Phone trees are among the most annoying things in life, in part because they're deliberately created to waste customer time.

I think I've finally resolved a medical bill, after four days of trying. The diagnostic imaging company billed me instead of medicare, because they had my name wrong on the bill. Somehow Gardner R Anthony was supposed to pay for my test, despite the fact that my paperwork was correctly filled out and they had a xerox of my medicare card.

I tried for days to get through. At 4:10 PM, it turned out that their offices closed at 4:00. No luck at 12:35 AM either. The number for billing questions was the same number as the "automated" billing number, and there was never an option to actually talk to a human being. The options were for how to pay or get a copy of your bill or get their email address, even during office hours.

I finally remembered the secret, press 0 at the point in the phone tree when you were supposed to select an option. Why can't they tell you that there's an operator at that extension, as one of the choices? Then I was put on hold for an indefinite length of time, wherein I was constantly harassed by suggestions to switch back to the automated system. Getting bored, I began reading a few articles in Scientific American. It seems they share one operator for multiple agencies and global coverage. When she eventually answered the phone, she asked my name and immediately cut me off. It took another five minutes to communicate that the name they had on file was the problem.

Am I the only one that really really hates phone trees?

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Automated phone systems seem to exist for the sole purpose of NOT serving the customer while theoretically saving the company employing that system money they would have otherwise spent on employing PEOPLE.  They are convenient mechanisms for burying and forgetting complaints, problems and other forms of untoward activity which the company has no real interest in addressing.

That said, back in the day, I made sure that ANY customer of mine had the number which would take them directly to my desk.  If I was at my desk, that phone got answered ON THE FIRST RING, with: "Systems, Loren Miller, may I help you?"

So long as I am still breathing, service is NOT a lost art.

Impressive, Loren. Your respect for human beings is a role model to which we can all aspire.

In the case of incorrect billing, a phone system like this one generates inefficiency. It just makes it harder for the company to get paid. To me that's not good business sense.

You're not the only one.

Ruth, Loren's right about automated phone systems; their purpose is to reduce the cost of doing business by reducing the number of employees. They persuade me to take my business elsewhere.

Don't confuse them with phone trees -- which in ancient times (before the Internet) did what Twitter does now: they enable the rapid spread of new to large numbers of people.

A calls A1, A2 and A3 (those most loyal to the cause). They each call three more (those slightly less loyal), and these nine each call three, one of whom is A1, A2, or A3 (so the people at the top know this branch of the tree is working).

Yes, I hate phone trees, too, and to a slightly less degree I hate recorded telemarketer calls.  Of course, I can immediately hang up on the recorded messages and the non-recorded telemarketer calls, too.  When I really need to speak with a live person, I have to hang on through transfers, disconnects and loud music. Then I may get someone from a foreign country with an impossible to understand accent. There has to be a better way.

Lillie, your post tells me your experiences have been unpleasant. Some of mine have been very unpleasant.

Not so the few phone tree calls. I get them only when I have consented to be on a tree. Because they want me to show up at their activities, their callers are polite and when they have time I enjoy chats. Phone trees are short-lived; maintaining them requires so much work that volunteers don't last long.

I hate telemarketers. Despite my being on the Do Not Call list, they call because I own a phone and don't want to pay the phone company's monthly fee to delist my number.

I dislike telemarketers so much that I turned off the ringer. EVERY INCOMING CALL goes to my answering machine and I pick up only when I know the caller. Most telemarketers leave no message so I don't know who to report. Recorded telemarketers continue their messages and for a minute or two I'm unable to dial a number to call someone.

Only one non-English speaker was a problem. I called Customer Support about a product I had bought and tried to understand an Asian Indian's attempts at English. I finally told him I didn't understand him and told his company my reason for returning their product. They refunded what I'd paid.

I hate phone trees too. I'd rather talk to a person.


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