RE: Serious follow-up to the automated telephone system thing

Subject: RE: Serious follow-up to the automated telephone system thing
From: "Downing, David" <david -dot- downing -at- fiserv -dot- com>
To: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>, "John Posada" <jposada99 -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 9 Mar 2009 13:14:04 -0500

Actually, I've encountered some system that do at least give the
appearance of asking an open-ended question. They'll say something like,
"Please tell me briefly why you're calling," and possibly offer some
suggestions as to how to respond. I'm sire that what's happening is that
the system is listening for any of a number of keywords -- e.g.,
"benefits," "billing," - and sending the flow of control along one of
several branches, depending on what keyword it hears, but the effect
from the end-user's perspective is to be able to give a free-form
response.

Something else I find helpful in one of these systems is the ability to
stack your commands. That way, if you're using a system you know, you
can just go BEEP, BOOP, BEEP, BEEP without having to listen to all the
choices.

David Downing
Senior Technical Writer
Credit Union Solutions
Fiserv



-----Original Message-----
From: Combs, Richard [mailto:richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com]
Sent: Monday, March 09, 2009 1:56 PM
To: John Posada; Downing, David
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: Serious follow-up to the automated telephone system thing

John Posada wrote:

> And their justification for this is?
>
> On Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 11:39 AM, Downing, David
> <david -dot- downing -at- fiserv -dot- com> wrote:
>
> > There is, in fact, a reason why those automated telephone support
systems
> are so nerve-racking. I read about it a long time ago in an article in
> TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION. It seems that those systems are actually
doing
> something that the police do to try and break criminals in a hostage
> situation -- repeatedly force someone to make choices among
alternatives.
> The police do it with the intention of making the kidnapper finally
say, "I
> give up! I'm coming out!" So those automated systems are breaking you
down
> in a similar fashion.

Short of scrapping all IVR systems entirely, there is no alternative. A
human can negotiate and ask open-ended questions. An IVR system can't.
Of necessity, it must ask you to choose from a limited menu of
alternatives.

How could it function in a way that _didn't_ "force"* you to make
choices? "Explain to me in detail what you're calling about and the
artificial intelligence in my bank of supercomputers will analyze and
respond in a way that might pass a Turing test"? Not any time soon.

Scrapping IVR entirely isn't going to happen, either. Rooms full of
switchboard operators have gone the way of elevator operators, theater
ushers, and gas station attendants. The increased productivity and cost
cutting/containment have generally been a good thing -- except for the
teenagers who have job opportunities because minimum wage increases have
killed many entry-level jobs and priced them out of the labor market.

* You're not really being _forced_, you know. Cops with guns can force
you to do something, IVR systems can't. You're free to hang up, or to
employ the methods at gethuman.com.

Richard


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
303-223-5111
------
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom
303-777-0436
------






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Follow-Ups:

References:
Serious follow-up to the automated telephone system thing: From: Downing, David
Re: Serious follow-up to the automated telephone system thing: From: John Posada
RE: Serious follow-up to the automated telephone system thing: From: Combs, Richard

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