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LETTER: 'You cannot talk to a person'

Gordon Truscott writes that he is frustrated trying to contact a real person at his MP's office
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Dear Editor,

I consider our MP Lloyd Longfield as a friend, offering his version of service to those living in the Guelph riding. However, I am baffled by the lack of help to those who phone for help. You virtually never get someone answering the phone.  

I agree with the importance of physical distancing as a precaution against COVID-19. But failing to answer the phone? That's ridiculous. Longfield's new office could hold a number of staff at a safe distance, even as it remains locked up tight and the public cannot go in.

I have phoned dozens of times to 519-837-8276, the Guelph riding constituency office of Longfield. You first get five rings. I find this amusing when no one will answer the phone. Why have five rings? Then you get a lengthy voicemail suggesting the use of e-mail. Finally, you can leave a voice message.

Now suppose that you leave a message at the riding number above? Apparently, Longfield's staff will call you back in a few hours. Does this mean that you need to wait anxiously by your phone to get service?

So, if you get a phone call back, and you are outside, away, eating, or otherwise unable to take the call, what happens then? Guelph riding staff will leave a message that they phoned and then you are free to phone them back. So you phone a second time and you can only leave a message. You cannot talk to a person. 

Finally, someone phones you back at a time when you can take their phone call. Now that was four phone calls - instead of the possibility of speaking with someone the first time. I don't see any efficiency in this.

Longfield has a staff member named Frank. Frank told me that this new system is better. They can 'triage' the calls. (Yes, that's the word he used). He said that the messages can go to the best person to deal with them. He didn't have an answer, though, when the right person calls back at the wrong time for you, and you cannot talk to this staff person.

All is not lost. On June 5, about noon, I phoned to Longfield's office and got a staff person answering.  When I expressed surprise at this, she said that she was just passing through the office and heard the phone ring. So there, I got to speak with a live person - after dozens of attempts.

I should probably feel so blessed, as a person not ignored that once. I'm not aware of any other MP who uses such a retrograde, unfriendly and awkward system. Any business using such tactics for connecting with the public, probably would lose some business.

If it should be discovered that Longfield’s staff do spend less time on the phone, while working from home, will he adopt the routine of his boss, Justin Trudeau and give money back to the taxpayers and residents of Guelph? I am not holding my breath.

Gordon Truscott