A Customer Service Approach to Being a Dad

Lately I have been dealing with the customer “service” agents of major corporations. I put service in quotes because often the service is a figment of my imagination. I’ve discovered that companies go out of their way to try to convince me that they are listening to my needs and that they really care.

It’s made me wonder what would happen if I started treating requests from my children in the same way that corporations’ customer service teams handle inquiries from customers. Here’s what I imagine:

I’ll give them several options to communicate with me, starting with my wonderful website, especially the Frequently Asked Questions section which will answer their inquiries: “How to ask Dad for money,” will be the first FAQ (since it seems to be the most popular question).

The second will deal with the normal inquiry, “Can I go/do ___________________ with ____________________?” Of course, the answer will be “Ask your mother.”

The final FAQ will be, “I need you to _______________.” Now since this is a directive and not a question, the official dad website will be designed to automatically kick the user to a completely different website equally lacking in information and usefulness, like the IRS site, for example.

The Dad service site also will, in very tiny print, offer a telephone number for customer service. In keeping with the corporate models, I’ll give them specific times to call. “The Dad service agents are available Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Indonesian Eastern Standard Time.”

When calling, I’ll make them negotiate a bobsled run of voice prompts and menus – icy receptions, twists and turns, all leading to terror-inducing voice mail dead ends. If they’re lucky, though, they’ll get to a live customer service agent, who will say his or her name is Dad, but odds are, it won’t be.

Rather than parental, the conversation will be patronizing, full of apologies. (“I’m sorry that you do not have enough money for gasoline for your car. I will be happy to try to help you. May I call you son? Yes, now about you not having enough money for your automobile, have you tried to turn off your car and restart it to see if the problem lies with the gas gauge? Okay, thank you for doing that. Now have you considered a bicycle? Oh, okay, I understand that you do not have enough money for gasoline for your automobile, is that correct? Have you considered…”

It would go on and on like this until the caller decides it’s easier and less time consuming to study brain surgery and go into medical practice than it is to ask the Dad service line for cash.

There also would be an online chat system. Of course, 2,346 other users would be in the queue and all four of the Dad agents would be slower than an algebra lecture, while still not really answering the question; instead, directing users back to the web site.

If they do eventually get to me with a need or a question, I’ll do like the real companies and offer things they don’t want instead of what they do. “Sorry, you can’t borrow the car, how about washing dishes instead?”

Or maybe I’d loan the car and let them stay out late as well. After all, life as a Dad is personal, not corporate. No websites or, 800 numbers are necessary. Instead, we’ll have face-to-face conversations with smiles and love. That way, I won’t feel so bad about saying no when they ask for money.

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