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Communications

Get Out of Voice Menu Pergatory 343

renx99 writes "I don't know about you, but I hate calling tech support, and the worst if the wait. Paul English felt the same way and has put together a list of shortcuts on how to get to a human quickly. If enough people bypass these phone systems, maybe the big companies will finally get a clue and start providing real customer service again..."
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Get Out of Voice Menu Pergatory

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  • IVR Guide (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:28PM (#14108695) Homepage
    If enough people bypass these phone systems, maybe the big companies will finally get a clue and start providing real customer service again

    Or, big companies will simply introduce more sophisticated system. I think people get carried away and forget who is still behind and in control of the system.

    And I do believe companies do want to provide real customer service, this whole phone system thing is merely herding clueless customers to designated areas, it's not going (and unable) to answer questions anyway, you will eventually talk to a human being.

    Moreover, some companies already have their own IVR guide, for example a bank here [maybank2u.com.my], this is something to be encouraged.
    • Re:IVR Guide (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ReverendHoss ( 677044 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:47PM (#14108800)
      "Or, big companies will simply introduce more sophisticated system. I think people get carried away and forget who is still behind and in control of the system."

      Unfortunately, there's a ceiling on how advanced the systems can get. If things seem to be getting completely FUBARed, there has to be a choice made on what the default is. If the input completely flies in the face of what the program is expecting, the system designer has to make a choice as to how he handles the customer. Short of a call system capable of passing a Turing test, he can either A) drop the call and say "I'm sorry, the system can't figure out what you are doing. Tough. *click*" or B) pass the call on to a human who can intelligently handle the situation. I'm willing to bet in 99% of the situations where five '0' presses result in five "I'm sorry, that's not a valid option" replies, and the sixth connects to an agent, it's the system playing it safe.

      Random button smashing usually denotes a fed-up, pissed off customer, and that's the last kind of customer you want the system to simply give up on.
      • "Random button smashing usually denotes a fed-up, pissed off customer, and that's the last kind of customer you want the system to simply give up on."
        Evidently you don't work in customer service. Fed-up, pissed off people are who I don't want to talk to. Also, stupid people are who I don't want to talk to. Obviously, a phone system is going to end up controlled by the owners who want to make profit, so step one is for customers to quit businesses that provide poor service, stating poor service as the reason
        • "Evidently you don't work in customer service. Fed-up, pissed off people are who I don't want to talk to. Also, stupid people are who I don't want to talk to. "

          I can see how someone on the front lines wouldn't want to talk to them, but (as you've said) the executives paying for the system want the system to cost them as little as possible, and make them as much as possible. Making them as much as possible usually means keeping customers, even if they infuriate their customer service reps.

          As for stu
          • Re:IVR Guide (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jonbrewer ( 11894 )
            executives paying for the system want the system to cost them as little as possible, and make them as much as possible. Making them as much as possible usually means keeping customers, even if they infuriate their customer service reps.

            Customers needing to circumvent voice systems could be costing a company more money in customer service costs than they generate in profit. A large faceless corporation peddling commodity products might be advised to let such customers take their business elsewhere.
        • by v0x0j ( 99584 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @05:01PM (#14109170)
          Evidently you don't work in customer service. Fed-up, pissed off people are who I don't want to talk to. Also, stupid people are who I don't want to talk to.

          I hear you. I am a doctor, and I just hate talking to sick people. They always whine that something hurts, or even worse - they bleed all over you. Geez, if you want to talk to someone, just make sure that you don't have bones sticking out of you.

    • Telus (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Recent Canadian privacy punching-bag Telus has already implemented a policy along these lines. Their new "Genesis IP Phone System" orders calls by priority, giving "High Value" customers a faster response time than "Low Value" customers. People who pay more, get better service.

      This works best when customers clearly identify themselves to the IVR on the way in. It changes dynamically however when a customer simply "pounds zero" or makes other attempts to avoid the recognition system, by making them the

    • Is there a compiled list of these IVR guides (not the story's link) like that bank link? It would be nice to print them out or bookmark them for references.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Problem is, for some companies, once you connect to a human, all you get is someone reading off a flow chart.

