Posted on

Fischer: I’d like to speak to your manager

By Travis Fischer,

This may go without saying but, as a reporter, I’m generally accustomed to people answering my questions. A pretty regular part of my work week is figuring out what it is I want to know and then tracking down the person who can tell me.

Sometimes I am able to do this by going directly to the source. Other times it involves walking into a place, asking the first person I see who it is I need to talk to in order to satisfy my inquiry, and getting passed around from person to person until I find them. Sometimes there’s even a dedicated person whose full-time job is connecting people like me to the people I need to talk to.

Fischer: I’d like to speak to your manager
Travis Fischer

I’ve written before about how this job has a tendency to pull back the curtain on how things work. It de-mystifies the world, putting names and faces to the people actually responsible for any particular situation.

It may take some digging sometimes, but there’s almost always somebody that can get you the answers you’re looking for.

If you’re a reporter.

But I don’t always get to play the “reporter card,” which makes it all the more frustrating when I get caught in the labyrinth of customer service.

Such as last Friday, when I spent a fair chunk of my afternoon on the phone going in circles with people both powerless to resolve my problem and unwilling or unable to direct me to somebody that could.

It’s an inevitable reality when dealing with a business beyond a certain size. From big box retailers to cellphone service providers, there is often an unscalable wall between the people that can resolve an issue and the people the public has access to.

Having been on both sides of this, I’ve always found it both fascinating and infuriating how large companies utilize their front-facing employees as a shield.

Obviously, at some point it becomes a logistical necessity. When dealing with a vast number of customers coming at you daily to resolve any number of major to minor issues, it makes sense to populate your front line with a virtual army of underpaid and minimally empowered employees to filter out the small things.

Likewise though, the more of these employees there are, the harder it becomes to ensure that they are providing quality service.

Say, for example, a completely hypothetical scenario where representatives of a company assure you that an issue with your service is one thing and then, out of the blue, that service gets shut down and you are told that the problem is something else entirely and that there is nothing that can be done because it’s all an automated system. The more people you talk to trying to figure out the who/what/where/when/why of it all, the more conflicting answers you get, and the dilution of both power and responsibility make it impossible to pin down exactly what this now irresolvable problem actually was in the first place, much less how to resolve it.

Even when you get to the highest echelon available to you as a customer, they may insist that they are just a cog in the machine.

It’s not true. Corporations aren’t operated by artificial intelligence … yet. There is always somebody, somewhere, that can get you the answers you’re looking for. But, whether by design or not, there’s no easy path to get to them. That’s a choice somebody made.

The Catch-22, of course, is that the person responsible for putting up that wall is also on the other side of it.

It’s frustrating for everybody involved at every step of the way and sometimes the only thing you can do is cut your losses and hope the next service provider treats you better than the last.

— Travis Fischer is a news writer for the Charles City Press and really hopes he didn’t just switch to a different kind of bad.

Social Share