Current Musings

Craving Human Contact

I’ve been noticing something lately. It seems no one wants to talk to you in person. The other day I stopped into the bank to deposit a check in person. There I am, standing face-to-face with the teller, and the first thing I hear as I hand over the signed check, “You know you can deposit this online with our ap?” I smiled and told her thank you, I’m aware of that. There was a part of me that felt like I was being told they didn’t want me to show up in person to bank with them. It’s a pattern I’m seeing in other places.

Awhile ago I called a certain company about some questions I had about their service and the first thing I reach is the dreaded menu. You know the one I’m talking about. “Press 1 if you have a question about…” After listening to a dozen options, my question didn’t fit any of their predetermined categories, and of course, there was no option to talk to someone. I pressed a number figuring it would get me somewhere, but that was a mistake. I was soon directed into another menu with even more obscure choices. I pressed a number and received a recorded answer that had nothing to do with my question. I was back to square one and forced to call back.

It used to be that I could press “0” and automatically be directed to a “a customer service representative,” but companies have gotten wise to that. Too many people were bypassing their frustrating menu options and simply pressing “0” to speak with someone. Lately when I’ve tried that it simply redirects me back to the main menu. They really don’t want me to talk to a person.

I can’t help but think how easy it would be if someone picked up the phone and directed my call. It would save me a lot of time, but I guess that is the crux of the issue. If I spend a lot of time going through menus, it doesn’t cost the company anything. In essence, I am doing the work for them of screening and directing my own call. I’m aware that it costs money to staff a call center and that it would take a lot of money to staff a call center to enable it to answer all calls in a timely fashion. Yet I still wonder about the cost to you and I when we spend all that time navigating menu options on the phone or navigating a website.

I know that I probably sound like an old person that wishes things used to be the way they were in the past – someone who grew up in the last half century. I can’t argue with the convenience of online ordering and having stuff shipped to your door. However, you have to understand that I remember a time when you would have to call in an order from a paper catalog and you would actually talk to a person who would place your order. When I went to the store in my hometown, the people behind the counter knew my name. Even at the bank they knew me, my family and likely knew the names of my great grandparents. There is something about human contact that is priceless.

Then perhaps this craving to talk to someone, to meet with someone face-to-face, is a legacy of the pandemic. A computer screen or a voice over a phone just isn’t the same as human contact. To see someone’s full face, to see them smile and greet you, seems so precious now. I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with age, but the fact that we went so long without it. It’s a gift to interact with people and I’m finding it’s important to connect with people now more than ever.

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