Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cooperating with others - D-minus [UPDATE]

Oh boy. Here it is. My third notice from Harris Connect, which has contracted with my high school to compile an alumni directory. They Urgently Need My Help. For my convenience, I may-- in fact, I really should, phone them and give them my data!

There are reasonable arguments as to why getting directory info over a phone is not a great idea. What about those of us with hard-to-pronounce (or spell) names? "It's not Smith anymore, it's Pastafazoola.... no, that's P-A-s-t-a‑‑"

What if my business website address is long and complicated? How many times have I been through this before on the phone?

"Noir-and-more, and don't use ampersands."

"Don't use what?"

"Spell out the word 'and.' It's Noir-and-more-b‑‑"

"Wait. Near and More?"
"Noir. N-WAHR. N-o-i-r."
"OK, n-i-o-r‑‑"
"What's that mean anyway?"
"Dark. It means dark. Very dark."

Even with US phone-answerers names get scrambled, and you can bet that the call actually goes to a firm in Elbonia.

But my real, and totally unreasonable objection is that I hate the telephone. It's a great invention for calling emergency services or punching in the refill number on my prescription for later pick-up. But the longer I'm on the phone, the unhappier I get. Having to jabber socially on a phone, even to the people dearest to me, makes me want to shriek. Or pop bubble wrap into the receiver and say, "Darn, losing .. connection! [crackle] Catch you la-" [pop!]

Maybe it's an ADD need for me to see body language and facial expression in order to decode what I hear, or maybe it's just an estrogen deficiency. Women are supposed to l-o-o-o-v-e yapping on a phone. I can't explain it. A disembodied voice coming at me while I look at nearby inanimate objects -- Hey, there's my eyeglass screwdriver under the side table! What's this unpaid bill that's slipped under the chair cushion? 2006?! -- can't tell me much I want to hear by that medium, except that my Lotto numbers came through.

I put each card from Harris Directory through a thorough inspection for small print containing alternatives. When, I wonder, when is the final card going to arrive? The one where they give in and say, "Oh, all right, you win! Here's the [website] [paper questionnaire] [carrier pigeon] you may use instead, since you obviously hate the idea of the phone!"

But no, they never give in.

After the third card arrived on Friday, I did as much giving-in as I am inclined to do, and googled Harris Directory for myself. Navigated their website. Found a page through which directory subjects can submit their particulars, which required that Harris issue me a password. Navigated back to their contact information, went over to my email and, feeling very virtuous -- look how much trouble I'd gone to in order to compensate for their inadequacies! -- sent them this ladylike and softspoken request for a password:

I keep getting cards from you REQUIRING that I get on a TELEPHONE in order to give you information for your directory.

I can't understand why you insist on the telephone and offer NO other options. I despise the telephone. If you'd given a paper questionnaire or a website, I'd have responded WEEKS ago.

I'm willing to do it online. Your site (which I had to google for myself. How many will bother to do this??) requires that you issue me a password.

Ruth Pleistocene '72
Golgotha High School
Harris ID no. PRO27-15

Their reply yesterday surprised me:

Dear Ruth Pleistocene:

Thank you for your communication regarding the Golgotha High School Alumni Directory update. Please accept our apologies.

In respect to our contract with your school, an on-line questionnaire is not offered. Please take a moment to phone the toll free number provided on the postcard we previously mailed to you, to ensure the accuracy of your information, which will be included in the upcoming directory.

Seriously? My school signed a contract that does not allow -- uh -- a more accurate method of data gathering? Now, does this mean it's my school that's to blame? Or do I still blame Harris for -- could it be? -- charging more for using other methods?

Paper questionnaires are labor-intensive to process, but online questionnaires?? Why would it cost them more for me to type in the correctly spelled names and urls, than for the Elbonian operator to type it in from my spelling it over the phone? Can't they outsource online data processing to the same Elbonian firm just as cheaply as they can the toll-free number? And get a more accurate product?

Meanwhile, they now know my address is correct. They even have my email addy. That will have to do.

UPDATE 12/20/07 (if anybody scrolls back this far!) : I won! Sort of.

I emailed back:

OK, I guess i need to blame

my alumni association for this idiotic

decision not to contract with you to get

my data via any form but the phone.

Did they allow any provision for

hearing-impaired alumni?? Are such

alumni just out of luck?

I am not phoning. My names and data

are impossible to spell correctly, as

are the particulars of my web address.

Here is my basic data. Include it, don't

include it, I don't care!


I am in receipt of a genuine, authentic snail-mail letter confirming the

biographical info I had emailed. But no reply, either there or via email,

in return to my question about how they accommodate the

hearing-impaired. A simple email address would at least let all

alumni make contact with that or any other question.

1 comment:

ronnie said...

First of all, PREACH IT, SISTER! I hated - hated the telephone long before I ever went deaf.

Secondly, it never ceases to amaze me when marketers or alleged customer service departments don't take into account that not everyone is able to use the telephone. When I was deaf, using a phone meant going through TTY, a clumsy, time-consuming process that involved using a go-between operator. On top of that, new tech has made TTYs nearly obsolete for many deaf people now - I know deaf people who don't even own one. They text message and email to get things done. Why bother with a TTY operator go-between?

Even now that I have the CI, the telephone can be excruciatingly difficult to use, especially when calling call centres or customer service lines. Those guys speak extremely fast with a prepared musical patter ("GoodafternoonWelcometoTelcoMynameisStevenHowcanIhelpyoutodayyyyyy?") which is almost incomprehensible to the hearing-impaired.

And like you, I've sent similar emails and gotten a "sorry, sucks to be you, please call us to discuss your problem" email in return.

Long story short - telephone-only options are stupid, short-sighted and frustrating.