What will the new service be like? If a ship is sinking off the British coast and a sailor makes a distress call, the response may sound like this:
Automated voice: “Thank you for calling Bristow Search and Rescue Services. Please wait for all of the available options before making your next selection. If your ship is sinking, press ‘1’. If you are already in the sea and drowning, press ‘2’. If you are dangling off the edge of a cliff, press ‘3’. If your child is floating away from the beach on a pink inflatable dinosaur, press ‘4’. If you are stupid enough to go mountain climbing in the middle of winter, press ‘5’. For all other services, press ‘6’. To hear this menu again, press ‘7’.”
The sailor in distress, despite being lashed by torrential rain and hurricane-force winds, just about manages to press ‘1’.
Automated voice: “Hello, you have reached Bristow’s Search and Rescue Services Customer-at-Sea Department. All of our customer service representatives are currently busy with other calls. Please stay on the line, and one of our representatives will answer your call as soon as possible.”
There then follows what seems like an eternity of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
Automated voice: “All of our customer service representatives are still busy. Please continue to hold for the next available representative.”
Automated voice: “We are sorry to keep you waiting. Please hold. Your call is very important to us.”
Yet more Vivaldi.
Automated voice: “In order to ensure quality service, your call may be monitored. Please hold. Your call is very important to us.”
Even more Vivaldi.
Automated voice: “We believe you deserve the best service. Please don’t hang up. Someone will be right with you.”
By this stage, there is a serious danger that Vivaldi will run out of seasons.
Finally, a real human being comes on the line, speaking in that cheery sing-song tone used by hotel chain receptionists:
“Hello, this is Bristow Search and Rescue Services. How may I help you? [silent pause] Hello caller? Caller...?”
Postscript: More ideas are coming in for Bristow’s customer relations.
People needing rescue could be offered more choice:
- Those lost on a mountain top can choose the hot air balloon rescue complete with a Mother’s Day hamper option.
- “Please specify your helicopter size: S, M, L, XL.”
- “Rescue two adults and the kids come free!”
- “For the best prices, book your rescue well in advance.”
- “If you are not entirely satisfied with your rescue, please return it to us within 28 days and we will deposit you once more in jeopardy with no questions asked.”