Can I Help You?

For the first 67 years of my life, years were just years. I mean, things happened in years. Things we will never forget. President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The first men walked on the moon in 1969. In 1980, a movie star was elected president. On January 1, 2000, the world was expected to end because it was anticipated that every computer — including those controlling our nuclear weapons — might screw up, resulting in the end of the world.

However, 2020 will always be known as the year of the pandemic. An entire year where the world was held captive by a virus. A whole year. In 2021, all we heard was about the pro-vaccine people versus the anti-vaccine people. The vaxxers versus the nonvaxxers. Turn on the news, that’s what we heard. Every day. Every news hour. Inflation was the word-of-the-day for 2022. Eggs at seven bucks a dozen. Twelve dollars for a pound of bacon. Two things happened: either the price of something went through the moon or the size of the product became so minimal that you wondered why you bothered paying anything at all. Filling your tank with gas rivaling the cost of a month’s rent. It was the opening story of every news cast.

I haven’t heard this on the news, but in this humble blogger’s opinion, 2023 is going to be known as the year that customer service became nonexistent. Out the window. We stopped dealing with humans.

It’s not really that it’s anything new. It’s just being finely honed to an art form. Recently I had a reason to try and reach someone in Xcel Energy’s customer service department. I was being charged for electricity at the our home on Olive Street which we no longer own. I wasn’t worried because I had an email from Xcel telling me that they received my request to stop providing electricity to me. No problemo. Except they kept charging me.

I called, and, to no one’s surprised, got a recording. Press one if something. Press two if something else. I dutifully followed all of the prompts until I realized I was going around in circles. I kept getting back to the same original recording. I am not proud to say that at one point I was literally yelling — yelling — into the phone, “REPRESENTATIVE. REPRESENTATIVE. REPRESENATIVE. All to no avail. There I was again: Press one if you are a new customer. Press two if you are an existing customer. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

As I write this post, I am reluctant to tell you that nothing has as yet been resolved. I’m looking for any suggestions.

The lack of human customer service is certainly not limited to Xcel Energy. The option of talking to a human is nearly nonexistent. And if you get to a human, the possibility that they will speak clear English is dubious.

As it gets more and more difficult, as well as more and more expensive, to hire humans, this problem is not going to get any better. Maybe it’s only Baby Boomers who get disgruntled by this lack of human contact. Perhaps Generation X, Y, and Zers have no expectations of talking to a human. Still, I think back with nostalgic envy at those times when you would dial a telephone number and a human voice would say, “Thank you for calling Blah, Blah Company. How can I direct your call?”

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