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our menu options have not changed March 31, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Technology Trouble.
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The general outrage over automated telephone systems has abated in the past year or so as people have gotten accustomed to the fact that, no matter what they do, there will never be enough customer service representatives to guarantee timely, adequate service. The current commotion is over “press one for English” or “si habla espanol, oprima el numero ocho”. Once you’ve moved past that point, though, what’s the first thing you hear that isn’t a message of introduction?

90% of the time or more it’s this:

Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed.

CC-licensed photo by Achi Raz.

CC-licensed photo by Achi Raz.

Let me clue you in: they haven’t. You know they haven’t. The company knows that. Maybe the menu options changed at some point in the last two years, but why edit a perfectly good message that might occasionally convince someone to listen to the whole thing instead of repeatedly jamming the pound or zero to get to an actual person.

Sites such as GetHuman help you bypass these automated answerers as quickly as possible — even the really smart ones that recognize your voice — but companies will continue finding ways to force you to listen to the entire message, even if they have to do a long recording reiterating the menu options with no way out after you’ve managed to find the “talk to a human” key combination.

I personally use the pound key more often than the zero, but I guess it’s down to personal preference. When I called my insurance company today, it only took two pounds to get to a nice musical recording and a pleasant voice that said “we are experiencing higher-than-normal call volume”.

Oh, and that’s another one that I got today:

We are experiencing higher-than-normal call volume. Did you know that you can access our full-featured website at bighonkinginsurancecompany.com and get your questions answered, find a physician, pre-certify medical procedures, and generally waste your time figuring out that your specific question isn’t addressed anywhere on this site? Just go to bighonkinginsurancecompany.com! Or, stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received.

Would’ve been a lot more convincing if the message hadn’t cut off after the word “questions” — I’ve heard a lot of these recordings, which is how I extrapolated the rest of it — and allowed me to talk to an actual (very helpful and friendly) human being.

I vaguely remember, back when GetHuman first started — though I haven’t found anything about this on their website — some noises being made about a standard for automated telephone systems where every insurance company would use 1 for claims, 2 for physicians, 3 for billing, etc; every retailer would use 1 for product inquiries, 2 for tech support, 3 for locations and open/close times; and everyone would use the exact same button to find a human. Of course, that last one would completely defeat the purpose of having a phone system, but theoretically if you could go to GetHuman’s website, click “insurance company”, and get the buttons you must press to reach a person in Worker’s Compensation Unpaid Claims instead of having to re-explain yourself to three or four different people in different departments, I for one would be quite pleased.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep changing my menu options.

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Comments»

1. Withheld to protect my job - May 28, 2009

I work for a company that sets up those infernal things. At times, I actually design/build them too. Yep, I am that bastrd. Yep, I sold my soul. Yep, I pretty much hate myself, but the money is good.

Here are a few tricks:
1. 95% or so of all of non-speech recognition IVRs are build to be able to detect a rotory phone. No touch tones, no navigating the menues. So, when you call in, just put the phone on mute. If rotory detection is built in, they will route you to an agent.

2. On speech recog systems, talk giberish. Most systems will have a retry timeout that will route you to an agent. Works pretty well.

3. Swear, as many profanities as you can. Some of the speech recog systems are designed to recognize that you are a pissed off caller and route you immediately. Usually to someone better trained, as well.

Try the above in the following order.

Some systems even have the debug/bypass/testing elements still left in. So, with sheer luck, you might find a digit pattern that gets you want to go, but it is very unlikely to be found. Unless, that is, you have inside knowledge.


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