Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday's Words for February 16, 2011

I hate, absolutely hate, talking to machines.

Our society seems to be inundated with voice activated computers that are slowly, but surely taking over the planet. They are! Sometimes, you make a phone call to a business or a service provider and speaking to a real, live human being isn’t even one of the options.

I’m old fashioned. I not only want to talk to a human, I want to talk to one in my own country.

I understand the need for businesses to “trim costs”. Personally, I’d rather see the managers and CEOs take a hit, vis-a-vis a pay reduction than have them replace their telephone receptionists with a computer. But what do I know?

Case in point. I upgraded my cell phone again. The pretty white and pink one I had with a full, slide out qwerty key board was good, but the battery was dying, and then I dropped it, and it wouldn’t turn off, or “hang up” a call. Since I had to get a new cell phone anyway, I got a BlackBerry.

Yes, hell has indeed frozen over.

So I got this new piece of technology, and it took me a while to figure it out. For one thing, the diagram of all the keys and functions omits pointing out that the square shiny one in the middle above the keyboard is the “mouse”. I know that fact was likely obvious to many of you, but it wasn’t to me.

I inserted the battery, and the SIM card, and turned it on. A message appeared that was longer than the screen allowed and so it was necessary for me to scroll down. But there were no arrows down, up, side to side. The message was telling me it was unlawful for me to reverse-engineer the BlackBerry!

Reverse engineer it? Hell, I couldn’t even operate it!

I found the mouse by accident. Whew. One obstacle down.

Then the screen went white, with pretty little lines of colour, first vertical, then horizontal. Yes, my first BlackBerry turned out to be a lemon, which meant that I needed to call my wireless service provider (from whom I had gotten the phone) and get help from Technical Support.

I know what you all just thought: good luck with that one.

Let me just say, that tech support was not an option on this particular night. I called the number quoted in the literature that accompanied the device. The phone was answered by an automated voice telling me, in French, that if I wanted to continue in French, I should press number five. (This, by the way, is standard in Canada). Then in English, I’m advised that I have the following options for my Cable TV and Internet service...

Hello? Calling about wireless, here. Called the number that came with the wireless device! So I got smart and I hit “0” about five times in a row. The machine informed me, that it would direct my call to a real person. Success!

And then an automated voice comes on the line and tells me that the Credit department is currently closed, and further advises me of its hours of operation, and to call back then.

These glitches with automated answering services happen all the time, and the result is that by the time the customer (that would be me) finally gets hold of a real human being, said customer is not in a very good mood. This brings me to the part I don’t get.

What savvy business owner/manager/operator wants to deliberately tee off its customers? I mean, in this age of global competition wouldn’t it make more sense to keep your customers happy?

To make a long story short, after several hours using my computer to “update” the BlackBerry I ended up having to get them to send me a new one, which thankfully works fine. So far.

I have tweeted, and I have “face booked” and I have sent a text on this amazing new piece of technology.

And maybe, someday soon, I’ll even make a phone call on it—but to a person, and not to a machine.

Morgan Ashbury/Cara Covington is a Siren-Exclusive Author!

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