Have you ever been ‘on hold’ while on the phone? ‘Of course, YES’ I hear you screaming. In today’s world of remote operations, being on hold when you dial a number for any type of service is as certain as being stuck in a traffic jam on a Friday evening.
The good folks who design these telephone systems – be it at a call center, reservation desk or even a life-or-death emergency service – have excelled themselves in causing frustration to the caller in ingenious ways. At the beginning it was just a simple message, “Please wait for the next available representative”. Or just a deathly silence after the curt, “Please hold”. Then came music, of sorts – consisting of one song with the same three notes repeated in an infinite loop. When the average hold times exceeded the length of a music album, we started getting into full programs with smooth jazz, hard rock and other exotic variations – I am told that some systems even have a menu for you to select the type of music that would cause the maximum increase in your blood pressure.
And, don’t forget that, in some systems, you will not have the luxury of being on hold till you actually navigate through the complex menu structure wherein you have to enter a random sequence of single digit numbers and one wrong punch could be the fatal mistake that could send you back to the beginning or, worse, disconnect you with a pleasant, ‘invalid selection, good-bye’. Especially while dealing with a multi-lingual menu where the options are repeated in several languages, you find yourself on razor’s edge trying to decipher your own language spoken like a foreign dialect. All in all, it feels like being in the last five minutes of an SAT exam – except that the five minutes are really a few hours.
Another aspect to contend with for the caller of this wait-wait-hold-hold game is how to keep yourself occupied during the long on-hold saga. Do you attend to your email while listening to the nerve-racking music that could end any second with, “Good morning….Thanks for calling ……How may I assist you?” at which point you may well have forgotten what you called about? Can you risk dashing to the kitchen to grab a cup of water or coffee? What if you had to attend to nature’s call? Do you rush to the bathroom with your phone and if the hold time ends at the exact moment when you are ‘getting ready’, do you risk being embarrassed or valiantly throw away 30 minutes of your time by disconnecting?
With all the occupational hazards involved, it is no wonder that, many a time, I wake up to my alarm in the wee hours of the morning to make that fateful call to a service center, hoping to be Number-1 in their queue!