    I wish customer service wasn't dead....
  • Too bad... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Red Samurai ( 893134 )
    It only applies to those in the US. Maybe others should start working on lists for their own countries...
    • Re:Too bad... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
      I've spent a lot of time on the 'phone to Apple customer services in the past few weeks (my Powerbook broke a bit, I sent it in, they fixed that bit but broke it more seriously - as in, it crashes after a few hours and refuses to reboot - I sent it in again, they tightened the hinges, but didn't make address the problem, I'm now waiting for them to take it in again, after they screwed up the UPS dispatch that was meant to collect it earlier this week). They answer the 'phone quite quickly, but then keep yo
  • by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:34PM (#14108732)
    for a blow on the head with a blunt object press 1,

    for a poke in the eye with a sharp stick press 2

    ...

    for another menu of annoying options, press 9.

  • Not all evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lurch84 ( 889236 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:36PM (#14108737)
    Generally speaking, yes automated tech support systems suck. I've used a few though that didn't actually try to solve my problem, but rather just wanted to figure out what my problem was so it could send it off to the appropriate branch of tech support. The voice recognition ones worked especially well in that purpose. And in cases like these if your problem falls into one of those hard-to-classify areas, the system dishes you off to a representative right away, rather than having to go through 4 levels of menus just to hit '0'.

    Then again, maybe I'm the exception

    • I hate the voice commands when they're asking you to say a number. The system only works some of the time while pressing the damn button always works.

      Companies should spend more time trying to improve customer service. A lot of companies people deal with on a daily basis have no stores or salesman. The only interaction between the customers and the company is through customer service. As more industries sell items that might as well be a commodity, what will separate them in the future is loyalty brough
    • The BT customer service (UK, so all you foreigners may not understand some of what I'm on about) is brilliant. If there's a free rep, you press the 'get me a human being' option, or you hung up midway through a previous call, then you get connected directly to a human.

      If not, you get the automated system which covers every option under the sun and deals with things automatically. Whilst reporting a phone fault, all you had to do was key in the appropriate number and the system automatically line tested, dec
  • Sure thing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CapnGrunge ( 233552 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:37PM (#14108745) Homepage
    First, PHBs will always consider tech support an expense. so they will easily cheap out and exploit the most out of the least IT monkeys. Been there :)

    Voice menu cuts expenses. In addition, tech monkeys will probably not have to guide step by step the granny that doesn't know how to configure her outlook.

    Now there are customers that will happily hang you on line for hours just so their problem be solved quickly; don't even think of telling the customer that the problem is somewhere else.

    As long as terms and limits of service are established and understood by both parties, you'll get poor service and support jobs will always be underpaid.
  • A Rather Clean List (Score:4, Interesting)

    by skoryky ( 592165 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:39PM (#14108752)
    I think I read somewhere that on some voice menu systems, a swear word will get you connected to a human. I definitely tried it once, and it did indeed work.
    • They've been trying out new voice recognition technologies that do stress analysis and if you sound pissed off, you get sent to a cust rep sooner rather than later.

      So, while I don't know about swearing, I think its likely that might work on the newer systems.

      What I'd really like is the option to turn off their mind numbing Muzak
      Please press Star (*) to disable Muzak
    • by Basehart ( 633304 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:26PM (#14109013)
      "I think I read somewhere that on some voice menu systems, a swear word will get you connected to a human. I definitely tried it once, and it did indeed work."

      Cool, so all we need to do is say "fuck" in Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sindhii, Tamill, Telugu and Urdu.
  • Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by opusman ( 33143 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:40PM (#14108758) Homepage
    Now if only they had a way to get to a human that wasn't in a call centre in India...
    • Re:Great (Score:5, Interesting)

      by crabpeople ( 720852 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:05PM (#14108884) Journal
      its ok. they dont want to take your calls [sfgate.com] either.

      "Das, who quit the job after four months, said she learned to dislike Americans. "Rarely, there are people who are good," she said by e-mail, "but then others remind me that all they believe in is cursing, and they don't have respect for others.""

      two sides to every coin my friend

      • Wow, ever thought of re-directing their anger to the CEOs and Managers who took the decision to outsource those jobs in the first place?

    • Now if only they had a way to get to a human that wasn't in a call centre in India...

