Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were supposed to improve customer service and make it easier to solve problems. But long the way the Web has arrived and IVR is stuck in the 80s - and with some maddening "features."
Recently I needed to contact a company to sort out some confusion concerning my insurance policy. No big deal, but the final documents never arrived. So I called the company.
I don’t know about you, but I find the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to be a curse. My wife loves them because she can get information quickly (most of the time) without having to speak to a person and deal with a possibly cranky operator. I on the other hand only call companies when I have a problem that can’t be figured out from letters or the web.
“Please listen closely as our menu has changed” is the first bit of bogus information that I always hear on an IVR system. Really, do we need our intelligence insulted to begin with? Most IVRs that I call haven’t changed their menu in years. Oh, maybe they substituted a woman’s voice for a man’s, but change the options? It doesn’t happen often. What they’re really trying to do is remind the generic public to listen to the menu choices.
The most frustrating part of IVR is getting locked into a system that doesn’t permit you to continue without entering some piece of super secret information that unlocks the door. And then you’re promptly asked for the same information again because “I’m sorry sir, the information doesn’t transfer to us here in the call center.” Bah humbug. So much for technology. “Could you confirm your telephone number?” ACK! I entered that too. And my social security number. And my account number.
Just let me talk to a person.
I’ve discovered that there are more people like me in the world. Impatient with menu systems that make me punch buttons for what seems like an eternity. Frustrated by the inability to actually get a person on the phone I start pushing buttons at random hoping to stumble into a path to a person. Some enterprising folks have collected secret backdoors into human contact at major companies and posted them. Called Find-a-human, the current list is sure to be “fixed” by the companies. But in the meantime, I can blissfully get past the gatekeeper to the information I need.
The principles inherent in IVR and the problems with IVR can be applied to consumer audio products too. Instead of using multiple prompts to confirm a deletion, why not lock the device against deletion permitting the consumer to unlock it and then delete without additional prompts? Instead of using a passcode that too many people forget, why not employ some low cost biometrics to unlock secure devices? Or how about some simple frequency analysis of speech to verify the owner?
Audio is a fundamental part of consumer devices. How we engineer audio interactions will determine if consumers throw their devices against the wall in abject frustration, or pamper them as indispensable tools.