Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

'Hello, good morning, my name is Gavin Moneypenny, and I'm your customer service representative for today and I'm pleased to inform you that during the course of this call I will be looking for ways to improve the service you are getting from us if I can, and if I can at any point make your experience easier in any way, for you, there, Miss Kite, I will endeavour to do so, and to let you know, during the course of this call, what I can do to help you, Miss Kite, if I can call you Miss Kite, or do you prefer . . . ' Stop! I only called my bank to pay a small bill over the phone but after a minute of pure waffle we were still on the introductory 'pleasantries'. Not that I buy that these really are pleasantries. I know that the days are gone when bad-tempered call centre staff could take it out on the customer by being straightforwardly unpleasant.

All calls are recorded and monitored for training purposes, as they never tire of telling us, and so Kelly and Kayley and Hayley and Gavin can't do what they used to do when they were in a bad mood, which was to snatch up the phone and bark: 'System's down. You'll have to wait. Oh, hang on, it's just come back up. It's very slow though.

What's your account number? What? I can't hear you.' Click.

Nowadays, because there are thousands in Delhi who will gladly take their place, they have to be co-operative. They have to be helpful, patient, polite, chatty. They have to tell you their full name.

And so I found myself listening to Gavin Moneypenny (I've invented that surname to spare his blushes but his real one was equally silly and had four syllables) going to enormous lengths to explain that he wanted to make my banking easier, although at no point did he actually try to make it easier by just getting the hell on with it.

'Can I call you Miss Kite?' he persisted.

'You can. Now, where are we at?'

'I'm sorry?'

'Are you ready for my passcode?'

'Er well, now, we will come to that. But, you see, what we do, in fact, ask you to do first, at this stage, is confirm whether or not you have a five-digit passcode - that's before we proceed to asking you what the digits of that passcode actually are.' I swear, he said that.

'Fine, ' I said. 'I understand. You have to ask me if I have a passcode before you ask me what it is. …

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