Like 99.9999% of everyone else in the world, when I call a company I am not interested in ending up in voice response hell.
A couple of levels, okay. I do want to get to the right person (or right menu).
But when it gets down to more than a couple, it's like moving closer and closer to the inner circles of hell. This is especially true when you're in a No Exit situation. Talk about existential dread!
Yes, I will admit that I often make a bad customer. I don't have my customer number handy. I don't recall my pin code. I can not enter or speak my id: I don't know what it is.
Of course, most of the time when I'm in one of these voice recognition mazes, I'm there because I want and need help. Something isn't working right! I want to use it! I need something to get my job done!
In any event, by the time I'm running down my third or fourth dead end path, I am screaming into the phone, while simultaneously punching the zero or pound keys.
If I'm in a good mood, what I'm screaming is, "Human. I want to talk to a human being." When I am not in such a good mood, there are colorful adjectives applied to 'human being.'
I am never placated by the "voice" that says, a bit chagrined and oh-goshy, "Sorry, but I don't understand what you just said."
"Oh, yes you do, sweetheart, I sometimes shout back at the voice, "You just don't want to let me talk to anyone that's real."
At this point, if zero and pound don't get me anywhere, I'll lie to get a human, hitting two to reach technical support for something I don't have, or four to talk to a salesperson I don't want to talk to.
Once I get a human, I am generally mollified, although half the time what they do to get rid of me is send me into another voice response hell.
As I learned from an article by John Seabrook in the June 23rd New Yorker, they ain't kidding when they tell you that 'your call may be monitored'. And they're not just talking about the part of your call where you're actually talking to that human being I'm always screaming for.
At BBN Technologies, in Cambridge, they're actually listening to live sessions so they can improve their "caller experience analytics" software.
This product logs the events that occur during a call and translate them into text so that they can be searched. They can also analyze the caller's voice for signs of anger - not just the words, but the intonation - and make distinctions between different types of anger.
At first the folks at BBN were listening in on a live call - but they kept listening in when the caller was put on hold. That's, of course, when the fun began.
The caller had been angry when he was speaking to the support rep, but once he was on hold, all hell broke lose, and the BBN-ers got to listen to yet another type of anger - one that featured words like m-f - and included something that sure sounded like a threat ("I'll frickin' find out who you are.")
At least I've never threatened anyone in my rants.
Hilariously, the call that Seabrook listened in on included background sounds: a bubbling bong, they guessed, followed by coughing. (The coughing sort of re-inforces the bong interpretation, doesn't it?)
Well, no one has ever heard me on a bong, although perhaps once marijuana is okayed for medicinal purposes, it will also be legalized for use during customer support calls. ("Sign up now for premium support, and we'll send you this swell bong with our logo on it!")
Learning that the folks at BBN might be listening in has definitely given me pause about what I will or won't say when ratcheting around a voice response system.
I never worked for BBN, but I did work for a company that was a spin-out, and we had lots of ex-BBN-ers on our staff. I also know a few people who've worked there over the years.
The last thing I want is someone listening in to recognize my voice and say, "Gee, she always seemed so pleasant," or, worse, "I always knew she was a raving lunatic."
No more on-hold ranting for me.
No, I'll just make a meek little bleat: I'd really like to talk to a, sniff-sniff, human if you don't mind.