I just overhead my friend’s niece calling a bus company about their timetable between Leighton Buzzard and Aylesbury. The website was ambiguous, so she called the ‘helpline’ number displayed there. She was ‘greeted’ by the customary robotic “Welcome to Acme Bus Company… we now have two options for you.” A few key presses later, she got through to an operator and asked for the info.
“You’ve come through to the Midlands team. You need the South East team. I’ll put you through.”
Before she could speak she was cut off and placed into a queue: five minutes of uninterrupted ring tone followed.
In frustration she hung up and called back, but it was Groundhog Day all over again: “Welcome to Acme Bus Company… we now have two options for you.”
She pressed the key sequence and again reached an operator and asked for help.
“You’ve come through to the Midland team. You need the South East team. I’ll put you through…”.
“NO WAIT!! Don’t transfer me! That just happened and I spent five minutes on hold. Can’t you just tell me the answer?”
“Oh, well the South East team were probably busy. They’re in a different team but they’re in the same office – I can see they are all on the phones.”
Why do they need regional teams when the timetable is on a computer network and they are all in the same office? Why do they transfer people into long call queues when they are sitting next to each other? Why don’t they just handle the query? Is local knowledge so crucial? And whatever the answer, however sensible it appears from the organization’s point of view, the point is this: The customer doesn’t care that it makes sense from the organization’s point of view.