"Press 1 to apply for a credit card; press 2 to report loss of a credit card; ...; press 0 to speak to a customer service operator."
After pressing 3, then 1, then 4:
"Enter your credit card number and press the hash key."
Familiar? Yes. Irritating? Oh yes! Especially when the "press 0 for operator" option is not available at the first menu!
I still remember there was a Jacky Neo film that made fun of how many menus you got to go through before getting to the right destination..
But now, it is different.
The nice voice at the bank hotline just asked, "What is your credit card number?" After a moment of surprise, I just said the number out loud. After a short while, I got to speak with a real person.
Similarly, the voice at WSJ hotline greeted me and asked, "What can we do for you today? For example, you could say 'renewing my subscription', or ...." More prepared this time, I just said "renew", and I was promptly linked to a real person on the other end of the line.
I just have to give very simple replies. The first time I got this was when I called Apple. I answered in a complete sentence and it was too complicated for the computer to understand! So I got "I'm sorry. I will have to transfer to you to a customer service operator. Please hold." Or something like that.
The "conversation" make it more continuous than the "press n" menus. I can get used to this system :)
The experience would be perfect if the operator is nice. Most of the time, they all speak too fast and sound rushed. I guess they're pressured to adhere to service level agreements - complete calls within x minutes, put people on hold for no more than y minutes. I have been on the evil side of an SLA so I know :p
The best experience so far was when I called Citigold to ask about linking accounts today. No strange white noise in the background, no rush and plenty of help! "Oh, I can wait with you while you try again." Ah, so nice. But of course they must be nice la, it's Citigold! Oh, the Citigold here has a much lower threshold than in Singapore; just dumping in half of Sito's school fees made us eligible for premium banking services.
The worst is when operators are unable to understand my queries and 答非所问 *.* Or the insurance guy who cannot tell me if something will be covered for sure, must cover ass mah... And speaking about insurance, yes, his compulsory and my very expensive insurance, I called just now and didn't even get to any menu. I was told that the office was closed, and that their office hours were 8.30 am to 5.30 pm. I looked at the clock and it was only 5.16 pm! Crap!