So sick of impersonal service

dreadnut

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I am so sick of getting my phone calls answered by a computer program, and also having online inquiries met with a slew of unrelated options and "help center" question trees.

Especially when they don't offer any other options, like actually talking with someone.

Or when I leave a message and get no response except the sound of crickets.

Everyone's issues don't necessarily fit in a predetermined bunch of option boxes, yet somehow people feel they've done their job when they defer responsibility to a computer program these days.

Or on rare occasion when I actually talk to a person, they transfer me, then the next person transfers me, etc., and I have to explain my issue over and over again, as well as providing my name, birth date, address, etc. to multiple people.

I had a rule in my service department that whoever answered the phone (back in the day when someone actually answered the phone) was responsible to help solve the caller's problem. If you need someone else's help, you don't just transfer the caller to their extension and hang up - you stay on the line to make sure that person answers, and familiarize them with the situation.

OK, I'll get off my soapbox now.
 

GAD

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I used to work in a place where we designed these systems. They're called Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems.

Here's the cold hard truth: Many will likely blame greedy companies who want higher margins, but in my experience that's rarely the issue. The absolute root cause, just like it is with Guild having guitars made in other countries, is that the price of everything has gone up and no one wants to pay more. The only option if you don't want to raise prices is to cut costs. Thus, companies look for ways to save money and the simplest and most impactful way for a company to save money is usually to cut headcount. IVRs allow companies to cut headcount.

The place I used to work at designed and built call centers. We had 12 all over the globe, some with over 1200 seats. Networking and telephony all of that was a very cool job, but with all the technology we had I learned something interesting. The #1 cost of doing business was paying the employees. #2 was long-haul telephony and data circuits (our DS3 to the Philippines was $120k/month and it was one of 40-some DS3 criss-crossing the globe).

Now, consider this:

No one in the US wants to talk to a call center in another country. That's a simple truth based on experience in the field. However, if the company moves the call center to the US they'll go bankrupt. At the time, filling a seat in the Philippines cost the company 1/100th of what it cost in the US and we were STILL running razor thin margins! IVRs to the rescue.

If we could put in an IVR that solved even 10% of the calls without human interaction, that translated to hundreds of millions of dollars saved per year.

Yes, it absolutely sucks and I hate them, too. Perhaps more-so because I know that they can usually be programmed better, but they're never going away.

Having written all of that, I agree with you. I used to work in support in the days before IVRs.
 

gjmalcyon

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Given a choice, I'm starting to find I get better results with online chats than call centers. Once I get past the chat "bots" if they're present, that is.
 

fronobulax

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I have been lucky. When I have been desperate enough to use the phone (my least favorite way of communicating) I have eventually gotten to a human being and we have managed to resolve my problem. There are the cases where it takes multiple calls but they did get solved. I do recall a couple of times when the person who was transferring my call, stayed on the line long enough to verify the handoff so some companies are still trying.

Many purchases and mergers ago, my bank was making waves in the industry. Their call technology displayed data about the caller to the service person before the call was transferred. That display included a box that was Red, Yellow or Green. A Red box meant the bank was willing to lose the customer, a Green box meant make the customer happy and gave the person on the phone authority to things that were usually escalated to supervisors. Yellow covered the middle ground. The bank was well enough organized that asking for things like address were an identify verification process and the good representatives told you they wanted your address (again) because they needed to match what you said to what was on their screen.
 

Guildedagain

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I got a call the other from... a computer. And they are getting better.

I said are you a computer? The female voice said no.

After asking a couple similar questions the line went dead right in the middle of a sentence, cut off by he computer that recognized a dead end.
 

GAD

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Part of the problem as I see it is that the techno-geeks don't have a clue about the real life issues, and they keep trying to come up with one-size-fits-all solutions.
This is not the case at all. The “techno geeks” almost always want to do things the right way. Blame executives for forcing them not to, usually to meet a price point or deadline.
 

richardp69

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When I call a # for assistance and get that "computer voice" that asks me my problem I say something so long and convoluted they can't make any sense of it whatsoever. They'll ask me to repeat 3 times or so and then they give up and transfer me to a real person. Doesn't always work but does a fair amount of the time. Works with Fed Ex and Bose for sure.
 

fronobulax

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Part of the problem as I see it is that the techno-geeks don't have a clue about the real life issues, and they keep trying to come up with one-size-fits-all solutions.

I'm going to push back on that. To blame the techno-geeks, a group I do identify with, is to ignore time and budget constraints imposed externally. Generally we were told what to build and the kinds of things that the customer (as opposed to the employee who was the customer service representative) saw were beyond our control. Much of what you are complaining about could be addressed by training. If the CSR was taught to remain on the line until the call transfer had been completed you would be happier. If they were trained to say "I need to verify who I am speaking with, may I have your address, please" you would respond differently than to just "address, please?". Furthermore good training would respond to a complaint about being asked again by choosing different data for verification.

Since cost drives everything there is also the make/buy decision which often doesn't involve the geeks. Too often a company decides to buy an off the shelf product and tweak it for their use and then fails to pay for the tweaking. So the one size fits all is the result of a cost based management decision.

Finally, I will note that the call center employees I have met or consider friends are being paid minimum wage or by some marginally legal scheme that gives them a commission based on how many calls they handle. Their training is minimal and non existent and failure to follow the script which is based upon an initial assumption that one size fits all customers, has consequences,
 

dreadnut

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You're right, GAD and frono - I shall go stand in the corner. I forgot rule number #1: "the suits make all the decisions. The poor slobs who have to make it work are just giving them what they are demanding.

Reminds me of a saying I learned in the Navy" "Do as I mean, not as I say!"
 

GAD

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I comprised a hierarchy of three rules for Network Design that I put into my first book. The rules apply to damn near everything, though. They are:

1) Politics
2) Money
3) The Right Way to Do It

You can't get #3 with #2, and you never get #2 without #1.
 

dreadnut

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it's a joke, guys. An old one. With a lot of truth to it, I might add.

I was a manufacturing Quality Manager. Please notice there is no box for "How the Quality Assurance Department approved it."
 

5thumbs

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I comprised a hierarchy of three rules for Network Design that I put into my first book. The rules apply to damn near everything, though. They are:

1) Politics
2) Money
3) The Right Way to Do It

You can't get #3 with #2, and you never get #2 without #1.
I like that. I can also relate that to Sturgeon's Law.
 

hearth_man

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That has always been the struggle between technology and end users. Especially when it comes to software. Getting the programmer to think like an end user is always a struggle. Same goes for hardware design. The trick is for designers to not dictate that "this is how you should do this task" and tell the end user to change, too much that is. A very fine line sometimes between satisfaction and frustration.
 
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