What ever happened to the management idiom that answering the phone is a company's first impression to a customer'? That was the rule the boss banged into my head when I started working after graduating from Ohio University. I sat at a desk in a heating, plumbing, and air conditioning shop, waiting to find a real job. Mostly I answered the phone; most were customers with a problem. They needed to hear a friendly voice that had an answer to their problem.
Today, you call with a problem and you get a mechanical voice from an answering machine with about two minutes of instructions and questions in an effort to get you to the right person or department. That gets you to another electronic voice which may or may not direct you to a human being who may have the answer you are looking for--if you wait on the line for 32 minutes because "all our representatives are busy assisting other customers."
Off to India
That is if you are lucky! Chances are after talking to electronic voices and pushing the right buttons on your dial you'll end up greeted by someone in India you can hardly hear, and worse yet, can't understand.
That happened to me twice in one day; once with Hewlett-Packard, the maker of the machine I am writing this on (instead of a column on the future of metal removal and machine tools you'll have to wait until next month to read) and another from a General Electric financial subsidiary. Later that day, my brother in California ended up in the Philippines, conducting a difficult-to-understand conversation about frequent-flier miles with United Airlines.
I know I'm not telling you anything you haven't experienced yourself too many times, but I just had to vent. Unfortunately, it'll get worse. Studies show the fastest growing portion of international trade is in services. More than 500 major companies have IT operations in Bangalore, India, alone.