During the last few weeks I have sought to help readers understand the importance of becoming more engaged in the legislative process and a few hints on how to be more effective. I hope that as a result, some of you have taken the time not only to determine who is representing you in the General Assembly, but to consider letting them know how you feel on certain issues.
We call it democracy, right?
The good news is that if you try to reach your elected leaders by phone, a real live person will answer. All legislators have offices with live people who can answer the phone, take messages, etc.
The really bad news is that for most other state agencies, you are basically on your own. John Oxendine, during his unsuccessful run for governor, used to remind potential voters that if you called the Department of Insurance (which he ran), a real person would answer the phone.
Have we been dummied down so far in our expectation of our government that we should be excited and vote for someone whose agency will answer your call?
In the association business, one of the first things you try to do for your members is to find out the "secret" phone numbers that are actually answered in order to avoid the "push one for English" experience that often awaits callers seeking assistance.
I'm not sure who is winning the race to eliminate all evidence of human contact, the government or the private sector. But this lack of having to deal with real people extends to so many areas of our lives that I am shocked when I receive excellent service anymore.
In the private sector you can "walk" to the competition but we don't have an alternative in the governmental sector.
Of course now we have the "pseudo persons" who guide you through your questions, using voice recognition systems that ask for name, nature of problem, etc. There was a time you could overcome this and move back into civilization by pushing zero numerous times, but in many systems you get the "zero is not a proper response" message.
Who is paying for all this non-service? You, of course, the boss, the financier of automated voice mail messages.
I know that personnel costs are one of the first "cuts" that both private and government run businesses seek to make, but frankly the result has been much poorer service and a perceived lack of caring.
When I go on a hospital visit, I much prefer someone who can direct me, as opposed to having to pick up a phone on the counter where the person used to exist and wait for someone to answer.
Big banks are charging us in many cases actually to have a person take our money from us. I recently visited a bank in Florida where when you went into the lobby, you didn't actually see the teller, instead you sat at a console until they appeared on a monitor.
I'm told that we will all be doing most of our banking by mobile phone before too long, but until then any bank that has real people will get my meager dollars.
I think the same opportunities exist for other businesses that can fill this robot void. Of course, the world has changed. Young people have changed and recess, with all its personal bonding opportunities is dead. If you are used to communicating with others only through Facebook, the digital bank lady will probably be just fine.
The vast majority of people who call the government for assistance really need an answer or to be directed to someone who can get them an answer. Instead, their only option may be to leave a message and hopefully to receive a callback before the Lord comes again.
On second thought....
Enter your elected leaders.
I am certainly not trying to increase their workload, but I will suggest that when calls to state agencies are not returned to you in a timely manner, pick up the phone and call the one person who can still be reached and ask for assistance.
They control the purse strings for both the real and "pseudo people" you may meet during your journey for info.
And you control their destiny through the voting process.
So the boss is really calling. A nice thought as you listen to the Muzak.
Jim Tudor lives in Newborn. He can be reached at email@example.com.