      Actually, my experience (as a Sprint PCS customer) with call centres in India has been positive. It's the workers in the US who are clueless. I'm not sure if this is still the case, but it was a couple of years ago. Since then I have been more reluctant to call customer service because the wait times can be ridiculous.
      • Re:Great (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kadin2048 ( 468275 )
        Yeah, I agree with this. While I'm not necessarily a fan of the whole third-world-outsourcing phenomenon in general, just because you get someone in a call center in Calcutta or Bangalore doesn't mean that the service is going to be any worse than it would if you got someone in America. And based on my experience, their English is often better, and they're loads more polite.

        My latest experience was with Comcast, which does have a U.S.-based call center, and I found the reps to be obnoxious, rude, and prone
  • A return to some mythical golden age when you could call customer service and a highly qualified person would pick up the phone and solve your problem instantly, for no charge, is NOT going to happen, for reasons that should be obvious.

    I don't mind automated systems, most of the time. Given the choice between waiting 10 minutes for a human to take my call, and an automated system instantly picking up, I'll take the latter. 90 percent of the time, the automated system is perfectly adequate, and a lot of time
    • It depends a lot on the company you are interacting with. My hosting company is a small business. If I have a problem, I can email or bing-bong the CEO or the CTO, and they fix it. Not only do they fix it, but they fix it quickly, efficiently, and politely, and if it's their fault then they tend to offer a refund. Last month they had a system failure which caused them to overbill me slightly for bandwidth (a power distributor blew, and it broke the machine doing the bandwidth accounting). Their respons
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:41PM (#14108763) Homepage
    Left, Up, Left, Left, A, B, Y, Select, Start
  • by broken ( 1648 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:42PM (#14108767)
    Get out of spelling pergatory... Get an automated spell checker already! =)
  • Say there are 5 real human operators at the end of the line, and everyone uses these little tricks to get hold of them. Well you're still not going to get to a human more quickly. You'll either be put on hold for a much longer period of time, or be told to call back. The company still isn't going to hire more people, you're just clogging it up for thoese that genuninely need to interact with a human being because what they want to do is not one of the standard menu options.
    • Well, the company is not going to care until the 5 human operators start to process account cancelation requests non-stop. Then they will either go under or open a big customer service call center in Bay Area (where else can you find people who speak without an accent but can understand every one else perfectly?).

      I always genuinely need to interact with a human being. It's the company's job to know their product and mine to just use it. I am going to explain what I want in natural language and THEY can figu
  • by Basehart ( 633304 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:44PM (#14108781)
    Throughout 2003 and 2004 I had a cellphone account with AT&T Wireless here in Seattle.

    Everytime my bill would show up with more charges than I expected (i.e. every month) I'd call the 800 number and would have to listen to many many many minutes of a woman with a croaky "I'm so up-beat and busy I'm losing my voice" voice talk about all the really great services that AT&T Wireless had to offer, all put to some jangly disgusting up-beat "boy band" pop soundtrack.

    They used the same voice and music for almost two years and I swear it nearly drove me insane.

    The problem was there was no way to avoid having to listen to croaky becuase you had to listen attentively for a human to pick up the call and feebly attempt to fix the problem.

    Sometimes I'd have to listen to this stuff for 20 or thirty minutes at a time.

    There is a happy ending however. AT&T Wireless got bought by Cingular and the croaky voice, and music, have gone forever because all the bugs with my bill seem to have been fixed so I don't have to call anymore.

    Thank you to whoever fixed my bill.
  • FedEx (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gray Elf ( 153941 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:46PM (#14108797)
    Oddly enough swearing at the voice recognition software also helps. Telling the system at FedEx to "Give me a Damn person," will drop you a customer representative. And it feels good.
  • The worst (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Moby Cock ( 771358 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:49PM (#14108810) Homepage
    I have some issues with my broadband provider from time to time and have to call tech support. The automated message has me enter in my account number before having me directed to the correct operator. At that point the guy (or girl) at the other end asks me for my account number. It drives me nuts. I have found a few short cuts to get to an operator now and use them, but for a while I was entering in random numbers and it seemed to have no effect. Why implement such a system?
    • FYI that's not the worst, but my guess is you get connected to the debt department if you enter an account number which is delinquent or whatever, thereby bypassing the beleaguered support folks.
    • Re:The worst (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Phroggy ( 441 ) *
      A DSL ISP I used to work for would ask customers to enter their DSL phone number, and that was the first thing we'd ask for when answering the phone as well. Why? Because more often than not, the software to automatically pop up their account info didn't work. Why? Because the company spent bajillions of dollars contracting somebody the CEO played golf with (or something) to build the software, and it would have cost bajillions more to get them to fix it.
    • Re:The worst (Score:3, Informative)

      by SeaFox ( 739806 )
      The automated message has me enter in my account number before having me directed to the correct operator. At that point the guy (or girl) at the other end asks me for my account number. It drives me nuts....Why implement such a system?

