Somewhere lives a computer programmer who should be drawn and quartered.
He/she would be the person who came up with the idea that the already frustrating task of making a phone call to a company and having to go through endless selections, menus and button pressing is lightened by creating something called “voice recognition.”
In case you don’t use a phone much or are otherwise secluded from the real world ‘voice recognition’ is a computerized answering program that is put in place by companies that have a horror of actually hiring someone to talk to their customers.
In the past this was done by requiring you to press an infinite number of telephone keys as instructed by an electronic voice. A voice that is the sister of the briskly efficient but cold voiced operator with the odd, screeing, four note Bosun Pipe whistle that tells you that ‘you have reached a number that is disconnected or no longer in service.’
This button pushing was never intended to be a convenience. This was a sadistic maze that resembles the old, old, joke about the house of ill repute that effectively channels the customer through a series of doors only to exit to a “You’ve been screwed” sign, never seeing a girl during the whole process. The process is intended to make you do anything but talk to a live person.
This cruelty was not enough. No. Now they have invented an Iron Maiden they call “voice recognition” which is a computer program that, according to the lying thieves that sell it, can understand the spoken word in Amerenglish.
They have created two voices to inhabit this thing. The male voice’s lines have been read by a guy who must be named “Bob”. He has that irritating high pressure announcer-salesman’s voice like the one that freverently urges you to “use your credit card” on all the TV infomercials. Him you just want to murder and would if you could. No court in the land would convict you
The other voice of course, is female. It is this voice we shall discuss. It really doesn’t matter since they both use the same lines.
The female voice sounds so bright and happy you suspect she has a scrip writing doctor who is an amphetamine specialist. I, for one, cannot visualize a human face to this female voice. What I see are the brown haired pretty women rendered by commercial artists for appliance ads. She’s a lot friendlier sounding than the telephone company’s woman who icily tells you you dialed the wrong number but don’t let that fool you. The end result is still the same with a demonic difference.
Before, when you had to deal with the button pushing, your coworkers knew what was happening because they could hear you muttering darkly to yourself while you hammered the suggested button code.
But with the new ‘voice recognition’ things are a little different.
Now you have Sally Sunshine telling you to “Say what your problem is.” and gives you several examples you could use except none are remotely similar to what it is you’re calling about.
So you gather your thoughts and part of you wonders whether to talk in a normal tone or perhaps talk a little more loudly…you don’t know if it has its hearing aid turned up. And while you’re getting ready to speak she gets impatient. She’s sunny and cheerful about it but still she says “I didn’t quite get that.” or some such so you know right then you’re dealing with a pushy, hearing impaired robot that is possibly suffering from dementia. As a matter of fact, “I didn’t quite get that.” is its favorite thing to say.
Even if you didn’t say anything.
But you soldier on…
On simple things like “Yes” or “No” she performs brilliantly. But god help you if she needs a number. That will result in a back and forth comedy of errors which she may or may not ever get right.
In frustration you hang up.
You realize, too late, that you now have to go through the whole process all over again to transact your business but duty calls and you go back to the firing line. Then some people are like me and we another problem.
Not all of us have the elocution of a Shakespearian actor. Some of us have diction of startling clarity but truth be told, most of us do not have this clarity and some of us even have small impediments, lisps, etc. This is my lot in life…
So you have to deal with getting her to understand simple commands and responses to her questions and all she hears are Mondegreens…
From time to time you realize that you’re not talking to a real person but to a machine…wait, it’s not even a machine. It’s a chip. A mini computer and you can’t help feeling like the idiot you appear to be…your co-workers are snickering under their breaths because you are trying to reason vocally with a gadget and the gadget doesn’t care in spite of its happy-puppy tone. The gadget won’t let us pass unless we tickle its electronic sensors with the right sound waves to trigger the circuit.
You have no choice.
Sally Sunshine, at any time, might pause for a commercial and ecstatically ask you if you went to their website at www/itainthereeither.com. to try to resolve your problem. In fact she does this often as if you’re actuallly going to stop, now that you have invested all this time, and go to a website. To “enter” that website they will require you to sign in by sacrificing your e.mail address so they can spam you endlessly. And fifteen or twenty mouse clicks later they’re telling you they can’t solve your problem at the website.
You know what it does then…
Sure you do.
The website advises you to call their Kustomer Kiss customer service number which will be identical to the number you called to get where you are now…
If you thought you could have fixed it at a website you would have gladly gone there to avoid this insanity.
You curse the cyber-woman most foully and she doesn’t flinch. She asks you to repeat yourself because “I didn’t quite get that.”
There is, however, a solution.
If you keep punching ‘0’ often enough and desparately enough it will wait until you are about to smash the receiver on the edge of your desk and rip the speaker from your speakerphone.
It will then, grudgingly, put you on hold and sullenly punish you by playing the latest CD they found in the three for a dollar crate at a garage sale, usually badly played classical music containing too many violins..
After twenty minutes of this it passes you to a human….