I'm not sure what has happened to customer service. I think it's floating out there in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Two recent incidences make me think that the old ways of doing things are fast falling by the wayside.
I'm also not sure what has happened to telephones. It seems as though the "phone" function is an afterthought, and that they are for web browsing, text messaging and running applications. Using it to actually speak to someone is a nice ancillary benefit.
I filed my Federal income taxes last night. They make it sound like the e-filing process is the easy way to do it. It is, to a point. To the point that you need to finish it, that is.
Just before I hit the "click here to send" button, I was told that I needed a PIN to file the forms with the IRS. They don't tell me what the PIN means or what its significance is, just that I need it. When the IRS tells you that you need something, you tend to believe them because there is no arguing with them. The phone number that was given seemed to be the best way to get it. After struggling with the slow recorded voice instructions, I was eventually sent back to the starting point, at which time the electronic woman told me that I could also visit irs.gov and get the PIN there.
The web site visit took me about 30 seconds, after which I had my precious PIN and quickly filed my taxes.
A similar experience occurred with the gang at FedEx. Maybe it's the "Federal" part? I have to send a package, and I needed to find the nearest FedEx location. Once again, the telephone option proved to be a nuisance, and like the IRS experience, a trip to the FedEx web site gave me the answer in less time than it took to dial the phone.
I think it's their subtle way to wean us off of actually dialing a telephone to get any sort of information. E-mail, web visits and e-everything are the cost-effective solution for companies to do business. They are conditioning us toward that, and they can do it in a way that aggravates us and satisfies us at the same time by providing an alternative to a solution to something that they know doesn't work. Slowly, they are getting us off the phone and onto the Internet as a permanent solution to any customer service or product ordering portal.
It's the kind of genius marketing that makes me proud to be an American.