Monday, April 03, 2006

For More Options, Press or Say "One"

I think new technology is pretty damn cool. I was all for the iPod, and the iPod Mini. Shrinking cellphones? I jumped on that bandwagon and upgraded mine by downgrading the size. And a computer that can talk to you and understand what you're saying in return is some pretty sweet innovation. That being said, I think we've hit a point where we've started imagining that a vocalizing calculator can replace people. Today, I wanted to do something very simple; I wanted to change my cellphone plan. So, I made my way to the Sprint store, where I walked up to a short, young lady who looked like she couldn't be much older than seventeen, and told her I had designs to change my plan. I opened the pamphlet and showed her which plan I wanted. She smiled reassuringly but immediately informed me that they "no longer do that" at the store; instead, I would have to contact Billing. "Billing?" I asked, quizzically. "Just press *2 on your cellphone." Doubtful, I thanked her and dubiously pressed the appropriate keys. At which point, I was greeted not by a person, but Mr. Moviephone's charming, ever-aiming-to-please Stepford wife. You know her -- despite appearances, she actually gets around quite a bit. She asked me to choose my desired language (English) and then proceeded to ask me to say keyphrases like "My Minutes" or "Plan Details" when prompted by her inquiring questions. All I wanted was to change my plan. At first, I played along. I asked for "Plan Details". Then "My Plan". Then "Customer Service". Then "Help, please". Then "Give me a damn person!". And with each response, Mrs. Moviephone, with her nigh-infinite patience, continued to point me in the wrong direction, further and further away from what I wanted. I only wanted to ask a few questions before I committed. Finally, I hung up on her. But, immediately worried that Mrs. Moviephone might consider that rude, that perhaps she might hold a grudge, or might even cause me some cellphone grief -- after all, she must wield some significant power at Sprint to have become the spokesvoice of the company. So, apprehensive, I called back, a few minutes later. But thankfully, when she answered a second time, asking me again for my language preference (she must have a bad short-term memory), she seemed to sound more pleasant than before. I decided to try jumping immediately to support, rather than play around with Mrs. Moviephone's questions. I was transferred to a second automated voice (perhaps Mrs. Moviephone's sister-in-law or second cousin, since she sounded distinctly less pleasant) asking me to hold. Followed by some elevator music. Followed by Mrs. Moviephone's Second Cousin informing me that my call would be answered in the order of receipt. Followed by silence. And silence. And more silence. I hung up on Mrs. Moviephone's Second Cousin. Finally, I decided to try one more time. Mr. Moviephone had never let me down; why was his wife such a flake? I decided to buckle down and just change my plan through Mrs. Moviephone and go ask the bored young lady in the store my questions tomorrow. After choosing my language preference a third time (it was still English), I asked to "Change My Plan". Mrs. Moviephone confirmed (was she hard of hearing?) and then... ... transferred me to a person. Mrs. Moviephone's Second Cousin this time actually informed me that someone should be with me in about three minutes. It actually took more like ten, but I think Mrs. Moviephone's Second Cousin might be getting into the drink a little. My call was answered by a polite gentleman by the name of Neal. And strangely enough, he sounded like he was reading the same script as Mrs. Moviephone and her relatives. When I told him my problem, he repeated it in the same even tone, repeating my phrasiology to confirm that he had heard correctly. He did this with each new piece of information I offered him, and the only way I could tell that he was, indeed, human was when asked for my password, he chuckled a little when he heard it (it's a little facetious). Thankfully, I managed to ask my questions and change my plan without much consequence with Neal, and as he hung up (thanking me for my continued patronage of Sprint and confirming that I didn't need anything else), I couldn't help but wonder -- if a real person had to change my plan in the end, why did I have to deal with Mrs. Moviephone in the first place? Why couldn't I have asked the pleasant young woman at the Sprint store to perform the same task as the semi-automated Neal? And why should Sprint be trying to make their real people indistinguishable in dialogue as their robot voices? The Democrats are freaking out about call centers in India. Personally, I'm more terrified about the day they replace all of us with an army of Mr. and Mrs. Moviephone clones. Could you imagine Prissy Aunt Moviephone politely trying to remind you about your next oil change? Or ugly, crotch-scratching, B.O.-smelling Uncle Moviephone as the cashier at the grocery store? Perhaps 'ol, semi-senile Grandpa Moviephone harassing you about new, fixed rate APR financing at the local bank. At least they still haven't figured out how to get a MoviePhone to earn a Ph.D. Yet.


Blogger NursePam said...

LOLOL! I'm so glad to see that the fact that those things make me crazy is not soley due to the fact that I am well on my way to crotchety old ladyhood.

That was one thing about the "good old days" that I seriously miss. I'm wondering exactly how long ago it was that actual human beings stopped answering phones.

4/04/2006 09:35:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home