Virtue of the Small

A friend I knew some years ago had a web design business called Virtue of the Small.  I have no idea where the name came from, but I liked it very much. 

Yesterday, I called AT&T to have a phone line disconnected.  This is the telephone company, right?  Someone simply needed to make the note that I wish to cancel my service.  This no-brainer took me 30 minutes on the phone, half of which was waiting for a real person to answer and the other half was waiting (in silence) for the mysteriously long process of actually getting the line cut.  When I punched the right button to get the disconnect service, I was sent to a marketer, who, after being made to understand that I’m an adult who can really make her own decisions and who really does just want a disconnect, sent me on to the dark back office where they deal with those losers who don’t want to play the game anymore.

The most offensive part was the recording as I waited endlessly to be assisted.  Usually, such a recording will make clear that the company values your participation, and plans to be right with you.  Many of these systems even tell you how long the wait can be expected to be.  So why does the very center of this phone culture, the oldest and biggest and most experienced provider, merely give us a curt, “Our operators are currently serving other customers.”  Period.  Then this is followed by a lengthy encouragement to hang up and use their website instead.  Knowing it was highly unlikely that disconnect options are available on their site, I did not choose this option.

I may not be translating the experience in all its glory, but it was irritating in the extreme.  The problem with big business is that it’s extremely difficult to be self-aware.  The behemoths roll on of their own ugly accord, and human sensibilities are utterly lost.  AT&T, of all businesses, should have top-of-the-line phone answering and service.  Somehow, they’ve lost sight of that. 

At the point where your business becomes too large to factor in human sensibilities, cash in.  If your business has already passed that point and you’re still stuck there, do everything in your power (and more) to reconnect yourself and your services to actual human beings.  If your business is small and personal, count your blessings and be very careful in any growth initiatives that you do not outgrow your own skin.

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