Friday, 22 February 2013


This week I seem to have made an excessive number of calls to 13-numbers. You know: those calls to ‘service’ providers that have you pressing button-after-button on an interminable menu or dealing with the malapropisms of voice recognition systems. 

I'm still twitching and the meds haven’t kicked in yet, but for what it’s worth here’s 10 tips on how to survive the process. 

1.     Try to make the call on a day when on which you have few other life stressors because by the end of the call you will have accumulated more stress points than can be conceived of by the Holmes and Rahe stress scale. That’s enough to be going on with.

2.     Make a strong cup of tea or coffee. If your call is to a call centre that's likely to be off-shore, switch to anything containing over 15% alcohol. Keep fluids handy; humans function best when hydrated or you just may want to drown yourself halfway through the call. 

3.     Don’t dial until you have given yourself a good talking to. Prepare yourself mentally.  Deep breathe, remind yourself the call will be of temporary duration (okay, okay even if it lasts for hours, technically, it’s temporary)

4.     Have all your ID requirements handy (Account name / your name / DOB / password / PIN / underpants size /next week’s tattslotto numbers - get my drift?) Be prepared to repeat these many times. Many, many, many times.

5.     Do not be discouraged when your issue is not covered by the menu options. Pick a number…any number. Chances are the outcome will be the same.

6.     Think of voice recognition, not as a conspiracy against you, but as a source of customer entertainment (although it really is a conspiracy against you but you’ll feel better not nurturing that notion) 

7.     When you eventually get through and the company jingle blares repeatedly in your ear, there is only one thing you can do: grimace and bear it. After listening to the tune ceaselessly, be prepared to experience waves of nausea each time you subsequently hear it on television or radio. It is possible your ears may bleed.

8.     As you are transferred though an endless stream of customer ‘service’ operators, try not to be distracted by all the background chatter of other operators. Be prepared for your jaw to tighten as you repeat yourself again and again. Simple massage of the temporomandibular joint will assist at this stage. Please note that's massage the joint, not smoke a joint (although you might be tempted) 

9.     At some point you may forget what the problem was that you were ringing about. This is a common setback. You are vulnerable at this point. Do not attempt to get the operators to assist. You will end up with a 'friendly sales team member' and before you know it you'll have agreed to a contract for a service you don't need or want. Terminate the call and take a long nap. When you eventually recall the issue, unfortunately you will need to go back to Step 1. Before you do so, ask your friends to send good vibes.

10.  If you find yourself weeping at any stage in the process, hang up immediately and seek psychological assistance. Please be mindful that this step is the trickiest of all: Lifeline is a 13-number.