Can I talk to a human? Spain presents customer service bill

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. obligatory / əˈblɪg əˌtɔr i / (adj.) – required by a law or rule

    It is obligatory for all government agencies to send a detailed financial report.

  2. flesh-and-blood / flɛʃ-ænd-blʌd / (adj.) – describing a living person who’s physically present

    I think robots can never replace flesh-and-blood employees.

  3. a battery of (something) / ə ˈbæt ə ri ʌv / (n.) – a large group of similar things that are used together

    The applicants were given a battery of tests to make sure that they are qualified for the position.

  4. bureaucratic / ˌbyʊər əˈkræt ɪk / (adj.) – involving many complicated rules and procedures, which may cause delays

    It’d be great if government offices can change their bureaucratic procedures and make their services faster.

  5. labyrinth / ˈlæb ə rɪnθ / (n.) – something that’s very complicated and confusing

    My mentor guides me through the labyrinths of the corporate world.


Read the text below.

Tired of speaking to a machine when you call the bank or power company?

Spain’s government wants to end those nerve-shattering, one-sided conversations with a computerized answering service by making it obligatory for companies to offer a real, flesh-and-blood customer service worker when so requested by a caller.

That is one among a battery of measures included in a customer service bill presented by Spain’s left-wing coalition government on May 31. The bill will need the approval of Spain’s Parliament before it can become law.

“Customer service is a critical part of our relations with consumers which unfortunately and far too often causes endless headaches for Spanish families because far too many companies create bureaucratic labyrinths to stop you from exercising your right to service,” said Consumption Minister Alberto Garzón.

“These are difficulties which unfortunately waste an enormous amount of energy, time and money.”

The bill would also seek to do away with long wait times by forcing companies to answer calls within three minutes.

Providers of basic services, such as utilities, phone and Internet, will have to offer customer service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All other companies will have to provide customer service during working hours. All customer complaints will have to be responded to within 15 days.

The law will apply to all utility providers regardless of their size and all other companies with more than 250 workers or whose business exceeds 50 million euros ($53 million) a year.

Fines for breaking the law will range from 150 euros to 100,000 euros ($160-$106,000).

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The Spanish government passed a bill that would require companies to provide flesh-and-blood customer service agents upon a customer’s request. Do you support this bill? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you think your country needs a similar law? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • What do you usually do when you experience poor customer service (ex. call using a hotline, write a suggestion)? Do you feel comfortable with filing complaints? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What do you think are the pros and cons of being assisted by an answering machine? What about by an actual person? Discuss.