The Automated Phone System Help-Line: its five snarkiest words


Over the years, I’ve found it necessary to call phone companies, IT support services, stores after hours– and deal with their automated help-lines.  Sometimes I inadvertently mumble or interrupt a recorded command mid-sentence.  Or I forget and use slang that the robot is unfamiliar with.  My fault.  But.

Soon after my error come the dreaded five words.  “Sorry.  Didn’t quite get that.”  They ooze from the receiver in a deeply contemptuous tone.

Question:  If robots are being programmed to sound like soulless turds then– what is the point?  Why don’t companies just hire real people who can at least be authentic soulless turds?  Yes, robots are cheaper.  All-righty.

My real question is: Why can’t companies get some local theatre actor or nephew to record a “sorry” that sounds– if not heartfelt– then at least civil and humane?

On a bad day a few years ago, I found myself cursing and sobbing during an unsuccessful chat with Alex, Virgin Mobile’s cheerfully patronizing robot.  It didn’t help that “your call may be monitored” was announced early in the proceedings. I had a picture of all these gray-suited CEOs lounging on a round bed, munching chocolates and pouting sexily into some hotel suite’s ceiling mirror as they half-listened to a woman screaming on speaker phone: “Let me talk to a human being, Alex!”  Meanwhile, Alex’s voice only got snarkier while he repeated his unhelpful list of choices.

This post is a plea for more actual living breathing people in support services.  Or, at least, kinder-sounding fake ones.

NOTE:  Virgin Mobile has improved its automated phone system since the incident stated here and it is much easier to switch to a live person now.  And not to be a sniveling please-don’t-sue-me coward but I will also say that I’m pretty sure Virgin Mobile CEOs weren’t really piled on a bed in a hotel suite. 

But Alex still sounds snarky.




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