Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Personal Call From AT&T

I got a call from a very sharp and articulate woman from the AT&T corporate headquarters last week. She was calling regarding my post, "AT&T and The Voice Lady." She pointedly asked if there was anything that AT&T could "do for me personally." I asked her if she had, indeed, read the article and she said she had. What could they do for me personally? I told her there was nothing I needed done personally, but that their whole approach to making it possible for all their customers to talk to them "personally" was what is needed. She then told me about the millions of customer service calls received daily and how the new recorded system helps direct callers efficiently to specific answers. "But, what can do we do for YOU personally," she again asked. I again assured her that I needed nothing personally at all, but merely hoped that, somehow, a more human and caller friendly method of communication with AT&T could be studied.

How about the increasing numbers of retired boomers who could be used as a first contact point as real human telephone operators? A new category of job that could be offered to keep retirees occupied with a small stipend, no benefits or insurance, but maybe gas and lunch money? It would be step above volunteer work, and a needed return to real people answering that call to customer service. Boomers could more quickly find out what folks want, then forward the call to that department. Imagine call centers in retirement meccas like Florida and Arizona, where the gals would work their shifts then get together for a latter-day version of the Telephone Pioneers for a social every month or so? Boomers want to stay busy . . . new technology could even offer a flex-schedule for these mostly tech-savvy golden agers.

But, nah, The Harvard Business School bean counters probably would never let that happen to the bottom line. They have already fattened the bottom line by eliminating the folks who used to answer when you called customer service. But, since you asked, unplug The Voice Lady and hire real humans to answer and say, "AT&T, how can we help you?" That is what you could do for me, and millions of other customers . . . . personally.