May 10th, 2005

Brazil Phone Madness

Open Letter to Companies

Dear Companies,

Please do not install one of those newfangled 'voice response' automated phone systems. Nobody likes them.

Firstly, we (your customers) are not entirely stupid. Just because we're speaking into the phone, rather than punching numbers, we don't get any warm fuzzies from feeling like we're talking to a human. In fact, speaking in flat, monotone, single-word bursts feels even less natural than navigating a number-based navigation system. If you want things to seem more 'friendly and human', here's a revolutionary idea; why not have a friendly human answer the phone?

Secondly, what are you thinking when you give us the 'open option' on these systems? You know, the one where we get to guess what the computer wants? "Speak whatever your question is, and we will direct you to the correct area!" Yeah, right! What we customers hear is more like this:
"Try and guess what our most common requests are. Condense these requests down to a list of one- or two-word options. Then choose the one that most closely matches your need, and speak it into the phone." It's like the world's most passive-aggressive switchboard. "If you don't know what options I want you to choose from, I'm sure not going to tell you!" Again, we know we're dealing with a computer. We know computers don't understand things like, "Oh, gosh, I was trying to switch my account from the $49 to the $43 plan, but wanted to add my son to it as well. Will there be a service charge?"

Lastly, do you get off on making us sound like idiots? A lot of people these days (for better or worse) call from work, or from their cell phone, or from any number of other semi-public places. We generally don't wish to subject onlookers to something like this:

Please, if you must use an automated switchboard, stick with the traditional menu-option driven model. Yes, we all hate them, and complain about them; but it's a benign hatred, one we feel in dealing with a necessary evil. Not the active hatred we feel when confronted with the chipper voice-driven system. If you wish to avoid hatred completely, please direct your attention again to the comment above in regards to hiring an actual human.