‘Hello, good morning, my name is Gavin Moneypenny, and I’m your customer service representative for today and I’m pleased to inform you that during the course of this call I will be looking for ways to improve the service you are getting from us if I can, and if I can at any point make your experience easier in any way, for you, there, Miss Kite, I will endeavour to do so, and to let you know, during the course of this call, what I can do to help you, Miss Kite, if I can call you Miss Kite, or do you prefer…’
Stop! I only called my bank to pay a small bill over the phone but after a minute of pure waffle we were still on the introductory ‘pleasantries’. Not that I buy that these really are pleasantries. I know that the days are gone when bad-tempered call centre staff could take it out on the customer by being straightforwardly unpleasant.
All calls are recorded and monitored for training purposes, as they never tire of telling us, and so Kelly and Kayley and Hayley and Gavin can’t do what they used to do when they were in a bad mood, which was to snatch up the phone and bark: ‘System’s down. You’ll have to wait. Oh, hang on, it’s just come back up. It’s very slow though. What’s your account number? What? I can’t hear you.’ Click.
Nowadays, because there are thousands in Delhi who will gladly take their place, they have to be co-operative. They have to be helpful, patient, polite, chatty. They have to tell you their full name.
And so I found myself listening to Gavin Moneypenny (I’ve invented that surname to spare his blushes but his real one was equally silly and had four syllables) going to enormous lengths to explain that he wanted to make my banking easier, although at no point did he actually try to make it easier by just getting the hell on with it.
‘Can I call you Miss Kite?’ he persisted.
‘You can. Now, where are we at?’
‘Are you ready for my passcode?’
‘Er well, now, we will come to that. But, you see, what we do, in fact, ask you to do first, at this stage, is confirm whether or not you have a five-digit passcode — that’s before we proceed to asking you what the digits of that passcode actually are.’ I swear, he said that.
‘Fine,’ I said. ‘I understand. You have to ask me if I have a passcode before you ask me what it is.’
‘That is correct, yes.’
‘Go on then.’
‘Do you have a passcode?’
Seriously, I could have married the guy quicker. I could have got a vicar round, put the phone on speaker and been legally bound in wedlock to Gavin Moneypenny, not that he’d want me given how unpleasant I was being.
‘So, Miss Kite, if I could now ask you, then, to give me the first digit of that five-digit…’
‘Three…did you say? Three…lovely. Three. Now…’ Sound of typing in the background…‘Now. If I could just now ask you what… the…fourth digit in that five-digit passcode that you have there now is…please, Miss Kite…if you wouldn’t mind…’
‘Finished? Right, it’s also three.’
‘Three. That’s…three again…super. That’s…just…one moment…that’s…three…there we… go! Now…’
A tip. If you interrupt Gavin Moneypenny because patience is not your strong suit and you fear your carotid artery is going to burst if he drags the processing of your fourth digit out any longer, then it will only make things worse. Because if you interrupt Gavin Moneypenny, he will go backwards.
For example: ‘Now, can I just say thank you very much for going through security with us today, Miss Kite. And now that you are through security…’
‘Is there much more of this?’
‘Can we move things along? I’m in a hurry.’
‘Oh dear, yes, certainly, Miss Kite, I quite understand. Absolutely. I’m now going to move things along as quickly as I can, for you there, Miss Kite. So, first of all, can I just say thank you very much for bearing with me and going through security with us today, even though you’re in a hurry, there, yourself, and now that you are through that security process with us, here, today, Miss Kite, can I now just ask you how may I be of help to you?’
The more you object to the verbage, the further back in the conversation he will go. If you are especially impatient, Gavin Moneypenny will go right back to saying ‘Hello, good morning’.
Because you cannot beat the system. You cannot beat the system when it is being horrible to you. And you cannot beat the system when it is being ‘nice’.
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