Today’s Editorial for August 19: Answering systems bad customer service

Answer the phone already!

That’s our plea to the plethora of businesses, utilities, agencies, authorities and organisations that would rather have you deal with an impersonal computerised telephone system instead of human contact.

The upside of electronic answering devices is that the businesses, utilities, agencies, authorities and organisations using them are saving vast amounts of money on human things like pension, insurance, vacation days.

The downside is that, at least here in the Cayman Islands, a majority of the electronic phone systems in use are resulting in extremely poor customer service.

Some of the worst are the ones where the computer actually talks to you to take you through your journey to have your query answered.

A call to a certain Cayman Islands law firm recently went something like this:

Machine: Welcome to (firm’s name). If you know your party’s extension you may dial it now. If you don’t know the extension but know your party’s name, say it now and you’re call will be directed.

Caller: Marley Smythe

Machine: I’m sorry, did you say Barney Fife? Say one for yes or two for no.

Caller: two

Machine (in an over-friendly tone): Ok, let’s try this again. Please repeat the name

Caller: Marley Smythe

Machine: You said Barry White. Is that correct? Say one for yes or two for no.

Caller: No

Machine (sounding a little annoyed): Once again, please repeat the name.

Caller: Marley Smythe

Machine: Charlie Pride, is that it, Charlie Pride? Say one for yes, two for no

Caller: *%#$# expletive *&^&*#!!!!! Expletive

Machine: I’m sorry; there is no one at this firm by that name. Have a pleasant day.


We think part of the problem with those kinds of one-sided human conversations is that whoever programmes them doesn’t take into account the huge variety of accents in the Cayman Islands.

Those kinds of calls are exasperating enough, but so are the times when you ring a utility, authority or agency and get directed to someone’s cell phone and the call is never returned.

Just because the rest of the world has gone to automated answering machines doesn’t mean that every business, utility, agency, authority, and organisation in the Cayman Islands has to follow suit.

What ever happened with good manners and proper customer service?

We can remember the days of calling to the Cayman Islands and getting a real, live telephone operator. More often than not she knew who you were, who you were calling and could tell you whether the party you were seeking was actually at home or not. Then there would be short banter about how your and her family has been.

Government and business in the Cayman Islands is losing the personal touch by not having a human as the first responder to a human’s queries. We would be a lot of ill will on the part of the disgruntled customer would go away.

And things would actually get done.