experiencing a higher than expected call volume.” Nobody believes that they are there to provide you “with excellent customer service.” Nobody believes they “understand your frustration.” Nobody believes they are “sorry for the inconvenience.” Nobody believes they give a flying shit. And that’s especially when true when there’s the faint accent of Tagalog when saying it.
This is you, Seth. This is you and your kind. This is someone who sells their marketing mojo telling companies that if you say these empty, lying words, customers who need something addressed will somehow be magically transported to a land of unicorns prancing on rainbows.
We’ve gotten used to the lies, but if you think the problem is that we think that they didn’t really “anticipate” that higher call volume, then you’re smoking crack. We understand it’s a script, a bunch of words some marketeering expert came up with that has now been repeated (without having to pay for the cool words) by every business that has a customer service telephone number and a trunk line to exotic places.
It’s bad enough that we have to endure this nonsense, especially when it’s that whiny, recorded voice that American Express uses to create the appearance of empathy, as if all callers really want is to have someone cry sad tears over their “inconvenience,” but to suggest that there is anything remotely legit about it is insulting. Do you think we’re morons, like the asshole who came up with these nonsensical tummy rubs? Do you think we don’t realize that this is a full length coat woven of lies?
And yet, you add insult to injury:
On the other hand, consider what happens if you start by telling the truth about little things. “To save money for our customers and investors, we keep our support team lightly staffed. Please wait patiently a few days and we’ll get back to you…”
Well, it has the virtue of being slightly less dishonest. But if you think that’s a solution, then you really need to cut out the crack. Here’s the problem, Seth. Lying about why you’re screwing your customers (remember, they’re calling because they have a problem, not because they’re lonely and really want someone to chat with them) isn’t an order of magnitude different than telling a slightly less flagrant lie about why you’re screwing your customers.
Businesses don’t keep their call centers “lightly staffed” because of concern for keeping costs low for their customers. They off-shore them, they give them no authority to fix problems, they hand them a script rather than teach them anything about the product, because it saves the company money and they figure they can get away with it.
And businesses don’t even do it for their investors. No corporations stock price skyrockets because of the huge savings in the call center. Indeed, if they actually produced products that worked, all the time, and didn’t screw up all the ancillary functions such that pissed off consumers had to call, all the time, they could not only save a fortune, but enjoy mass adoration of their product by consumers. That would increase quarterly profits, which would raise the stock price and benefit investors.
But that doesn’t happen, does it. Aside from Zappos, and maybe a couple others, the idea of actually doing the right thing is just as foreign to American business as the gal who claims her name is “Sue” on the phone.
So cutting the shit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even though no one believes it and, at least for me, it irks me every time I have to waste that half second of my life while the voice mail tells me how much it loves me and values my throwing my money down their toilet. But if you think that’s the problem, that switching out the old bunch of lies for the new bunch of lesser lies, then you understand nothing about consumers.
We get it. We’re treated like fools and idiots, and still we pay money for whatever shiny widget they build. We can’t stop ourselves from buying, no matter how crappy the product may be, and so anyone stupid enough to purchase the business’ mutt has already proven themselves willing to endure being treated like crap.
But for god’s sake, Seth, don’t rub our noses in it, as if we don’t know. We know. We’re the ones whose time is lost forever while our very simple words are repeated back to us, at half speed, by Sue. Or Jane. Or Bill, because so many young men in Bangalore are named Bill. It’s bad enough we tolerate being treated like morons without you doubling down on us. Got any more of that crack?