Sade, Smooth Operator
Not long ago I ranted about my inability to open almost any new purchase, from eyedrops to garden snippers, without drawing blood. Today’s rant is about customer service. To begin with, I think ad men should come up with another name—customer service is a contradiction in terms: customer is factual, service is not.
I remember that in the olden days, you thumbed through the Sears or Montgomery Wards catalogue, dog-eared your choices, and dialed a number. A human answered, took your order, and in a week or two your new underwear showed up on the doorstep. Today, there’s online, six-hour Amazon orders, airline ticket, sporty event, and concert reservations, prescription refills, and old-school mail order stamps. But if you should need assistance with a return, a flight problem, your phone service, computer, printer, medical care, television, wireless network, health insurance, or social security issue, you jump down the black rabbit hole of customer “service.” Heaven help you if you need assistance from the IRS.
Answering bots yap on how much the company values your business, then apologizes for your inconvenience, warns you to pay attention as “their options have recently changed,” flings you back into menu and puts you on hold, prisoner to whatever God awful sound mix they choose or even worse, subjects you to loud, non-stop sell about new products and services. If you do fall for their suggestion to leave a “call-back number,” sometime in the future you may (or may not) receive a call from a robot who will fling you back into the menu options.
If i could track down a CEO, sit him/her in a straight-backed chair, and tell him what we want, here’s what I’d say:
- Hire enough people to man the phone lines.
- Hire employees who have some slight interest in people.
- Impress on them that they are the face and voice of the company.
- Get rid of those auto-answering, robocalling, menu-driven, “Customer Service” lines and put a person behind the desk.
- Stop lying about your “recently changed menu options.” We know that you don’t want us to keep pressing “0” in hopes that we’ll reach a human.
- Kill the, “We are currently experiencing higher-than-normal call volumes.” Just hire enough people to man the phone lines!
Here’s my new favorite New York Time’s recipe:
Curried red lentils with sweet potatoes and spinach
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1 seeded serrano chile, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 (13-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 (4- to 5-ounce) bag baby spinach
- 1 lime, juiced
- Garnish with chopped cilantro, toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
In a Dutch oven or pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the browned sweet potatoes to a plate and set aside.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pot and set the heat to medium-low. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the curry paste, garlic, ginger, chile and turmeric, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the lentils, stock, salt and browned sweet potatoes to the pot and bring to a boil over high. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the lentils are creamy and falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the spinach and stir until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lime juice and season with salt to taste. Garnish with cilantro and coconut flakes.