RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS: 'Your call is important.' That drives me mad


‘Your call is important to us!’ I’m not usually a hot-headed person, but that sends me into a white-hot rage, says RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS

I’m not usually a particularly hot-headed person. But there is one trigger that sends me into a white-hot rage. All it takes is hearing a recorded message that says ‘your call is important to us’ – after I’ve been waiting for ages on the phone to speak to a customer services department. 

When I hear that banal phrase, I get so angry that I want to roar like a wounded lion. 

It is outrageous just how readily a company will waste a customer’s time by not picking up the phone. 

You cannot be serious!: Does Virgin play the same songs on repeat as a clever ploy to wear its customers down?

You cannot be serious!: Does Virgin play the same songs on repeat as a clever ploy to wear its customers down?

Polite recorded messages and apologies only fuel the fire. ‘Your call is important to us’? Then blooming well answer it! 

You can’t say you’re experiencing ‘unusually high call volumes’ when call volumes have been high for months. 

Then there’s the crackly hold music. Put me in a boxing ring after half an hour of Virgin Media’s looped hold music and I’d knock out a heavyweight champion.

I wonder if Virgin plays the same songs on repeat as a clever ploy to wear its customers down. 

I phoned Virgin Media recently about my escalating broadband bills. The hold music was intermittently interjected with a recorded message that said if I just pressed ‘three’ on my phone keypad, I could have £1.50 a month off my bills there and then. 

It was so tempting. Just by pressing ‘three’, I could cut my bills, hang up and would not have to listen to Ed Sheeran warbling on for the fourth time. 

But I held out until I eventually got through to a human, and was rewarded for my perseverance as I got several times more than £1.50 off my broadband bills. 

Virgin Media would have saved a tidy sum if I’d caved in and accepted its first offer. 

But if you think I’m angry at companies that leave customers on hold, it’s nothing on how I feel about those that charge customers to phone or – even worse – don’t even provide a phone number. 

As our readers’ champion Tony Hetherington describes on page 128, even Revenue & Customs uses 0300 numbers, which charge up to 10p a minute from a landline and up to 40p a minute from a mobile, unless you have a phone plan that gives you free minutes; being left on hold is bad enough, being charged for it takes the biscuit. 

Applying for a GHIC, which is a free card that affords British holidaymakers free medical treatment when travelling in Europe, online is quite straightforward. You go to nhs.uk/ghic and fill out a form. But if you are not online or need help with your application, things are not so simple. 

Phone the helpline listed, and you are greeted by a recorded message that tells you that it is ‘not possible to apply for a GHIC by telephone’ and advises you to visit its website. 

The recorded message goes on to say that if you have not been able to complete the online form and need help, you should email them. Then the line goes dead. 

How dare they allow callers to be charged up to 55p a minute for listening to a recorded message that tells them to hang up and send an email. 

But that’s not my main worry.

My real concern is that people who are not comfortable doing things online are gradually being cast adrift from the rest of society because they are not given offline alternatives. 

It is not fair that people who are not online are effectively shut out of getting free medical treatment in Europe. 

The issue is increasingly widespread. 

If you are not online, it is getting harder and harder to catch a train or plane, pay for parking, or make a booking or appointment. That is not fair.

It makes my blood boil. I’d love to hear your customer service experiences too. You can contact me at [email protected] 

Or send me a letter: Rachel Rickard Straus at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS.

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