19 August 2022

Hello. Is anyone there? Anywhere? It's OK, I'll hold ....

| Sally Hopman
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Empty call centre

Not that we’re speaking out of turn – that’s assuming we’re actually going to get a turn to speak – but surely, at a call centre, especially one this size, there’d be a phone or two? Humans? Don’t even think about it. Photo: Wikipedia.

What’s worse than that voice on the end of the phone saying how much they appreciate your call, you are number 957,747 in the queue, and your inquiry is important to them – so please hold the line. We will connect you as soon as possible.

No they won’t. They’re just a bunch of big fat liars, and on behalf of the rest of the western world, and some of the eastern bits where they’re actually allowed to communicate, I say enough. Is enough. Is really quite enough, thank you very much.

Please stay on the line. We’ll connect you to an operator as soon as we can. No they won’t. They’re probably playing call centre bingo – translation: how long will it take for this caller to hang up believing, LOL, that someone will eventually answer?

They even play the sort of music the love child of Celine Dion and Barry Manilow would turn off, knowing that the minute you move away from your phone to disinfect your ears, your call will be answered. Not by a human, of course, but by someone who has gone to communications training school to be taught how to be unintelligible.

But wait, there’s more. New chirpy voice suggests about two hours later, why don’t you go online and log your question, it will be a lot quicker. It would if the reason you were ringing in the first place wasn’t to complain that your internet was down.

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A friend of mine, who moved to rural Victoria last year, reckons he knows most of the names of all the telecommunications providers’ staff in a 100km radius, or possibly the state – and not because he likes making new friends.

He moved there from Yass, thinking that yes, the new farm was out of town, but the reception had to be better than the dodgy one he got in Yass – a town less than an hour’s drive from the, um, nation’s capital.

But no. To make a call on his mobile now he has to go outside into a paddock far, far away, stand on his head, and yell into his device. OK, the bit about standing on his head was a lie, but he has to yell, a lot. And that’s usually at me because everyone else is sick of him yelling at them and screen his calls.

But wait, it’s getting scary now. He actually, on purpose, not accidentally, got a landline installed in his house. Being about as seriously ill as it gets, he needs to have some kind of communication handy. Like a phone or computer that works so he can call the doctor or an ambulance to take him to hospital.

He got the landline installed – it made Page 1 in the Telecommunications Tribune. (Yet another lie. Sorry, it seems to be catching.) Shortly afterwards, he lost all free-to-air TV reception. The programs in rural Victoria weren’t good, but they didn’t deserve that sort of treatment. That’s nothing short of terminal.

Old broken phone

You have to be in order in the first place to be out of it, not like this sad old relic of a bygone era where people called each other and got through. Photo: File.

He rang up to tell me, but couldn’t get through, so we texted. Who knew texts could be so animated, without an emoji in sight? His internet also died, unless he wanted to use it at 3 am to watch stuff he didn’t want to watch.

He doesn’t get much sleep now. Just rings up random numbers and yells at people. Mostly me because they taught me in finishing school to pick up telephones when they rang and at least pretend to take a message. Maybe I should get a job in the call centre.

My friend, like the rest of the human world, has had enough. Enough of the fibs, the lies, the porky pies. The straight-out mistruths. You don’t care about our calls as much as we don’t care about your calls. Because we don’t get them anyway.

Used to be, says this dinosaur, that when businesses offered you a service, you gave them money, and got what you paid for.

Wonder how much it costs to change this world? All I know, as does my dear internet-less friend, that money doesn’t buy happiness. It doesn’t even buy him internet access – unless he sets his alarm to wake up at 3am when he can get one of those channels. At least now he has a house full of useless stuff bought at 3:01 am on, yes, one of those channels.

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As a telecommunications technician myself, ( one of the good people who e entually arrive at your place to fix in 10 minutes what you’ve waited a month for, and bear the brunt of your enevitable, though understable wrath), let me tell a story.
About 15 years or so ago, I was invited into a workshop to develop the “tree” for our call centre. You know, where a recorded voive invites you to press 1 for new connections, press 2 for Faults press 3 to wait longer, etc….
There was a specialist call centre consultant engaged to assist us.
At the end of each branch a caller would reach an N.V.P.
Eventially I asked, because no-one else in the room looked like they knew either, what an N.V.P. was.

It’s a Non Virtual Person.

Thats call centre terminology for a human.
Like actually having a human was an inconvienience they would deal with if the virtual people and bots couldn’t get you to give up and go away

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