      The phone system might have been set up for software that doesn't exist anymore or is not used in all locations. I worked for a company where this happened. The phone system asked you for the phone number on the account and then I asked them for the same thing. When the compa
  • UK numbers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EvilMonkeySlayer ( 826044 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:49PM (#14108811) Journal
    Are there any lists like this for the UK?

    Rant enabled:
    There is nothing I hate more than being redirected to a call centre in India or somesuch to someone who can barely understand what I say and I can barely understand what they say.
    This is especially more important when i'm wanting to query a company on something complex that cannot be answered by them reading out an answer from a list of questions and answers. The moment you ask them a question that's not on their list it's headbanging against wall time as you hope to be transferred to someone in the English speaking world.
    I'm not against call centres, infact curiously enough I recently got redirected to one in the USA (it may have been Canada) recently and they were able to get the answers I needed. I just hate the ones where I get redirected to a non-native English speaking country where they're reading from a script essentially.

    I think the truly aggravating thing about this is that often you're on a phone line that's costing you (or the company you work for) money and the company you're calling are profiting from the call, it's actually in their best interests to get you on the line waiting longer.
    • Re:UK numbers? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Grey_14 ( 570901 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:01PM (#14108868) Homepage
      As someone who works in a callcenter (In Canada, not india), I can tell you it's NOT usually in their best interests to keep you on hold, Most places are rated on their volume of call's, Not the time of them, in fact it's considered bad to have a long call time. though yes, I have heard a lot of complaints about indian call centers, ("Oh thank god you speak american!"), Also there are a lot of people just reading scripts, and a lot of people who actually know what they are doing, it's hit or miss.
      • by Echnin ( 607099 )
        When I was 15 or so, I helped a friend set up her family's ADSL connection. They'd chosen an ISP which I wouldn't have recommended myself, so I innocently inquired why they'd chosen it. The mother says, "Oh, I work for them, so we get a pretty good price", upon which I ask "Oh really? What do you do there?" "I'm in tech support." ... "Oh..." She must have sensed what I was thinking, because she blurted out "Uhm, you see, we haven't gotten the scripts for this yet." Kinda says something about the tech suppor
    • The only one I know is for the Filmworks. They recently enabled their stupid 'speak to the menu' solution, and it couldn't understand Batman Begins. So I dialed back and just tried saying 'operator' at the prompt. I was immediately transfered to a real live human... and shortly after that I was begging to be put back through to the machine :(
  • NPR story (Score:3, Informative)

    by BushCheney08 ( 917605 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:50PM (#14108820)
    NPR's Morning Edition did a story on this guy yesterday (listen linky [npr.org]). They had a few on air examples of this, then also had some interns do some more tests. They said average time to get an operator was something like 56 seconds from the time they dialed. Good stuff to know...
  • This problem will never be fixed. If you want customer service, do not deal with a large organization. Customer service has no economies of scale, and will thus be worse the larger the organization you're dealing with.

    I make a post about it in my blog [livejournal.com].

  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:52PM (#14108827) Homepage Journal
    I saw this yesterday during the afternoon hours. KCAL 9 News [cbs2.com] has a streaming video story (night time) about this. Flash [flash.com] is required.
    • I saw this on the news last night

      They broke it down and said that:
      1. A live Cust. service rep can cost $1 a minute
      2. Indian call centers can cost $0.40 a minute
      3. Automated voice systems can cost $0.15 a minute

      Oddly enough... they save 666% by using an automated system instead of a live U.S. rep
  • by matt me ( 850665 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:55PM (#14108835)
    Use on of those business directories, and then phone the Head guy of Custom Services directly, in his office. Just as he's about to leave. Then speak polity but firmly, with authority, don't question that you are on his private line and simply demand what you want to be done. Works a treat. Be the king.
  • It is not that bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cecom ( 698048 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @03:55PM (#14108836) Homepage Journal
    I recently had to use SBC's automatic phone menu system and was very pleasantly surprised. The voice recognition has gotten pretty good - it had no problem with my accent. I managed to pay my bill over the phone quickly and efficiently without ever talking to a real person. I really didn't need to, and I am sure it would have been slower if I did.

