We live in a scripted society.
Few people say what they really mean, particularly in business, so if you listen to them and respond, the whole conversation goes spinning out of control.
Nowhere is this more on display than with customer service representatives. I know they have a script they must follow, but does it have to be so stupid?
Instead of being called customer service, it should really be called customer no-service, or rather customer sales, since what really happens is that they use my time to sell me stuff.
I recently received my homeowner’s insurance renewal and it mistakenly showed that I paid the premium directly. (I escrow the premium with my mortgage.)
I called my mortgage company to verify that they had received the premium notice so there would be no lapse. It took two minutes and forty seconds (my phone tracks the length of calls) before a live person got on the phone.
After a lot of back and forth, the young woman determined the department that could answer my question was unavailable because of the weather. She gave me their direct line so I could call again another day… and then she went into script mode. It went sort of like this:
Her: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Me: Well, you didn’t help me with the one question I had, but other than that, I don’t have any other questions.
Her: Okay, thank you. I see you have a mortgage at 3.99%. Would you like to refinance at a lower rate?
Me: Yes, I would, but that seems highly unlikely.
Her: We have mortgage representatives standing by who can help you with that.
(At this point I’m transferred to another department).
New representative (Him): So, what are you trying to accomplish today?
Me: I want to find out if you have received my homeowner’s insurance premium notice.
Him: Um, that’s not our…
Me (I interrupt): I understand, but that was my question. Then the girl told me that you can lower my mortgage rate.
Him: Well, I see that your rate is 3.99%, I can’t really do anything better than that.
Me: Then why was I told you can? The previous rep asked if I wanted a lower mortgage rate, which I do of course, and she transferred me to you. Is that just a line they ask everyone, with no regard for whether it’s true or not?
Him: Well, I guess, yeah, they just ask everyone.
I know that many people have to do such things for their jobs, but wouldn’t it be much more informative if everyone just said what they meant?
The local lawn service could call at night and say: “We’re calling everyone in your area and offering special deals because we need more clients. We don’t know if your yard is good or bad, but we do know that we could use more sales.”
In sports, a quarterback being interviewed after a losing game could stop claiming that the team worked hard but simply came up short. Instead, he could say: “I threw a few bad passes that were really dumb, but my receivers were out drinking last night and I think they were running slower today, which really cost us. At the same time, the other team had really good linemen that simply beat our guys.”
Just imagine what politicians might let fly if they could go off script.
Republicans could finally say: “We lost both chambers in the mid-2000s because we were tone deaf to the public, and then we put up a non-candidate in 2008. The whole thing was clearly because of a leadership vacuum that sucked all the life out of the party, and even today we continually aim our guns at our own feet.”
And Democrats could tell people: “We don’t really know how to run the economy, we’re just hoping it grows while we’re in office so we can point to success. Meanwhile, we’ll keep piling on social programs and pointing out how being rich is bad. Of course, we’re glad that people haven’t noticed that all of us are rich, and that Republicans keep aiming for each other.”
Of course, the one group you wouldn’t hear say anything different would be bankers, since they don’t say anything at all.
Nope, when speaking to this group you get nothing but crickets. That’s because they know a good deal when they have it. The Fed, which prints money, is guaranteeing their profits, while the U.S. Treasury guarantees their survival.
When you’re in a situation this good, your best course of action is to sit down, shut up, and be thankful… and keep cashing those bonus checks.
I really wish we’d go off script.
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