The Malta Independent 22 June 2021, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Customer care – Dealing with machines, not humans

Thursday, 3 June 2021, 08:05 Last update: about 19 days ago

Technology advancement has made things easier, but also more frustrating.

There was a time when companies offered real customer care. When clients called for assistance, they found a human being at the other end. “How can I help you?” were words that the customer heard after the human being confirmed the company name and introduced themselves.

Today, most companies have machines replying to calls and it can take several minutes until one can get through to a customer care representative. If ever. Because there are many occasions when it seems next to impossible to speak to someone.


“This call may be recorded”. This is, perhaps, the most understandable part of the recorded message clients hear when they call. It helps to safeguard the company’s interests, probably that of the client too.

“If you want to hear the message in English…” is another understandable selection. With Malta attracting so many foreigners, the availability of an option in English is a necessity.

But, from then onwards, it’s instruction upon instruction. Press this button if you want this, press the other button if you want that. You can also press so and so if you want to go back to the start. Many times there are too many options – by the time customers reach option five they would have forgotten what option one was, and probably that was the one they needed.

The options are sometimes worded in such a way as to be confusing the customers, who have to wait until the end of the list – often finding out that the option they need is not available. There are times when the choice to speak to a customer care representative is not even present in the recorded message. And so it happens that the call has to be ended and customers have to start all over again.

This process is so long that customers get the impression that the company is doing its best to avoid contact. Listening to endless music until someone picks up often puts off customers, for whom time is precious too.

In recent times, there are companies which take the opportunity to advertise their services while customers are waiting on the line. This practice is annoying. People phoning a customer care service often do so to complain about something, and the last thing they want to hear is the company advertising its services – which is probably what the customer phoned to complain about.

To be fair, once a customer does get through to a representative – a human being, not a machine – in the great majority of cases, they are extremely helpful and often they go out of their way to give assistance. They often resolve the situation in a very short time, and it must always be remembered that it is not an easy job to be dealing with disgruntled customers.

But then, why should be it be so frustrating to get through to one?

Companies that offer a customer care service should realise that the human element is important in a relationship with their clients.

Once upon a time it was said that the “customer comes first”. Is this still so?

  • don't miss