    So, such systems aren't universally bad. The only thing they need is the option to talk to a live person and any given point in the menu. That would make the customers feel secure and calm - sufficiently so that they don't necessarily use it always.
  • specifically, type in the number sequence 4815162342

    Or was that something else.

  • This was the Bonzer Website [bonzersites.com] from TRUE [thisistrue.com] on October 30. Good to see /. keeping up with the Jonses (or Cassinghams, as the case would be).
  • One of the biggest lies of this century has to be:

    Your call is important to us.....

    If that really were so companies wouldn't have fired 2/3rds of their staff and got a flippin' computer.

    Keep track of the ones that screen your call into areas away from their profit centers. If you get no luck with their customer service dont be afraid to call their sales desk etc... You're still talking to people responsible to the company word of honour and if you bug them enough they may actually help.

    If your call is reall
  • Why not call backs? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ewerx604 ( 566013 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:02PM (#14108871)
    I don't understand why all customer support systems don't employ some sort of call back mechanism. You have employees sitting at their desks, waiting for calls to come in, but inevitably there are more calls in the queue than employees so the customer is the one doing all the waiting. Why not do it the opposite way? Customer calls tech support, goes through a few basic questions to direct them to the right department if neccessary, then they enter their phone number and hang up. Their phone number goes into the queue and the CSR operator, instead of answering the next incoming call, calls the next customer in the queue! Customer doesn't have to be tied to the phone listening to musak, company doesn't have tens/hundreds of callers on hold at any given time putting load on their phone lines etc., CSR doesn't have his phone ringing off the hook -- they call you when they are ready to handle the next call. It's so simple, why isn't this more common?
    • It's so simple, why isn't this more common?

      Because the corporations don't want to pay the few cents to call you back. Yes, it's that simple.

      • So instead they pay a few cents for you to hold on their 800 lines?
        • So instead they pay a few cents for you to hold on their 800 lines?

          I'm just guessing here, but I suspect that there's some price-break on 1-800 numbers that makes it cheaper for Joe Average to hold for 5-10 minutes before his 6 minute problem-solving session, than to call him at home for those same 6 minutes.

          I have no monetary details, just some brief info here [gaebler.com].

          • I am pretty sure that due to shear volume, they get a price break on any call they pay for (incoming or outgoing). Not to mantion that several of the company on the list don't probably pay for any calls since they ARE the phone company.

            Now the likely true reason for them not doing that is that even with an automated dialer, the agents would waste a whole lot of time listening to voice mails, busy tones, or waiting on hold themselves while Little Johnny goes and fetch dad from the back yard, etc. With the
    • Actually that is available from my VOIP phone [digitalvoice.ca] company here in BC, Canada.

      It's simply another option added to their tech support menu.
    • Because people don't want to be sitting next to their phone just as much as they hate being tied to a muzak-ridden phone call and put on hold.

      I had that happen the other day. I was calling Verizon about my malfunctioning cell phone but I was using my phone to call Verizon because it's free that way (and I couldn't find the 1-800 number). The tech guy asked for my number and he called me back after I got off my cell phone. We got disconnected, unfortunately, and that was the end of that entire tech suppor

  • by ferreth ( 182847 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:02PM (#14108874) Homepage Journal
    While I agree that the menu-maze phone system can really suck, sometimes getting a human on the other end to redirect your call can be bad too. I've ended up in multiple call-transfer hell where I get forwarded endlessly to different parts of the company because no one even had any idea who could answer my question. New operators that drop your call are fun too after you've been on hold for 20 minutes.

    In a few cases, I even prefer the menu system, for straight forward queries that I just need to provide a meter reading, or get a list of transactions. Once I know the menu route, it's quicker than dealing with a human.
  • How does a person get past the "please do not hang up" recording on 911? Calling over and over doesn't work.
  • Before it became fairly standard for banks to have giant online applications for working your account, Bank of America had a pretty good phone system for checking your balance and what checks have cleared and so on.

    Of course, they fucked that all up by then changing it to asking you to speak your options - that never worked.

    PROGRESS!!!
  • by Fear the Clam ( 230933 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:05PM (#14108887)
    They'd move it to the front of the queue.
  • If they cared.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zotz ( 3951 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:05PM (#14108891) Homepage Journal
    If they cared, would their system go something like this?

