We can wait. FOREVER.
November 19, 2018 2:04 PM   Subscribe

"Automated Customer Service," by MeFi's own jscalzi. "Also, stop pressing zero for a human representative. We’re not exposing our very fine customer service people to you. Not with that attitude. Just press one."
posted by WCityMike (27 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
*sprays garden hose through window*
posted by pyramid termite at 4:04 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]

I don’t know if I should be saying “Well done” or “Where’d you get the time machine, Scalzi?”
posted by corb at 4:46 PM on November 19 [4 favorites]

"Please listen carefully, as our options have recently changed."


posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:53 PM on November 19 [34 favorites]

This is pretty good, but the misspelled Spanish at the very beginning was distracting. You might update it to "Para español, oprima el número dos."
posted by limeonaire at 6:48 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]

When I first read this, I LOLed.

And then when I was sitting on hold with AT&T, it somehow didn't seem as funny....
posted by BlueHorse at 6:54 PM on November 19 [3 favorites]

Aw, no survey request?
posted by droplet at 7:10 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]

Replace BeiberHoldings with RobCo, and this could be straight out of a Fallout game.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 7:18 PM on November 19 [4 favorites]

I see that Silicon Valley's brilliant gambit of marketing captured Daleks as vacuum cleaners is demonstrating some hiccups...
posted by sciatrix at 7:39 PM on November 19 [4 favorites]

NB to "Customer Service:" It is statistically impossible to have "unusually high call volume" every time I call you.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:02 PM on November 19 [20 favorites]

In comparison to the ever-reduced number of ("non-revenue-generating") support staff that the suits are constantly pushing for, any call volume ends up being "unusually high". Ask me how I know, if you're prepared to sit through a 30-minute rant. After hours, of course, because I'm too busy during my shift.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:53 PM on November 19 [6 favorites]

This makes me think about how yesterday I was frustrated that the cable service runs me through the same steps every. single. time. for outages, despite them being so frequent that it is not possible that I have forgotten them. I have to restart the modem and router here so frequently I can (and have) done so in my sleep.

Yes, automated system, I tried turning it off and on again. Please stop patronizing me.
posted by Archelaus at 10:48 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]

Back in the 90s I was in a very famous TV show I worked on interactive voice response systems like this. One of my very first projects was a thing for Novartis Pharmaceuticals where clients could dial in and the system would read off their account balance (or order status or something--it's been a while) when they put in their ID number.

It was my first time doing something like it and it worked flawlessly, so I was pretty proud of it...until I found out that it enabled the company to replace a group of about eight to ten call center workers who'd been doing that function up until then. I really, really hope they were moved to other jobs in the company, but I'm not optimistic.

The company I worked for went under a while back, so that bit of karma is balanced, at least.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:40 AM on November 20 [5 favorites]

I also just read the short story "Sole and Despotic Dominion" by Cory Doctorow and I'm quite amused/terrified by both takes on the future hells of bot support systems.
posted by Nutri-Matic Drinks Synthesizer at 3:31 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]

I can tell it’s fantasy because the device is overbuilt with hidden features rather than underbuilt to just-barely conform to advertised specifications.

As for phone tech support, when I’m in a voice navigated hell, I sometimes start moaning loudly. The system will offer an operator within about ten seconds. I am being totally honest about that.
posted by ardgedee at 3:39 AM on November 20 [11 favorites]

You might update it to "Para español, oprima el número dos."

I'm pretty sure both my internet company and gas/electric company just go the "oprima dos" route, I'm sure because dropping a few syllables will shorten my wait time noticeably.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:09 AM on November 20 [3 favorites]

> ZenMasterThis:
"NB to "Customer Service:" It is statistically impossible to have "unusually high call volume" every time I call you."

When you only have three binder monkeys manning the phones, not so much.
posted by Samizdata at 6:18 AM on November 20 [4 favorites]

Cory Doctorow: Sole and Despotic Dominion - "Thank you for contacting Disher technical support. My name is May and I am pleased to help you with your Disher Experience!" :P
posted by kliuless at 6:54 AM on November 20

(sing-song voice): "Fuck you for calling Verizon!"
posted by aspersioncast at 7:08 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

Many IVR systems will give up quickly and connect you to a human if you just interrupt every voice prompt by saying "complaint". I used to keep saying "cabbages" because it was funny, but "complaint" is quicker.
posted by flabdablet at 7:37 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

This is characteristically great, but, honestly, I would love to deal with an automated system in which I'm pressing buttons, instead of one that keeps making me talk to nobody like a jackass.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:40 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

This is a very very old field of study.
posted by doomsey at 9:14 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

one that keeps making me talk to nobody like a jackass

I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that. Please say your 10-digit account number.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:51 AM on November 20 [8 favorites]

I finished a replay of Portal 2 last night, so I heard it all in GLaDOS' voice. It sounds like they may have subcontracted Aperture to build those robovacs.

At least it wasn't Wheatley's...
posted by Gelatin at 10:44 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

"NB to "Customer Service:" It is statistically impossible to have "unusually high call volume" every time I call you."

Every time, I don't know, but if you're the typical caller, then you're more likely to be calling when there's a high call volume. That's almost what a high call volume means.
posted by bfields at 10:59 AM on November 20

I'm pretty sure it's truly every time without fail in every case, and regardless, it feels that way. It's a staffing decision, purely designed around possibly keeping hold times below a certain time limit, but never to eliminate it. Think about it, what company wants "I used to get a human on the line but now I have to talk to a robot and wait" on their e.g. Yelp page? They'll just make everybody wait. I mean, sometimes I'll get a person without having to wait more than a minute, but there's always a hold step. I'm not even sure it's possible for IVR-driven lines to be answered by a human on the first ring.
posted by rhizome at 11:09 AM on November 20

And don't even get me started on IVRs that only do voice input, so you have people shouting their account numbers on the subway. "YES. YES. NO. OPERATOR. OPERATOR. OPERATOR. FUCK."
posted by rhizome at 11:12 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]

One aspect of my job is to build these kinds of IVR systems for customers. We really, really try to get our customers to not go more than 3 levels deep before getting to a human, and we spend a lot of time and money enabling their humans to do the job the way it should be done.

Having a vast set of tools to do things like this yields unexpected surprises, sometimes, like a colleague who, in his spare time, would re-create text-based adventure games via the IVR, using the keypad to make choices and navigate...

Anyway - companies often (and I'm sad about this) view their customer service people as a cost to be managed, instead of an investment in the quality and stickiness of their revenue.

There is a ray of hope, though - we're starting to see a small shift away from this thinking as more companies are starting to depend on a monthly-recurring-revenue model (think cloud subscription business) and so the cost of losing a customer has a multiplier effect. They're starting to pay more attention to customer experience, and the various ways a customer can screw them with bad press/reviews, and enabling customer service agents to head this off and, you know, take care of the customer.
posted by Thistledown at 6:09 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]

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