For The Love of Automation

At 8.10am yesterday morning, I made a call to a clinic where I had an appointment booked.

“Hello, you’ve reached [clinic name]. Our offices are staffed on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8am to 3.30pm, on Tuesday from 8am to 2pm, and closed on Fridays. Please try calling again during business hours.”

When I was told during business hours that I should try calling back during business hours, I hung up the phone in frustration. I knew that once my work day headed into full swing, I’d likely forget to call again before 3.30pm.

When I eventually did call again at 1.01pm, I was greeted with the same message. Only this time, I listened long enough to catch an additional option on the end where I could leave a message. I left my name, the purpose of my call, and a telephone number that I could be reached on.

At 1.09pm, that call was promptly returned.

“I was wondering if you would be able to e-mail me my appointment confirmation letter now so that I can arrange time off from work,” I asked the receptionist.

This clinic usually sends confirmation letters four weeks prior to an appointment. However since I would need a few days off from work after this appointment, I wanted the letter as soon as possible.

“We only send appointment letters out four weeks in advance. We don’t actually send the letters ourselves. It’s automatically generated through the computer. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can do,” she replied.

“Would I be able to get a letter from the doctor?” I asked.

After a few umms and ahhs (much like my own), I decided that I would simply have to give my boss the dates now, and owe him the appointment letter and doctor’s note when I got them. I thanked the receptionist for returning my call, and she wished me a great day.

The reality is that many large businesses I deal with seem to go out of their way to avoid human interaction with me. As my mother often says, gone are the days where a business caters to what the customer wants.

Yet if I were the one cancelling the appointment, I’d be expected to call up in person, with reasonable notice, give an explanation for cancelling, and possibly jeopardise my ability to make appointments in future.

If I were to fall sick tomorrow, I’d love nothing more than to be able to send one generic mass email to everyone I had to cancel on. But in reality, I’d be on the phone or emailing every single person affected. They’d have an explanation, my sincere apologies and an invitation to reschedule.

If I can make that effort for free, surely businesses can be more flexible in delivering their services when the need arises.

A freaking letter shouldn’t be that hard…

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