    To use our superfantastic automated system press one now. Otherwise, press two or stay one the line and someone will answer shortly.

    And for those humans who get calls, listen to what is asked of you and respond to that, not what you want to respond to.

    I hate it when I ask if X is in, only to be transferred to their extension which gets me to their voicemail which I then hang up on because I need to know if they are in.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    all the best,

    drew
    http://www.ourmedia.org/node/85937 [ourmedia.org]
    Tings - a nanowrimo 2005 CC BY-SA novel in progress
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:05PM (#14108894)
    I agree that IVR systems are very frustrating, but I work for a company that makes it's living driving out the costs of clueless humans answering telephone calls from clueless customers. More interestingly, perhaps, I work in third-level support for my company...

    The cost of having one clueless human talk to another is enormous. The cost of having a well educated and knowledgeable employee who can directly deal with said clueless caller's problems is even higher.

    In fact, let's face it, if you are a highly knowledgeable employee, doing support work is not the most desireable job in the world. Who wants to deal with whiny clueless end-user's problems all day? You would have to pay a premium salary to keep these people from moving to more interesting jobs.

    Are you willing to pay (a lot) more for convenient customer support? Conversely, are you willing to talk to someone from India (or whereever), who could be more knowledgeable and more able to deal with your problems, at a lower cost, albeit with a sometimes difficult accent and/or attitude?

    Another option is charging people who insist on having their problem solved immediately, and allowing others, who are willing to state their problem and wait for someone to get back to them, a less expensive service.

    As a previous poster mentioned, IVR systems at least allow calls to be organized and routed to knowledgeable individuals to facilitate cost efficiency. Computers can answer and route calls far more cheaply (if the system is designed well) than people can. That's why the phone company charges you for operator assisted calls.

    Product and Customer Support is expensive, especially for complex hardware and software systems. Perhaps every piece of software and hardware could come with two different prices: A higher one that entitles the user to convenient, high quality customer service, for a limited period, and another that provides a cheaper product but with a lower quality of customer service. This might serve to set the customer's expectations better than the current one-price-fits-all approach.
  • Almost as bad as being in VM hell, are these re-occuring stories that pop up every few months.
  • by eosp ( 885380 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:08PM (#14108909) Homepage
    What's this customer service thing I keep hearing about?
  • It seems a lot of companies are moving to voice based rather than touch tone based IVRs and that pisses me off. Where before I could simply press the number that corresponds to the choice I now have to say such bullshit phrases as "Help with my bill" rather than simply pressing "1" or "2" or whatever the number is that day (out of frustration I sometimes say "Molest young children" or something equally ridiculous just to see what the IVR's response will be). How is this easier? If I am in a noisy environmen
  • Darn!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by geoff lane ( 93738 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:14PM (#14108942)
    None of the secret phrases was "xyzzy"

  • On my home asterisk exchange I have the solution - whay are We on hold THEY should be on hold - basically why should you wait with your ear to the phone waiting for a human for half an hour - there's something about listening on the phone for a human to answer that makes it really hard to multitask - at least if your a programmer it is ... so - put them on hold - play a message "I really want to talk to you - when a real human shows up please type pound" and go on working an hour later when a real human sho
  • I would think many slashdot readers love automated systems due to one less situation in which social interaction is needed.... I don't mind them. I just hate answering machines, where I have to say something and make sure I don't slip up and miss a needed detail, make an ass of myself, etc, with no easy way to recover without feeling like an ass....
  • Yesterday NPR had a segment on Paul English [npr.org], which included him phoning into support lines of several companies including Apple Computer. A friend of mine works at Apple in the AppleCare department, and I pointed him at the program. After listening, his reaction was, "No, they are only making their call take longer by bypassing the menu!" The human that you reach when you bypass the menu is not set up to help you. All she can do is direct you to an agent who can provide actual help, which is exactly what th
  • by DrWhizBang ( 5333 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:28PM (#14109026) Homepage Journal
    If enough people bypass these phone systems, maybe the big companies will finally get a clue and start providing real customer service again..."

    Unfortunately it is not quite that simple. I work as tech support on IVR products, and I can tell you that what this is suggesting is really just an arms race. The big companies are more than anxious to get you out of the IVR and to a real person if that's what you need. They are simply trying to avoid wasting valuable human resources as switchboard operators and dumb terminals. The problem is that, as any emerging technology, the wrinkles are still getting ironed out.

