Dear Annie: Am I the only one annoyed by the lack of customer service in our country today? I am 70 years old and I remember very well the days when I would call a hotel to make a reservation. A living human being would answer the phone and process my request.
Now we have to use our computers to find the hotel. Very often the phone number on the hotel website is assigned to a third party who makes the reservation and knows nothing about the hotel itself. If you ask a question like, “Do you keep the pool heated?” the answer is that the person on the phone has no idea.
It used to be easy to call an airline to make a reservation. Once again, real people answered the phone, usually on the first or second ring. You can ask questions, change your mind, find alternatives and hang up with your flight and seat secured as you wish.
Now, calling an airline requires waiting, being put on hold, and having a series of choices; everything is designed to send you back to your computer to proceed online. At my age, it’s incredibly frustrating.
How about doing business with your bank? I remember when I knew my banker and I could call her with a question, and she was always courteous, personal and efficient. Now I feel like you need a degree in computer science just to get the answer to a simple question.
The same is true for medical care. For many years, our family had the same doctor, who took pride in his practice as a family doctor. He died in his sleep in the mid-80s during the shutdowns, and my wife and I are still trying to find a family doctor with a private practice. We found some great doctors, but they’re all affiliated with corporate-run hospitals, and you can feel your visit is timed.
During my annual physical, our former doctor would spend a few minutes chatting after taking a series of tests. I once asked him why he did this, and he said it was to observe my eyes, my mental clarity, and a host of other things that were visible just by observing. Oh, to have a doctor like that again!
We see this impersonal approach to “customer service” everywhere.
There’s no doubt that new technology has made things more efficient in the long run, but individuals live day to day, not long term, and I’m afraid this lack of individual attention is driving me crazy. Am I the only one who noticed the change? — Too impersonal
Dear too impersonal: Your letter is one of the many letters I have received on this subject. I’m printing this because you give good examples of the frustrations we all face in 2022. I’m younger than you, but I sense you’re right – that companies were placing more emphasis on interacting with their clients. I’d be curious to see comments from other readers or executives of large companies who think that bigger is better, even if it makes the customer feel smaller.