If only you could talk to people face to face

I’m don’t see this post as a complaint, merely as a ponder.  You see, I’ve been missing the ability to actually talk to people face to face to get business done.  face-to-face-talking

I have never been a fan of telephone talking.  I admit I once had a job where I literally spent the first 5 hours of the day on the phone going from call to call and then the last 2 1/2 hours fixing the stuff people had complained to me about during the first 5 hours.  I hated that job with a passion.  I got out of that job as soon as I could — and that was the point in time where I first went trucking for a few years.  Offices, and office politics, were killing my spirit.

Since then I have never regained my appreciation for telephones.  I avoid them at all cost.  I will drive hours out of my way to talk to a human face to face if presented with the option.  And only too often I have found that the person you are allowed to speak with — face to face — is actually powerless to accomplish the thing you need accomplishing because that authority lies higher up the chain of command — in the hands of someone you can’t easily get to.  Sigh.

It’s the beginning of a new year and I needed to re-up my prescriptions.  Since last year we were new to the particular Medicare plan we chose through AARP I was placing my orders via phone.  Of course every time you do, you are told that it would be easier and faster to do so online.  It’s amazing how easily big corporations find it to lie to you.  It is NOT easier.  And definitely not quicker.

prior-authorization-requiredAt the beginning of this year I decided I would try the online system.  First thing I found was that one of my meds requires “Prior Authorization” and evidently at January 1 the previous prior authorization had expired.  Ok… No big deal.  How do I do that.

I could not find the place on their website to apply for prior authorization even though there was a little grab-box telling you how easy it is.  So, onto the phone. Three phone calls later I had the number for my physician to call to get authorization.

I then had an email, a voicemail and a live telephone call all telling me the prescription had been approved.  Ok………..

I went on line to order the meds.

The price for this order was almost 2 1/2 times the price of my last re-upped prescription.  It took me 8 phone calls to get (what I had initially thought would be the answer) a clarification that the different amount was my annual drug deductible.  But why it should take 8 phone calls eludes me to no end.  Of course part of the reason for the phone calls was that every time a very helpful customer service rep tried to get me to the right department (because they didn’t know the answer) the phone system would disconnect my call.  So much for Customer Service, or should we call it customer dis-service?

telephone-keypadBy the last of the 8 phone calls I had learned that my initial guess was correct; and at least I knew I wasn’t going to have to sell blood to afford my meds.

But the medication saga did not end there.

I foolishly thought that seeing as we are here in South Texas for a while that maybe I should have the meds mailed directly here, instead of having Kathryn forward them from Milwaukee.  Oh foolish man that I am….

Because both Peggy and I were reordering and the mail order house that our insurance requires us to use for med re-ups will not ship both orders together I had to change 2 mailing addresses.  Which meant I got TWO phone calls after placing the order because their system didn’t like the mailing address we successfully use for everything sent to us. That was for MY order.   For Peggy’s order I had one email and THREE phone calls to get the same address corrected.  Once they left off a digit.  Another time the system didn’t like our site number. The third time they transposed two digits.  I can only hope that they finally have the correct address on file.

I know I’m an old fogey.  But it used to be easier to get things done.  Maybe that’s part of the reason I was ready to buy this place and sort of settle down after 5 years of RV’ing.  Temporary addresses can be a pain.  But only because you never get to talk to anyone face to face.

I’m not upset.  It would do no good to be upset.  Why should I let someone else control how I feel?  Indirect communications are the way of the world.  I can long for days gone by — but I know they won’t return — at least not short of some post-apocalyptic tragedy.  And, for all it’s faults I like this world a lot better than anything the “preppers” might envision.  We have our problems now, but law & order are usually preferable to anarchy.  However, I still get sad from time to time when I remember that people used to be more civil.  They used to look out for each other, and offer helpful assistance. I know that telephone help desks try to be helpful — but I also know that most of them are on a short tether.  Their bosses have equipped their phone systems with instant feedback and surveys on every interaction they make — the least failure of which puts them at jeopardy.  I don’t think it’s helpful when people are doing  things only so that they don’t lose their jobs.  It used to be that people were helpful because they wanted to be; because they thought it the right thing to do.  I have no idea whether they still do because they all have the same patter at the end of the conversation and no 100 CRS’s (customer service reps) in the world will ever choose to say exactly the same words time after time after time.  They are reading from a script and that’s their job.

I’m old enough to remember the fiasco over Ford Pintos.  We all were aghast when it came to light that the company’s risk control departments were managing the risk of catastrophic fire in automobiles against the cost of fixing the cause of them.  It was the first time in memory that I realized that big business doesn’t do things because they are right; they do things that make them profit — and if the cost of settling wrongful death suits is lower than the cost of fixing a problem then let’s keep building the cars and we’ll pay the few families who lose loved ones in a fire.

That struck me as horrific.  But it is the job of business in a Capitalist world. The company exists to make profit.  Whether it’s a shorter pipeline route — as we see being fought over in the Dakotas, or a lower wage — the reason for so many outsourced jobs — the company owes it to it’s stockholders to make money.  I know that most CSR’s just want a job to do that pays them a living wage and does some good in this world.  I don’t blame anyone in particular for 10 or 12 useless phone calls.  It’s the cost of doing business.

It’s just that sometimes it seems like the company gets all the profit and the customer gets all the cost.  Oh well.   Let’s see what happens tomorrow.  Maybe they’ll deliver my meds to the wrong patient. 🙂


7 thoughts on “If only you could talk to people face to face

  1. My head was nodding up and down over the first sentence. I agree with you on so many points. The current generations do not understand what service actually means. In fact, Rick and I have often commented on the value of good service when we see it…nowadays, seeing it in action is like art or a ballet…beautiful to watch.

    I also feel that lack of service orientation has contributed to the overall lowering of morale. Automation is replacing the human, an idea that was originally promoted like a horror story…but when gradually done over decades…one seems not to notice it. Humans have lower morale because they have no quality work and there are so many who never get to feel the sense of pride and accomplishment from a job well done.

    Professional athletes, actors, singers and even drug dealers are admired and idolized as people see that great wealth is offered in those positions. While the craftsman slowly becomes obsolete. Face to face for the most part has become a pleasurable memory of a better time. Oddly, automation was intended to make things faster and easier…neither is true. I found people were able to get things done quickly and understandably when talking to a human.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not entirely cynical but it surely seems as if the only thing humans are good for in this economy is consuming stuff so the machines don’t slow down.

      I think Peg & I have been fortunate when I listen to stories told by others — many of the workers we have run into have been really exceptional — when we see them face to face. The world of consumer feedback has made it critical for them to perform well or lose their job. But on the phone — that’s another story altogether. And how do you ever critique the fact that you have to deal with the automated phone system in the first place. That’s off the table. That’s one of those areas that I often joke about, you know — the most basic aspects of a culture there are no words for…. how do you express your disapproval of automated phone systems? You can’t. There is no vehicle by which to do so.


      1. I do the same, or hitting “O” if it will let me. First time with a company and I’ll risk an auto-hangup just to try getting to a people quicker.



  2. The word that strikes me as I hear about poor customer service at the same time we are becoming a service industry economy?
    IRONIC. I sure hope I used the word correctly.

    Initially I was using AARP for my part D. They changed formularies last year so I was forced to change to an Aetna subsidiary.
    I now go right to Walgreen’s, and in many states I can get 90 day supplies. I have probably used at least a dozen different states or locations with no problems.

    Liked by 1 person

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