Monday, May 23, 2005

Voice Recognition: Cool Stuff, But Is It Practical?

Voice Recognition has come a long way, but it has a long way to go yet. My health insurance provider uses a voice recognition system to handle customer service phone calls, and the result is that it is nearly impossible to get to an actual human operator.

As I sat working today, I listened as my wife called the insurance company to verify something. The first phone call was a bunch of her saying single words: "Yes" "Coverage" "Pharmacy".... Stuff like that. Eventually, she somehow got a prompt that asked if she wanted to talk to someone, but that was maybe 2 minutes into the call.

Come to find out that she ended up at the wrong department or something, because that person could not answer her question, nor could they transfer her. She would have to call back and navigate the voice system again.

This time, her "Yes" "Coverage" "blah blah" responses were much more irritating. Eventually, she again was prompted to speak to an actual human. (BTW--she did try dialing Zero, etc, to see if it would circumvent the voice recognition system, but it wouldn't).

This person was useless as well, so she had to call back again! (They must outsource their call centers or something--not being able to transfer between departments seems like a rediculous incapacity).

The third time, the voice system wasn't recognizing her clearly irritated/almost outraged tone of voice, because she was starting to repeat each response. "YES' "YES" "I SAID YES!". At one point, I heard her say "GIVE ME SOMEONE REAL!".

Until we have actual Star Trek-level voice recognition, I don't see why companies are using them in customer service roles without providing up front a way to reach a real human.