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They’re never this happy.

I have the utmost respect for the family member today who, likely accompanied by thousands of others around Canada, spent over 9 hours on hold… And never got through.

This doesn’t need to happen but is the product of thinking about small improvements rather than the more painful, radical changes to leap frog ahead.

Even though this government agency is probably the most public interfacing of all government agencies in Canada, and while it’s implemented some features for improvements, it hasn’t done nearly enough.

For example, their call back service says you can hang up now but ends up following that statement with an error message. Was my number recorded? Was my spot saved in line? Will I get called back?

While the hours of service were extended, it wasn’t clear what happens if one’s on hold when these service limits are hit. The estimated wait time was off by an order of magnitude.

It was a mess. Sure, there’s been a pandemic but small things could have made it easier. I spent two hours on hold last week with one company but what kept my hopes up was that there was a queue that counted down.

Then, there’s the whole concept of bots and apps. If there was live chat, one agent could handle five to eight conversations and people interacting wouldn’t have to respond immediately or could do other work. With a call me feature on the web or through an app, one could potentially get a sense of whether they would be dealt with on the same day or at all.

One merciful response is to just stop taking calls after a queue is of a given length. “The average wait time is over four hours… it’s not happening today. Sorry.”

Worse, is that finally, when the line seemed to go through, after four and five hours consecutively, the call was dropped. What sadness.

This scene is repeatedly by tens if not hundreds of millions of people each year, calling different contact centers. We’re better than this as a species.

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