The Big DumpTruck

Throwing Little Thought Pebbles at Your Windshield Since 1996

Customer Service and Phone VRS Heck

I just want to vent for a moment.

Oh, before we get going, VRS is Voice Response System. Or Voice Recognition System. I don’t actually know if that’s the generic name for it, but it’s the system where you are asked to enter account numbers, or say random things out loud before someone will connect you to a human at a company. Sometimes I’m okay with them, but other times, well…

I had to call the claims people for my flexible spending account. That’s the account where you can have money taken out of your check pre-tax for approved medical/prescription expenses. The website for my FSA company has a link that they say you can use to order the non-prescription covered items (Claritin, Prilosec, etc.) and that online store will automatically send them the invoice to process the claim. It’s been a couple of weeks and there’s no sign of the claim, so I want to know if I need to send one in manually.

The VRS asks for my account number, which it very nicely lets me punch in on the phone. But then it makes me say my birth date out loud. Um, why can’t I punch THAT in? I’d rather say my account number out loud than my birth date! Then it makes me answer questions, all of them out loud. I must sound great to the people within earshot. Why can’t they have the “Enter or say “one” for Yes” type of prompts. Okay, so I get past that and tell them what department I want, so I’m transferred.

Now in this new system, I have to re-enter my member number. Crap, I’d put the card away. At least this time I can just punch in my birth date. I press zero to talk to a human. A good 3 minutes after starting the call, I get one.

“Hi this is Angie, can I get your member number?”
“I’ve already entered it twice”
“Oh, you didn’t come up on my system.”
I mumble out my number.
“I suppose you already entered your birth date too, huh?”
I mumble that one out as well.

I explain the issue and she tells me she’s going to connect me to the company that actually handles these claims for them. Fine. I’m off to another company. They don’t need my birth date. They can’t find anything for me in the system. I am put on hold. For a minute. Turns out these people don’t handle the OTC claims, only the prescription ones.

“I TOLD the person who connected me it was OTC!”
“Well, you’ll have to call them back, we don’t handle that at all. Sorry!”

I call the FSA company back again…and Oh My God I have to go through the SAME HOOPS to get to the claims group again.

“This is Angie, can I have your member ID?”
“Hi Angie, you just transferred me to another company a couple of minutes ago.”
Her response is very cold. “I haven’t transferred anybody. May I have your member ID?”
“Wow, there must be two people named Angie in your department answering calls from people with FSA Claims issues.” I give her my number.
“I’m sorry, can you give me that number again?”

If you are keeping count, I have now provided my member ID number a grand total of seven times on two phone calls. WHAT THE HELL?!

“This” Angie has more information about how the OTC plan works, but she also seems completely unfamiliar with her company’s website, which contains a link to a special drugstore.com site that I’m supposed to use if I want my purchases automatically sent to the insurance company as an FSA claim. She thinks the problem is that the OTC website never asked for my member ID. As if that’s something I have any control over. “I can connect you to the department that handles the website.”

“I’ve already spent enough time dealing with this today.”

People, if I can give you three pieces of information to make me not hate dealing with your company:

1. Do NOT make me enter my account number/member ID more than once per call. If you cannot transfer the call when you transfer the record, do NOT ask me for the number until after you’ve transferred me. There was no point in me even entering it the first two times on each call.
2. If you have two people at your call center with the same first name working the same shift, make one of them use a different name, or use a last name. There’s no way I’m going to believe I was talking to two different people, and getting snotty with me is NOT appropriate.
3. Never ever NEVER EVER make me say things other than yes or no out loud. Ever. How DARE you make me announce my birth date in public! Pressing numbers on the keypad that correspond with certain answers is plenty easy enough to do.

So I still don’t have a clear answer. I’m not happy with the hoops I had to jump through twice for a non-answer, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to call them back to complain about the lack of info on the website or the horrible VRU experience and have to say my birth date out loud for the third time today.

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  1. Christine

     /  May 29, 2007

    All I can think of is that commercial where the guy mutters his password into the phone: “bigboy.” The prompt asks him again, and he yells, “BIGBOY!” and the whole train turns around.

    I had to deal with the bureacracy over at Leominster Hospital today — doc sent orders down for lab work and I got the old, “Well, this isn’t right” from the phlebotomoist. I was like, this isn’t my fault. Bring it up with the doc. Grrr. So I feel your pain.

  2. Anonymous

     /  May 29, 2007

    People that design these systems need a few courses in basic human factors.. Here’s an list to bypass IVRs by company:
    http://www.paulenglish.com/ivr/print.html
    GE Jerry

  3. Nicholle

     /  May 30, 2007

    I can sympathize, it seems dealing with insurance/prescription companies tend to be the worst occasions. I would definitely be writing a lengthy letter of complaint, and next time I’d end up talking to ‘Angela’ I’d be asking to speak with her supervisor.