If you know your party’s extension…

“If you know your party’s extension, dial it now…”

Hearing this makes my blood boil.

There is nothing more frustrating than having to interact with some damned automated phone system.

It is a major turnoff.

It is maddening.

It pisses me off.

It makes me think you don’t care.

And that’s just me. Can you imagine what your customer (or prospect) thinks?

And the infernal process of trying to key in someone’s name in a company directory over the phone? This is why I don’t own a weapon.

And finally, when you get through the end of the automated process and they don’t even offer the “Dial zero to go to the operator” option is even more teeth grinding.

Why are you doing this? Why why why?

Don’t you know this makes you typical? Don’t you know this practice lumps you in with all the mediocre organizations that exist?

If you are cool with that, keep on doing what you’re doing. But people are rolling their eyes at you, and that’s a shame. But it is your decision. Live with it.

[And don't give me the cost savings excuse. If people will need to call your organization, you need humans answering the phones. Technology, schmecktology. You need humans to interact with humans.]

Very rarely do I blindly call into an organization, I’ve long ago given up cold calling.

But today, I am making a few calls as part of a project for one of my clients. Trust me, I had forgotten how frustrating and maddening this process of “cold calling” is.

But that’s my point of view and the reason I refuse to engage that sales tactic.

But again, I ask you to think about the general public and what you are putting them through.

Do it yourself. Today. Right now. Grab some cold list and start calling it. See what happens. See how you feel. See how frustrated you get when you hear “For HR, press one. For customer service, press two. For IT, press three…”

You’ll want to shoot yourself.

So why in God’s name are you doing that to your customers (or prospects)?


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Drawing by Hugh.

  • Robert Wall

    Y’know, if the auto-attendants are intelligently designed I don’t mind one level to get me to the right department.

    But then you have the companies that go one step farther, and try to use auto-attendants to completely automate their customer service.

    For example, when I call my cable company, first the automated system wants my account number. If I’m unlucky enough to not have that in front of me, they insist on looking it up via *STREET ADDRESS* in their automated system. Not phone number, which I could unambiguously enter on my phone. Nope, street address. Along with the stupid voice recognition software that apparently doesn’t understand me.

    Then when I’m done hassling with that, they ask me what I’m calling about. If I even hint that I might be calling about my bill, I get routed to the auto-pay system. If I tell them from the outset that I want customer service, they insist on knowing why. If I tell them “to discuss my bill”, I go to the auto-pay system.

    So I’ve gotten to the point where I just chant “customer service live person operator human being customer service live person operator human being….” over and over until they actually put me through to someone.

    And that person, oddly enough, uses my phone number to look up my account, i.e. exactly what the automated system should’ve done.


    To me, phone systems are like Jessica Rabbit from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”. “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”. Somebody programmed these things, and that somebody didn’t bother to think about the customer. That’s bad. Or they did think about the customer, and just didn’t give a crap. That’s worse.

    There’s a lesson in there somewhere…..

  • Todd Schnick

    oh man, if it is designed well, yeah, that makes all the difference. but as you well know, MOST are not designed well.

    my bigger issue is the notion of trying to outsmart simple human interaction in the first place…. you know?