Friday, September 19, 2008

Divided by Technology

I like to think I’m a reasonably patient person, though there are a few things that test that patience. Prominent among them are automated phone systems. But then again, who hasn’t been annoyed by them?

A common reason for my irritation has to do with my accent (it’s British). Odd as it may seem, on many occasions the voice recognition technology has struggled to recognize my particular brand of English.

For example, one time I was required to say the word “Texas” only to be told that my response was not recognized. Being stubborn and mischievous--while also determined to get one over on the ubiquitous computerized voice--I persisted with my take on the pronunciation (after all, everyone else can understand me so why can’t you, I thought). Still unable to proceed, I gave in and again repeated “Texas”, this time slowly drawing out the vowel sounds. I was immediately connected. Strange, isn’t it?

In an age of rapid changes human contact is being further eroded, and I am not a fan. All I really want when I need to resolve a charge on a bank statement, ask about a promotion--or whatever else it may be--is to speak to a human.

My preferred tactic is usually to play dumb so that I am automatically connected to a real person, though I suspect they are onto that one and already have plans to circumvent it.

Worst of all, perhaps like me, you’ve been on hold for a long time only to be greeted out-of-the-blue by a rather cheerful "Goodbye!"

The next time I get stuck in automated phone system hell I'll use some cockney rhyming slang and state that I want to rabbit (on the dog) with the gov’nor (speak on the phone with the manager).

Now that really would be interesting...


Anonymous said...

A person could say "You're in America now, learn how to speak English", but that wouldn't be politically correct. Plus, seeing how your country was speaking English long before America was established, the voice recognition system software should be adjusted to understand a broader range of speech.

I am amazed that these systems even exist at all. If they can invent technology to recognize a person's voice, why can't they make a McDonald's drive-through speaker work. The garbled noise that comes out of those speakers at least led to the lit up receipt screen at the drive-throughs today.

By the way, would you like fries with that?

allinaword said...

Politically correct or not, the definition of “speaking English” is subjective at best! Today in Subway I almost had to give up when the server couldn't understand my request for a "glass of water".

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

maybe people can't pronounce properly
when speaking into machines, i lament the ways the youth of today cannot speak real language.
yours bubbly dick