Is Anybody Out There? Trying to connect with a ‘live’ operator

You may have heard about the pending cuts to area crisis lines and the concerns of those who answer these lines.  I believe their concerns are legitimate, and despite the argument from VIHA that a central phone number will serve adequately, I think it will only serve to increase the sense of alienation many experience today.  A person in Campbell River or Port Hardy who is experiencing personal trauma, might feel an increased sense of despondency when they learn they are speaking to a person in downtown Victoria, who has no sense of the local milieu. We have to wonder too, if this central line can handle all the calls.

A disturbing trend today is the increase in the number of businesses and organizations that use automated operators to ‘vet’ their calls.  I am certain you have experienced this – whether calling a bank or telephone company or government line – you cannot get through the electronic sentry without giving vital information first.  You usually need some numbers handy, like an account or social insurance number, and you had better be clear what the call is about, or you will not get directed to the right place.  Often, there is no option to speak with a ‘live’ operator.  You must get your facts straight first.

Recently, I had to call Acer computers regarding my laptop, and was told before doing so, that I should have the serial number on hand when I called, and that it would start with an LX. As usual, an automated, pleasant, though disembodied voice answered and inquired whether this was a service or sales matter.  We ascertained that it was Service and I was asked to describe the problem.  There is a crack in the lid, which translated into ‘broken component’, for lack of a better choice. Next ‘she’ asked me for the serial number, and this is where the trouble began.

I was told that the number would have 11 digits.  I quoted the only number on the bottom of my laptop that started with LX, but which in fact has 22 digits.  This was not acceptable.  I was to asked to speak more clearly and slowly.  I complied and repeated the sequence again.  Once again, the voice was not happy with the number and suggested I try to get service online.

I tried the phone number again, hoping that it was some sort of glitch.  The same ‘lady’ answered, identifying immediately that I had already called.  I found this a little disconcerting, so when asked if it was about the same problem, I said ‘no’,  believing I could trick ‘her’ into putting me through to a real person, and I asked for Sales this time. Again, I was confronted with having to repeat the serial number.  I had searched in the meantime for an eleven digit number on the bottom of my laptop thinking this might be part of the problem, so tried a different number.  No, it didn’t like this one either.

I gave up on the phone and went to the Acer website. There was a hyperlink there to an email for service which I tried, but was told it was broken.  I found a different link which took me to a page where once again, I was asked for my serial number.  I inserted the LX sequence again, but it didn’t like that.

This time, I was diligent and inserted all seven sequences of numbers found on the bottom of my computer, but none of them worked.  I finally found a description of the serial number which said it could be from 11 – 23 digits long, so I tried the LX number once again, and voila! It worked!  On the next page, however, I was told I had to register before I could get help.  So I filled out the registration form.  I hit the NEXT button at the bottom, and it brought me back to the registration page again.  I reviewed it to see where I had gone wrong, couldn’t find anything and there was no message, so hit NEXT again.  Back I went to the same page. After trying this one more time I gave up and decided to try one of the other ‘800’ numbers found on the site.

I called it and was told that the number was out of service, and to call a different number.  It wasn’t the same number I had tried earlier, so I still harboured a flicker of hope that I would get through to someone.  cartoo1-optimizedAnd guess what?  Yes, it was my same old friend who answered, and ‘she’ immediately recognized me and was certain I had called earlier.  By this time I was running out of patience and found myself yelling to a robot, that ‘YES, IT IS ME AND YES I HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM, YES IT IS A BROKEN COMPONENT!!!”

I proceeded once more to give the serial number and miracle of miracles, the voice said “I will repeat this back to you”.  Yahoo! I thought , I have finally broken through the barrier.  ‘She’ repeated the number back correctly, then I heard a sort of whirr and buzz and was told quite abruptly – “We are sorry, we are currently experiencing technical difficulties, please call back later”.

At this point I laughed. This was good enough to be made into a farce. I was frustrated, but not desperate and could deal with it another day.  A crisis is quite a different thing though – it needs to be dealt with immediately, and let’s hope VIHA does the right thing and recognizes that many of us need a live and caring person at the other end of the line, and this is no laughing matter.

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