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Why Do Companies Stick with Voice Menus? 260

Posted by Cliff
from the would-really-prefer-to-talk-to-an-irate-human dept.
eliot1785 asks: "We've all had to put up with this at one point or another — you call a company for customer service or tech support, and rather than getting traditional touch-pad menu options, you encounter an annoying system that wants you to 'just say' how it can help you. Invariably, the system fails to understand your input, or picks up background noise or coughs as intended inputs. After a few failures, you have to press '0' to speak with an operator. Why do companies think that customers like these voice menu systems? Is there any research to suggest that they do, or are companies simply embracing the systems because they are new technology? More importantly, when will they realize that the systems don't work and go back to the traditional touch-pad menu option systems?"
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Why Do Companies Stick with Voice Menus?

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  • by beavis88 (25983) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @09:24PM (#15986931)
    Your computerized "operator" is NOT my friend - just route my fucking call to one of your marginally competent live operators, and dispense with the virtual pleasantries already. Sprint/Embarq/whatever the fuq they're called now is the worst.

    Oh, and you damn kids, get off my lawn!

    *shake fist*
  • Noise level (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Trevin (570491) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @09:41PM (#15987022) Homepage
    My complaint about these system's isn't that they're harder to use -- most of the ones I've tried work well, as long as you use the limited vocabulary that the computer is programmed to understand. I don't like them because they're less efficient than the keypad for numeric input, and because (in many cases, though not all) you aren't given any option other than to speak aloud.

    What if you're in a busy office environment and you don't want to disturb your coworkers, or have people listening in to your conversation with a machine?

    What if you're at home in the early morning or late at night and don't want to disturb the other members of the household (roommate, significant other, baby, whatever)?

    What if you've lost your voice through injury or illness?

    I'll agree that for a long list of multiple-choice options, voice-recognition systems are a vast improvement over numeric menus. But at least they should all leave the option of providing digital input to a computerized system.
  • Re:Noise level (Score:2, Insightful)

    by _tognus (903491) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:01PM (#15987144)
    What if you've lost your voice through injury or illness?

    Would you be using a phone in that case?

  • by Joe U (443617) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:26PM (#15987285) Homepage Journal
    Amtrak's 'Julie' is actually one of the most advanced systems out there. It rarely misses a prompt and recovers gracefully if it does. (It even works while calling from a train doing 90mph in the middle of nowhere Iowa, that's an achievement all its own)

    Between their website and voice system, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Train travel is actually pretty difficult to book trips and maintain status, it's all the stops, and the literally hundreds of possibilities you can have for one trip.
  • Re:Real question? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moofie (22272) <lee@ringofsaturn. c o m> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:27PM (#15987288) Homepage
    I don't mind getting what I paid for. usually, when I'm calling one of these jokers, it's because I HAVEN'T gotten what I've paid for. Hence the problem.
  • by tulare (244053) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:12AM (#15987825) Journal
    Most companies simply transfer the calls, and if you get lucky, your account number might travel with the call.
    This is the problem with so many of such systems, as well as many if not most of the push-button systems. When I go through the hassle of telling a robot my 16-digit account number and then having it verify it - "You said four, four, three, two, zero..." - and then having the bot decide I really need a human to deal with the issue after all, it's damn rude and lazy of the company to make me as the customer go through it all again. One would think the companies would prefer to have the information forwarded to the CSR anyhow, as verifying account information over the phone takes time, and the more time the CSR spends doing something that a bot just did, the more people the company has to hire to fulfill a redundant role.
  • by attemptedgoalie (634133) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:27AM (#15987902)
    I work in tech support. I've been a part of the decision process that has watched us go from live pickup to a touchtone system to voice.

    I've watched upper management decide that we need to push people to the web.

    Well trained people cost money.
    Poorly trained people cost less money.
    Poorly trained people who you don't have to worry about accents cost even less.

    But make it hard enough to get support, and the support costs become profits when support is completely unused.

    Upper management has decided that the people who call support in the corporate world are not the people who buy the equipment or have buying influence.

    So, piss off the techies, and they just won't call. Their company will still buy from us.

    More money for the shareholder.
  • Re:Pulse Dialing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:33AM (#15987926)
    Perhaps you should go to the local dollar store and spend the 5 dollars or so to buy a touch tone phone. Or maybe a yard sale and find one for a dollar. It really *is* that easy. The only reason to use a rotary phone is because you choose to, and you have no one to blame but yourself.
  • by tulare (244053) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:19AM (#15988114) Journal
    Haha, I used to use a similar trick with the local cable company. They provide both internet and cable TV service, but because their TV service is a sanctioned monopoly, they're required by law to have a certain average hold time for 800 calls. Not so the Internet service, where one could grow old waiting on hold. But yeah, they both used the same queue, so guess which option I chose when I had a problem with my Internet service? And the CSRs never noticed that I'd pulled a fast one (although to be honest, I was actually catching THEM in the act of pulling a fast one, and working around it).

    That said, there's no justification for forcing anyone to give the account number twice. If the system can be used to route callers based upon account number, it can sure as hell pass that account number along tho the damn CSR.
  • Re:Pulse Dialing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:49AM (#15988207)
    My phone doesn't have such a switch. My phone has a rotary dial. If I want a 5, I stick my finger in the hole above the "5," and I spin the rotary dial clockwise till it hits the little metal hook and stops. When I release it, it spins backwards and clicks 5 times into the phone line. This is how I dial when using my home phone (obviously my cell phone is not rotary dial). So you see, it really *isn't* always that easy.

    What you aren't explaining is why you have such a phone. Is touch tone unavailable in your area (unlikely, if you have a cell.) Are you trying to save a dollar on your bill? Or is it because you like the style, or being "different?"

    I have the feeling it's the latter.

    Whatever it is, I don't feel sorry for you or that anyone should bend over backwards to provide for those who opt to use rotary phones. Technology changes. You should know that, you read Slashdot. At some point you have to let go, or deal with the fact that support for extremely outdated technology will be limited at best. This is not 1976 and expecting anyone (aside from, perhaps, emergency services) to make accomodations for pulse dial is ridiculous. And complaining about the lack of accomodations, doubly so.
  • Re:Good reasons (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:55PM (#15991392)
    I can't speak for everybody, but the only reason I get annoyed when I'm transferred is because there's no handoff. Once I'm transferred I have to start all over from scratch again. If companies would have some kind of tracking and ticketing system that was tied into my phone call, and if the representative would bother to take ten seconds to explain the case to the person he's transferring me to, I would never have a problem with it. But when I have to repeat my name, rank, and serial number half a dozen times because my problem is hard and they don't know who to send me to, that pisses me off to no end.

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