One of the biggest annoyances of modern life is calling a customer service number and getting a robot. These systems, known as Interactive Voice Response or IVR, are used by most businesses to interact with customers, in some cases exclusively. They can be effective or ineffective way to deal with a company.
These systems can be quite useful. For example, CVS Pharmacy offer 24 hour refill service where I can call my local store, input a prescription code, and I’ll have the refill ready when I’m ready for it. If I need to call it in at 2 AM, that’s fine with the IVR system. It’s also great to be able to call up and pay or check account balances. While I usually do this over the Internet, these systems are handy if I don’t have my computer handy.
However, there’s a lot bad with these systems. They work well for simple operations like I described above but far too often companies are moving traditional Customer Service Representative (CSR) work to the IVR. These are things that actually need a person to solve the problem, such as dealing with a disputed charge or technical support on a computer problem.
Instead of getting the help you need, you’re stuck mindlessly droning your response to a computer that often can’t understand you. Have you ever been in your office cube and heard a person near you talking on the phone saying “One….ONE!….ONE!….THREE!” trying to get a needed response? It’s just absurd.
To make matters worse, most of these systems charge you an extra fee if you make payments with them, usually about $3-5. Between that and similar charges for online payments and automatic bill pays I’ve started going back to old fashioned checks and the US Mail. I figure this saves me at least $30 a month on bills. At least they don’t tack on an charge for them, yet.
On top of that, if you do get through to an actual human, they often won’t take a payment or provide you with certain information due to “privacy concerns”. Why are they even paying these people if they don’t give them the authority to do anything other than answer the phone when an exasperated and irate customer finally gets through to them?
Did you know that many companies record what’s being said to their IVR system? Did you know that many people apparently take out their frustration by cussing the computer out? Apparently on a few systems curse words are recognized and will put you through to a human. However, most companies don’t enable this shortcut. Hopefully management will hear it eventually though.
What You Can Do
There is a site that has information that can help you get through to an actual human at several companies, the gethuman 500 database. This site tells you how to get through the IVR maze to talk to an actual human at the target company. They also grade the IVR systems of various companies. For example, one of my least favorite companies I do business with, Comcast, has an F. You have to call them at 800-266-2278 and press * at each prompt, ignoring messages. That’s good to know since I’ve been trapped in their maze many a time. Maybe your can find your most annoying company there too.
Do IVR systems annoy you? Will you refer to the GetHuman database next time you need help getting out of an IVR maze? Do the extra fees annoy you? Have you ever cussed out a computer? Leave me a comment and let me hear from you.