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Press one for English

January 14, 2008

by Jen Bakken

Last week, I had to call my cell phone company to discuss an error on my bill.

I dreaded having to do this because I knew what I was in for. As the recording told me to “Please press one for English” I rolled my eyes, hoping I’d be connected with someone who not only spoke English, but understood it as well.

My past experience with the customer service from my cell phone company has been less than favorable.

In fact, horrible sums it up, but like many other cell phone users I am stuck in my contract unless I want to pay a high fee.

After listening to how important my call was to them, I continued to wait over 15 minutes before my call was important enough for them to answer.

While I waited, the annoying digital hold music gave me a headache. Every few minutes, I was reminded that quality customer service was their top priority, and that my phone call may be recorded.

When there was finally another human being on the line with me, I sighed as I heard her accent.

Even though I knew where I was calling, I could barely understand her greeting.

She had to ask me for my information multiple times because I couldn’t understand her and she couldn’t understand me.

I was more than annoyed. After another 15 minutes, I was no closer to figuring out the problem with my bill.

I asked politely if I could be connected with someone who spoke English more clearly, and was met with complete silence on the other end.

Barely able to keep myself from screaming into the phone, I said, “You know I did press one for English.”

I thought she was giving me the silent treatment again, until I heard a dial tone.

She hung up on me.

I could not believe it. I had been on the phone for over half an hour and now I had to start all over.

My face flushed with anger as I dialed the number again. Maybe my comment about pressing one for English was a bit snotty, but I was irritated. If I had pressed two for Spanish, would I have been connected with someone who couldn’t really speak it?

I realize companies are outsourcing and using call centers in other countries, but couldn’t they make sure the people who work in those centers can speak and understand the language?

Once again, I was on hold listening to awful music, then interrupted occasionally to hear a recording telling me that my call was very important and that quality customer service was their top priority.

I thought to myself, “Yeah right.”

By the time a customer service agent answered my call, I had been trying for more than 50 minutes to speak to someone.

When I heard a man talk to me in clear English, I almost jumped for joy.

“Oh, thank you!” I told him.

“For what ma’am?” he asked.

“For speaking English!” I answered.

He had a southern accent, but I could understand him, and better yet, he could understand me.

It only took a few minutes for him to answer the question I had about my bill.

I simply do not understand why, after pressing one for English, I should have to hold my breath and pray for someone who actually knows the language.