Thursday, August 17, 2006

Why I Prefer Numbers over Words

Forgive me if I’ve already ranted about this.
Has anybody else noticed that automatic phone systems in call centers are becoming more advanced? By “more advanced”, I mean less intuitive and more obnoxious.


Let me relate an experience.
I called my phone company to cancel my long distance service a few weeks ago. I was greeted by pleasant pre-recorded voice asking me to say or enter my phone number. Since I despise talking with machines that will likely misunderstand me, I entered my phone number on the keypad. The machine soon told me something to the effect of “briefly give the reason for your call.” I said “Cancel long-distance service.” The machine replied with, “I understand you want to cancel your phone service. Are you moving?” I said “No” though I was sure that the machine had misunderstood me. I waited for precisely 15 minutes on hold before hanging up. I called right back. After entering my phone number again I said “change phone service”. The voice then said, “Our records show that you called us just a little while ago. Are you calling again because we did not resolve your issue on the previous call?” I said, “Yes” and was connected to an agent in less than 3 seconds who helped me.
Now I don’t know if the que was really just shorter when I called the second time, though I doubt that. There could be a separate “disgruntled customers” que that they send people to when they have to call back a second time. Maybe when Mr. Machine thought I said “cancel service” the first time they gave me a lower priority than anyone else and people that called after me but weren’t “cancelling service” were getting agents before me. Maybe some combination of those. Anyway, the point is that there was something going on that was much less intuitive than “first come, first served”.
There have been a few other companies/ agencies I have called that are trying this type of speech recognition technology (one was the post office). In each case it was maddeningly unhelpful and much worse than “Push 1 for your bill balance, Push 2 for … etc.”
Didn’t anyone learn anything from Jurassic Park? I thought the only moral that could be extracted from that movie is something like: “Just because we have the technology to do it doesn’t mean we should.”
Anyway, do you agree with me? Do you disagree with me?
I apologize for taking up more than my “quota” of quotation marks.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I promise I’ll stop starting … now.



6 comments:

The Shark said...

I concur that "Jurassic Park" should have been taken much more seriously. It seems like people have ignored its importance and focused on the whole dinosaur thing a little too much, which is probably what has led to its two (and possibly three) abhorrent sequels.

What would happen if all important cinema were viewed in such a skewed fashion? Why, if they were to make a sequel to "Schindler's List" and have a bunch of Jews running rampant in New York... no, wait a minute...

-The Shark

Nick said...

I just like that you said que instead of line. How jolly British of you.

randy said...

My "anality" (if that is a word) is forcing me to write this post. It isn't "que", it's "queue". There, I did it.

Jenny said...

Thank you Randy. I'm glad I'm not the only one ...

And Jon, I'm in agreement. Specifically when it comes to children's toys. Just because we have the technology to make a walking talking pooping doll that speaks six languages and periodically grows hair doesn't mean we should. Shopping for Lu's birthday present was a bit overwhelming--I mean, one of my most cherished childhood toys was a cardboard box. I loved it. The neighbors loved it. No batteries needed. We played with it every day for an entire summer.

Ironically, at the end of our roadtrip (14+ hours on the road with Lucy on the last day) Nick and I decided that the next time we do this, a car dvd player would be a good idea ...

JonnyF said...

I'm embarrased. Queue indeed.

I'm not anti-technology, but I am definitely not an "early adopter". Part of that is that I really don't like being a guinea pig. So maybe that's why I get so worked up about this phone thing.

On the subject of children's toys: I have also noticed the incredible selections of toys that are seemingly designed to make sure you don't have to play with your child yourself and/or to give your child ADD. Though, let's not discount all the genuinely good baby toys out there. We bought a little hanging wind chime to hang on Elizabeth's mobile for her to bat around...Genius! She loves it.

Jenny said...

I'm a fan of toys that the child does something to make noise (chiming mobiles, xylophones, rattles, etc.). I am not a fan of toys that make a lot of noise whether or not the child is playing with it (these toys usually involve batteries). But Lucy does have a few (gifts) and I must say she really does like the ones that flash lights and make noise at the same time. Ok ... just so long as she plays with her blocks too ...