Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I'd rather talk to a computer

While I was waiting at the vet the other day, I overheard one of the vet tech's on the phone. It sounded like Sue was trying to arrange a pick up with a delivery service. She kept repeating the same responses over and over. Each time Sue had to repeat herself, she got louder and more irritated. My initial thought was she must be talking to someone at a call center in Bangladesh. I have never seen Sue lose her temper or even get the slightest bit annoyed. Her behavior was completely out of character. I thought maybe this is why she works with animals.

After watching a 60 Minutes piece on the call centers in India, I try to be much more pleasant when dealing with foreigners on the phone. They are usually working in the middle of the night, since that is when Americans are awake. They sacrifice a lot of family time to do this work. Plus, they have to deal with Americans who are impatient and downright rude.

Sue must have noticed me watching her during the phone call. At one point, she said,"I'm not talking to a person. Its a computer." Ohhh. Being rude to a computer is a completely different scenario. Sue redeemed herself in my eyes. Who hasn't gotten mad at a "stupid computer"?

Sometimes talking to a computer is a good thing. When I call the newspaper to report the fact that I haven't received my Sunday newspaper AGAIN, I like being able to just press a button and say I want my money back. The last time I called, there was no computer response. All I heard was ,"The next customer service rep will be with you shortly." I hung up. I didn't want to talk to a person. I was too mad.

I'd much rather purchase things online, than call directly to order. If a catalog doesn't have a website (rare these days), I won't order from them. If I dial the wrong QVC number and reach a customer service rep, I hang up and call the automated number.

Why don't I want human contact with strangers? Is there something wrong with me? I think it just takes more effort to speak with someone. You have to be polite and deal with answering their numerous questions. They always say, "How are you doing today?" Like they really want to know. I hate it when they say "Is there anything else I can do for you today?" "Yes, how about doing my laundry," is what I want to say. All their niceness just seems phony. If you're talking to a computer, you can hang up while it's in mid sentence without feeling the least bit guilty.

The only time I get frustrated with automated systems is when they have no option for what you want. You listen to a long list, have it repeated, and still nothing fits your problem. There is no "other" choice. Sometimes pressing "0" works, but not always. Even pretending you don't have a touch tone phone doesn't seem to work anymore. That's when I shoot off an email instead.

The computer Sue was talking to couldn't comprehend the anger and frustration in her voice. Her tone probably made her words even less clear. Eventually, the computer gave up and sent Sue to a human. I wonder if the computer thought, that "stupid human" can't speak clearly. When Sue had to give the information to the human, she still had irritation in her voice from repeating it so many times to the computer. After Sue hung up she said, "That time it was a human." I just laughed. We've all been there.

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