    I am perfectly aware that IVRs are not new technology, but the more advanced CTI along with TTS and ASR capabilities that are growing up are making it so that it should actually be easier to get the action or info that we need more quickly. As this matures although these companies do track "0-outs" and abandons as metrics of the success of their IVR systems, they are also tracking full callflow, and they are certainly willing to listen to suggestions or even all-out complaints if they can use the data to improve service, reduce wait times (think "trunk") and more effectively use their people.

    Don't just 0 out - complain!
  • Simpson's (Score:3, Funny)

    by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:34PM (#14109056) Homepage Journal
    Hello, you have reached the Springfield police department. If you know the number of the crime being commited, press it now!

    [Bart presses randomly]

    You have chosen "regicide"! If you know the name of the king or queen being assinated, press 1!
  • Don't call them, simply don't do business with them.
    I shop at the local physical computer shop, they answer their phone, and if I walk in I get served.

    Otherwise use online support and complain about the crappy phone service.

    Buy a speakerphone, call at odd hours (4am is good)
  • by pherthyl ( 445706 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @04:53PM (#14109128)
    I had a hilarious experience calling an insurance company in Canada once. They had one of those voice recognition systems, and I spent at least 15 minutes searching through every menu, trying to find what I wanted, or even a choice to speak to a representative. Some menus I couldn't back out of, and I had to hang up twice to return to the main menu.

    The third time I finally got too frustrated and started swearing as soon as the computer answered. The voice paused for a few seconds, then said "Ok, a representative, one moment please."

    I thought it was a brilliant idea. Recognize when the customer is getting pissed off and then get him to a human ASAP. :)
  • Companies use automated systems because it's cheaper than having enough real people to handle it.

    So, you'd rather get straight to a real person. Who do you think's going to pay for that? Will they absorb it out of their profits, or pass the cost onto customers? I think I can guess.

    Yes it's a PITA, but it's the price you pay for cheap goods.

    (This doesn't explain why Apple does it of course ;P)
  • One of my big beefs with automated phone systems, is when you have to punch in all of your "client information", like a credit card number, only to have the person answering the phone ask you for all the same information.
  • by ratbag ( 65209 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @05:07PM (#14109194)
    Pergatory?
  • no I'm not Indian but I found this article amusing. Sure you can talk to a human anytime you want, but your goal is to talk to one who can help you. If you end up on the sales side, they'll either can't help you or stick you back in the queue where you belong. Sometimes we would get sales questions on the tech side and stick them back in the sales queue. If you really want help quickly go to the appropriate area, that's what the phone system is for, unless you wish to moan and complain and get tuned out.
  • by danharan ( 714822 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @05:34PM (#14109317) Journal
    Pergatory? There's another obviously horrid mistake in the blurb, which was supposedly edited by a human. [Did the editing get outsourced or something? No can't be india... I guess none of it is actually done.]

    And that is one reason I am starting to dislike "customer service". You get lots of utterly ignorant people, and the ones that can't read or write are often the ones that can't understand the spoken word. "I can't help you right now, I will have to ask my supervisor to look at your situation and call you back in the morning" Conversation should be OVER, save a few niceties. Quit arguing with me, it's just killing my stats. I can't help you, bitch/fuckwit.

    So I just imagine the pain of those in their organizational silos, getting people that insisted on talking to the wrong person. It's their job performance that suffers- all the stats for incoming and outgoing calls are recorded. The more out calls, and the longer the calls, the more likely you are to get canned. Plus, I get to have a person on hold while I'm on hold with another department. WTF? Misery insists on having company to listen to elevator music.

    If you're pissed off about a phone menu, don't make the reps suffer. Tell them politely, or better yet, write a letter about it. Take your business elsewhere if you hear of better service.

    But for the love of #random deity# just press the buttons and be nice to the rep.
  • Don't press anything (Score:3, Informative)

    by artg ( 24127 ) on Thursday November 24, 2005 @06:21PM (#14109528)
    In the UK, at least, the voicemail systems don't assume you have a tonedial phone (there are still plenty of pulse dialers around). So they always start by asking you to press # or something. If you don't press anything, most of them will drop you straight through to a voice operator.

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up.

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