Archive for March, 2006

What’s Up With Cell-Phone Voice-Mail?

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

I sent the following to the customer-service department at Cingular Wireless. Still waiting for a response. After I sent it, I learned that some people suspect the cell-phone companies of deliberately wasting our time so they can charge us for a full minute of voice-mail retrieval. Maybe so.

If you’ve tried to get customer-service satisfaction, through whatever means, I’d love to hear about it. Working Americans may not have as many rights as the laborers of other countries, but by G-d we’re supposed to have power as customers. Please send me your stories; I’ll be happy to run the best ones.

To Cingular:

November 17, 2005
Cingular Wireless
Attn: Jamie Carpenter
3201 Quail Springs Parkway
Oklahoma City, OK  73134

Dear Jamie,

I’m writing to urge Cingular Wireless to please do a wonderful deed — one that is easy to perform, and would help your company retain customers by saving their valuable time.

What is this deed? Shrink the length of the automated message Cingular customers must endure when we check voice mail — and the one that Cingular forces everyone who calls a Cingular customer to hear every time they leave a voice mail for that customer.

Today, each time Cingular customers receive a new voice mail, the company forces us to wait out the following message before we can hear the one intended for us:
“One unheard message. The following message has not been heard. First unheard message.”
I can imagine no reason that Cingular should make us sit through those three phrases Every Time We Check Our Voice Mail.

I recently switched to Cingular from AT&T. AT&T didn’t make me do this. It contented itself with “First unheard message.” Even that was more than enough. I knew the message was unheard. That’s why I was checking it.

It is not an improvement to hear three different variants on that message. Like many of your customers, I’m often in a hurry to hear my voice mail. Also like them, I don’t like it when Cingular wastes my time. (As it’s doing now, by insisting that I mail you this letter, rather than simply having someone in your poorly named ‘Customer Service Department’ record my suggestion and pass it on to the right person, as I asked — or give me an email address, as I also requested. Why does a cell phone company make its customers contact it via snail mail? Do you despise us? If so, why? What have we done to you?)

I’m sure most of your customers feel the same way. If you don’t believe me, why don’t you survey us? If a majority of your customers need to hear Three Times something they already know, then by all means keep all three renditions. Otherwise, please drop ‘em.

My other humble suggestion would save the time of people who call Cingular customers — some of whom are already Cingular customers, some of whom may consider joining Cingular if they have a good experience with it.

Right now, when I call a Cingular customer, I hear that person’s voice mail first (which almost always asks me to leave a message), followed by this recorded, impersonal instruction — which also asks me to leave a message, but at greater length:
“To page this person, press ‘5’ now. At the tone, please record your message. When you have finished recording, you may hang up, or press ‘1’ for more options.”

That message is at least one sentence too long. Every human being who uses a phone has dealt with recorded messages for many years. We know that we should record a message at the tone. And when you are trying to leave one in a hurry (as, for example, before your car or train goes into a tunnel that will break the connection), it’s infuriating to have to wait for a recorded voice to tell you something you have known for decades.

In fact, I would argue that the message is 24 words too long. “Press ‘1’ for more options” would be plenty. Then, if someone wants to page that person, he or she can learn how to do so AFTER pressing ‘1’ – thus sparing the rest of us an instruction we didn’t ask for and don’t want.

One caveat: If your customers really need you to tell them three times that they have an unheard voice mail, every time they get one — and if the people who call your customers really need to be reminded that they should record a message at the tone — then the automated messages you currently use are not nearly enough.

You should add new ones. For example, Every Time we open our Cingular cell phones, the phone should announce loudly, “To make a call, use your fingers or thumb to press each number in order. When you have finished, please hit the green phone-shaped button and hold the receiver to your ear, being sure to place the microphone near your mouth.”

Then, Every Time someone answers our call, the Cingular automated voice could break in before he or she says ‘Hello,’ saying, “You have now reached your desired party. Please open your mouth and make sounds in a language that party will recognize. Then wait for him or her to respond, and repeat step one. When you have finished the call to your satisfaction, you may say ‘good-bye,’ or press ‘1’ for more options.”

When we hang up, the phone ought to sing out, “You have just hung up. Your call has been completed. That chapter of your life has come to a close. You are now free to resume your day, secure in the knowledge that Cingular is always with you.”

Please consider leading the way to a saner world — one in which people can take pride in using Cingular, rather than taking offense every time they check or leave voice mail.


Bill Brazell
Cingular Wireless # 917-XXX-XOXO