The other night Martin and I had dinner with two couples we’ve known forever. As Paul stood over the barbeque, he mentioned that after he’d assembled this brand-new Weber, he’d found the lid was cracked. He called the Helpline.

An actual human answered the phone and said hello. Paul found it so surprising he re-enacted that part of the call. After telling this real person about the cracked lid, a heartfelt apology was issued (Paul re-enacted that bit too), and a replacement lid was sent pronto.

We all agreed this was impressive. It turned out a few of us had had recent positive Helpline experiences that had required considerably more finesse.

Natasha had called the Audi Helpline when the gear stick in her car became locked. She assumed with frustration that it was an electronic ‘snafu’. She was quickly put through to someone to talk her through the possibilities. They patiently asked her to check various things, to which she replied that she’d already tried all that. Just as they were about to organise an urgent site visit, she noticed her mobile phone wedged in the console between the gear stick and the dashboard, thus jamming the gear stick in place. As silently as she could (it was on speaker) she removed the phone. Problem solved! Naturally, she didn’t admit to this, but announced the gear stick had ‘rectified itself’. Did the Helpline suspect pilot error? If so, they didn’t let on.

Then I remembered I’d recently called the Apple Helpline. I almost hadn’t bothered for two reasons: 1) I’d be in a queue forever; 2) Being an absolute imbecile in this area, whatever twelve-year-old I was assigned would speak way over my head. But since I was locked out of my laptop, I had no choice.

I dialled the number. I was quickly put through to a young man who, with no hint of condescension, talked me through every step. When even that was too complicated for me, he asked if I’d be happy to share my screen so he could literally highlight what I had to do with arrows (yeah yeah, probably a hacker who now controls my life, but I’d called him).

During the process there was no audible eye roll (sometimes you can hear an eye roll). Maybe he was looking at his colleagues with a ‘You wouldn’t believe this,’ expression, but that’s okay, as long as I can’t detect the disdain. Apple should use the recording of this phone call in a Power Point (just kidding) training session on how not to condescend to idiots.

It got me wondering if the young people staffing Helplines might need their own dedicated Helpline after dealing with people like us.

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This is too funny. The other end of helpline calls – the end we don’t hear so much about. Of course, all your ‘human’ helpers were probably AI bots who have built-in abuse defence systems, but win-win 🙂