From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Snub “Julie.” Talk to a Human On The Phone

If anyone ever inaugurates an ergonomics “hall of shame,” automated phone response systems are certain to be prize exhibits. Called IVRs – for integrated voice response – there are few 20th Century inventions so ubiquitous yet so unfriendly to humans. The founder of a website designed to foil them says it takes 38 minutes, on average, to navigate an IVR at a business or government office and reach a living customer service representative.

Paul English of Boston founded, which reveals hundreds of hard-to-find customer service numbers and provides a database of helpful hints from people who have found ways to short-circuit IVRs and arrive quickly at human operators, to bring back the human face of customer relations.

As reported by the Canadian Press, which notes that the service is being expanded so Canadians can benefit from it, one contributor cracked the telephone defenses at Bell Canada and advises callers to “press ‘0’ at each prompt and ignore ‘Emily.’ ”

In an interview with the Canadian Press, Lorna Rankin, the gethuman project manager, said people are particularly irritated by silken-voiced computers with names like “Emily” and “Julie” that promise to help but rarely do. “It’s frustrating for everyone, especially seniors. Older people with hearing problems often think ‘Emily’ is a real person and they can’t understand why she keeps repeating herself and won’t help them. It’s demoralizing.”

She says some newer-generation phone systems have been fine-tuned to detect growing anger in the voices of customers. “I wouldn’t encourage profanity,” she said, “but we have been told that if you get angry, some will switch you through to a person.”

Other techniques to bypass the systems include repeatedly pressing zero, the number sign or saying absolutely nothing. “Anything that confuses the computer,” she says.

The solution? “If every company made zero the option for getting to a human,” she said, “then it would be pretty simple.”

Source: Canadian Press