Monday, February 15, 2016

When Technology is a Bane and Not a Blessing

A few weeks ago when I tried to call a friend who works for a larger firm in town I was taken captive by the impersonal, electronic voice-activated phone router receptionist.

“This is the Omega Industries voice activated interface*. Please state clearly the name or department name you are trying to reach.” I dutifully reply, “Rob Johnson.” In response the tone-dead female computer voice replied, “Thank you. I will now connect you to Ronald Johnson.”

Well, rather than start over I decide I will ask Ronald Johnson to transfer me to Rob. Unfortunately, instead of Ronald Johnson I get a voicemail machine that says, “You have reached the office of Mike Willcox and Gerald Sullivan. If you would like to leave a message, press one.”

OK, so I am back to square one. I hang up and try again. This time I will tell the machine the department instead of the name. Believe it or not, I ended up in the wrong department yet again. I have no idea how this company stays in business.

Not everything high tech is heaven sent.

In theory technology is here to help us. But autocorrecting features on Microsoft Word and my iPhone drive me bonkers. Last night I tried to say "Thanks" to someone by saying "Tanx" and my iPhone changed it to Tanzania. So I decided to spell it rather than say it (using the smartphone's occasionally stupid voice recognition skills) and it wrote "T a NX" which was close but once the second time I tried it wrote Tanzania.

Naturally I can't help but think about a future in which cars will drive us everywhere and we'll just tell it where to go. Some believe you won't ever need to own a car because automated Uber fleets will just pick you up and drop you off while doing the same for everyone else.

"Where would you like to go now, Mr. Newman?"

One word I won't say is "Tanx."

I'm grateful that the company I work for has real people answering the phones when you call. I believe our customers feel the same.

* I used the word "interface" here because I did not catch what word was there, but all the rest is an accurate transcription. I mean no disrespect to Omega Systems. Voice recognition has come a long ways in the past two decades. It can still be frustrating at times.

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