Bring on the Honey, Honey

Bring on the Honey, Honey

When speaking to people who represent institutions, we frequently encounter the detached, scripted, robotic, customer-service speak that is designed to find out what you want so that it can be provided to you or not without the inconvenience of acknowledging that humans are involved.

The song is almost the same whether it’s the cashier in the drug store, or the cable tv folks on the phone. The music has the same sing-song melody and a rhythm that stresses similarly weird places:

“We WILL be offering same day service AT our suburban locations. You ARE required to REsubmit TRIplicate documentation OF your whatever….”

And the words are easy to remember:

“How can I help you? I don’t have that information. Have a nice day.”

In defense of these speakers, how would you like to deliver the same message about insignificant things, and answer idiotic to predictable questions a million times a minute? At least they usually get out something similar to gracious, albeit often forced through a yawn or tight jaw.

None of this is too important in the greater scheme of things, but sometimes the caller has a question that falls outside the boundaries of The Script. Many institution speakers don’t have the time, ability or interest to depart from the script and hold an actual conversation, so lacking that option- they become snarky and hostile. Callers usually respond in kind. The call is now ugly and unproductive. Bad energy abounds.

Recently Henrietta told me about her experience of snipping the hostile bud before it bloomed. She called to register for a class on opening day. The registrar was barely able to sputter the approved script for such calls, as she was already swamped with requests and holds and walk-ins. Unfortunately Henrietta had a few off-script questions, which put the registrar into an advanced state of distress and she became uncooperative and imperial. Henrietta said,

“You guys are really overwhelmed today, right? I know this is the first day of registration.”

There was a long pause. An audible sigh, and then,

“Boy, are we! Everyone decided to call or come in at exactly the same time.”

Henrietta went on,

“I’m sorry to add to that confusion. I know you’ll be glad when this day is over.” (hinting, perhaps, that this is only a temporary madhouse.)

The registrar sighed again, her voice relaxed into a slower pace, and in a different octave agreed that she would be a happy gal in a few hours, and so, what was it you needed?

My mother used to say that we’d catch more flies with honey. Is this what she meant?