Monday, February 28, 2005


The One Size Fits All Response
By Janice Price

I dial 9-1-1, the emergency number, and a recorded voice asks, What is your emergency? If you have a police emergency, press 1, NOW. If you need the fire department, press 2, NOW. If you need both the police and the fire department, press 3, NOW. If you have a medical emergency and require an ambulance, press 4, NOW. If you have a medical emergency and require an ambulance and the fire department paramedics, press 5, NOW. If you need the police department and an ambulance only, press 6, NOW. If you need to contact the police, the fire department and the Ambulance Service, with or without the fire department’s rescue squad, press 7, NOW. If you have an emergency that requires all of the emergency personnel previously mentioned, please hang up and go to our web site for complete contact information. If you need these steps repeated, press 8, NOW.

I have a high regard for local emergency personnel and those who man the 9-1-1 phone lines in the area, and this is, of course, an exaggeration and is not a recorded message 9-1-1 would ever present. But it highlights the frustration of dealing with an automated phone answering system when we try to reach the customer service department of many companies.

It is stressful to have a problem and to be unable to reach someone to help with it. Or to reach someone who responds with a mechanical One Size Fits All Response. Problems arise that do not fit into a pre-configured mold.

This One Size Fits All Response also abounds on the Internet. It is just as frustrating to deal with customer service in many companies by email because they will email the same One Size Fits All Response to every inquiry.

The past twenty-four hours have been a nightmare. How many times and in how many ways could I state the obvious to the two companies involved in the transaction? I am locked out of my new account because you have not given me an ID or a password, nor have you given me the opportunity to invent my own. I try using the ID and password set up with the company where I purchased this service and this too is denied. I attempt to access my account and am given the message the account doesn’t exist or I have the wrong login. I can’t have the wrong login. I have no login because you did not email it to me. The account has to exist because, not only have I paid for it, but when I try to access it through my original account with the sales company, I am taken to your login page for my existing/non-existent new account

Both companies repeatedly sent the same One Size Fits All Response: Instructions on how to retrieve my ID (have to have the password), how to obtain my password hint (have to have a password and an ID first) and how to reset my non-existing password, or how to use the account name and my street address to obtain this information (account does not exist message).

This was finally resolved when one of the customer service contacts stopped auto-sending One Size Fits All Response messages and actually “listened” to the problem.

As I try to de-stress, I think of how frequently we use a One Size Fits All Response to others. Some of us have condensed the answer to everyone else’s problems into one or two pet categories and, therefore, because we think we already know it all, we don’t pay attention. This places stress on relationships. As an individual, as a representative of a company, or as an Ambassador of Christ, we need to stop spouting One Size Fits All Responses and listen to the problem before we respond.

I would have fallen to my knees when this issue was finally resolved, to thank God that his ways are not our ways, but I couldn’t have gotten back on my feet today without help.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. (Psalm 34:15) “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matthew 7:9)

If we call God on the direct 9-1-1 prayer line, we will never hear a recorded multiple choice message. God is attentive, listening and responding to each of us as an individual. We don’t pray in vain to a bored, disinterested, One Size Fits All Response God.

© 2005 Janice Price

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