One way or another I’ve spent a lot of time with customer services departments recently. Banks and internet providers and router-repair people and others. It’s painfully obvious which companies have had the customer service police in and which ones still allow their staff to speak like human beings. Inevitably the ones who talk to you in Human are much more approachable (even if no more able to resolve a problem) than the ones sticking to a script that says they have to start every phrase with the words “Yes Ma’am”, which just makes me feel that they’ve mistaken me for the late Queen Mother (TalkTalk, I’m looking at you)
The language gets even more baroque when they’re apologising for something – even for something that isn’t their fault.
I recently forgot to cancel an automatic renewal on some virus protection software. Entirely my fault for being slow – and the company gave me plenty of warning that the payment would be taken. When I finally woke up to the deadline and asked to cancel the renewal it was as though I’d caught them climbing out of a ground floor window with a bag marked swag:
Dear Penny , kindly accept my sincerest apology for the inconvenience this matter has caused you. Rest assured that this matter will be taken in consideration for the improvement of our process and policy… Penny, we regret losing you as our valued customer… we’d like to let you know that the only reason why your subscription renewed automatically is because we wanted to make sure that your computer does not become unprotected even for a day … Thank you for giving us the opportunity to assist you … we look forward to being of further service to you in the future…”
and on and on. It’s not that I don’t appreciate being treated politely by the companies I deal with. It’s just that either they’re taking the piss (not impossible, I’ve had jobs that made me hate the public too); or they’re completely unable to communicate like normal people and need to get a better script. I can’t be the only person who reads stuff like that and is reminded of one of the great villains in English literature – probably not the effect they’re after.
“They taught us all a deal of umbleness—not much else that I know of, from morning to night. We was to be umble to this person, and umble to that; and to pull off our caps here, and to make bows there; and always to know our place, and abase ourselves before our betters. And we had such a lot of betters!…‘Be umble, Uriah,’ says father to me, ‘and you’ll get on. It was what was always being dinned into you and me at school; it’s what goes down best. Be umble,’ says father, ‘and you’ll do!’ And really it ain’t done bad!”