Monday, 23 June 2008
The Nigel Kneale School of Debt Settlement
Because I had to pay my bill, I just phoned Anglian Water's call centre, which I believe is in the comparably fine (if rather more strenuous on the legs) city of Lincoln. It's one of those things that you choose to do first thing on a Monday morning so you can't procrastinate about them later in the week - I thought I was being canny. Unfortunately, I am now terrified in a way that I can only describe as being comparable to the edmotional state of the heroine of a Hammer Horror film about 75% of the way in. Their automated courtesy message - the one that says 'Thankyou for waiting, your call is valuable to us etc etc' (well, of course it is) - altered the longer you were on the phone. After a couple of minutes, it began to sound incredibly harrassed and claimed to be 'really' sorry that I had been kept waiting: I don't think I've ever heard an automated message in the throes of a panic attack before. However, what really made the whole experience worthwhile is their choice of hold music. I understand that selecting tunes to play in the dead time of caller waiting is difficult, what with PRS laws and the like, and I have been slightly irritated recently by the unoriginality and downright emotional manipulation of using Pachebel's Canon (Eon, or EON, or whatever they want to be called). Anglian Water, however, have gone the other way, eschewing the pseudo-calming effect of Classic FM recognisability in favour of deliberately trying to evoke an atmosphere of inscrutable evil. In a move worthy of Nigel Kneale or Ray Bradbury, Anglian have decided to use some crackly-sounding Wurlitzer fairground waltz to 'soothe' customers on hold. Utterly inspired. I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that marketing meeting. I swear I'm going to have dreams about being chased around some rural fair by a bearded lady screaming that she's 'really sorry' for having made me wait to pay my water bill tonight.
If anyone else would like to experience Anglian Water's inventive approach to customer services, please call 0800 1693630. As it's Glastonbury week, maybe you could tell them you're only 'here for the music'...