Don’t be late, and answer the phone
I have two pet peeves. I mean serious ones. I have a lot if things that bother me. Yet there are two things that push me over the edge. They are tardiness in general and automated phone systems. I’ll start with the lateness issue. Of course, we all understand an emergency. The car wouldn’t start. Then phone rings just as you’re walking out the door, and it’s your mother. The meeting you’re in lasts longer than expected.These things happen. But why do they always happen to the same people? Doesn’t it seem as though it’s always the same people who have the emergency? Aren’t they always the ones who we’re waiting for? Don’t they seem to have an endless list of catastrophes that plague only them?And aren’t the ones who are always on time always on time? How is it that their lives function in the “disaster-free” zone? Why do they never have a sick kid who needs tending just as they are about to get in the car?Well, I have my opinion. It’s because they value their commitments, take care in making them in the first place and finally, live up to what they have said they will do. Which includes being on time. For a meeting with a group. An appointment. An assignment. Whatever.It also means they have consideration for someone besides themselves. It is my observation that being late is a selfish act that shows the ultimate disrespect for others and their time. It says to others that my time is more valuable than yours. That my inability to live by my commitments is acceptable even if it screws up your day. That somehow, whatever I am currently doing is more important that what I said I would do. It implies an arrogance that is totally irresponsible but is often written off with a statement that will forever remain unacceptable to me, “It’s Vail time.”I was in a meeting at the town several weeks ago where over 20 people were kept waiting while the chairman tended to other business. At another meeting, a tardy person indicated that “I usually don’t get up this early!” even though the meeting is on a regular schedule at a specific time.No. “Vail time” is just an excuse for people who do not take their commitments seriously and make everyone else pay for it.Is there a solution? I would suggest that all meetings start on time with or without a full house. I would further suggest that it be made known that those who are late should just keep on going. Because what happens is that when they finally arrive, they want a recap, further wasting the time of those that planned their day, got there on time, and showed respect for others. I could go on, but you get the picture. I have no tolerance whatsoever.Then there’s the automated phone mania that has overtaken American business. I’ll start with the first question asked, “Do you want to continue in English?” You bet I do. This is America. When I lived in Italy, no one ever asked in what language I wanted instructions. You learned to say, “Ciao,” or you were out of luck.Then there’s the endless, and I mean en…dless series of questions. If you can’t make a choice on the first go around, you get to listen again before “operator” or “representative” or “agent” is an option.And then when (and if) you finally get a “customer service” person, you have to repeat the same account number, etc., that you were forced to punch in before you were even allowed to proceed through the initial gantlet.All in the name of efficiency. Or service. Or whatever other bogus excuse is being used by corporate America to perpetrate this hateful system on the public. I do not know one person who is not offended by this hideous business practice.The New York Times did a story entitled “Your Call Should Be Important to Us But It’s Not.” Amen. They chronicled a movement by an outraged entrepreneur-techie that he calls a “grass-roots movement to change the face of customer service.” His http://www.gwthuman.com Web site sets out appropriate ways for companies to interact with their customers, encourages customers to rate these experiences and publishes secret codes for ways to “cut through the automation” of over 400 companies.The Center for Client Retention in New Jersey is quick to point out that customers who interact with another human being are more likely to develop loyalty. With more choices than ever, that is recognized as the toughest challenge in business today.Executives continuously pledge to improve business and products by listening to the customer. How is that possible if the customer can’t reach another human being when they call? So here’s the message to Americas businesses: Answer the damn phone.The problem seems to be that businesses are better at cutting costs than at identifying missed opportunities. “A call is an opportunity to build a relationship” and can provide a real return on investment with a customer that you already have.Generally, a call is precipitated by someone who needs information or has a problem. To diminish the importance of these issues with a robot at the other end sends the wrong message. It says “We’re too busy (or worse, too cheap) to value the time you have taken to place this call. And we have decided that the one-size-fits-all approach to problem solving is the best we are willing to provide you, our customer.” It boils down to a lack of consideration, in this case, to those that pay the bills. And I’m tired of it. How about you?Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail email@example.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Columnists” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily. Vail, Colorado
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