A.I. at your service!
We’ve all done it. Texted messages on a home line instead of a cell phone. In the past, your message would simply disappear. Today however, thanks to some dandy robotic transcribers, you CAN have your messages sent to you by email or appear under missed calls. A friend of mine left me a long-winded message on my home line and was duly delivered, recorded and transcribed. I listened first. She told me she went out to buy some “jambon” (ham) for dinner and was going to watch the snow boarders on television, call her back please? I read their written version: She went out to have some shampoo for dinner and was going to watch some snow blowers in vision, could I please call her back?
Close enough, but really… shampoo for dinner?
As I rode the bus across Central Park one day, a young woman held up her phone and spoke to into it carefully and slowly: “Customer Service please” a beat, then “Customer Service!” - pause - “CUS-TO-MAH SER-VICE” she said, louder and slower (Her NY accent was, by then, taking over). A woman across from her leaned in: “try: speak to a representative. “SPEAK TO A REPRESENTATIVE”, she then tried. “SPEAK-A-TO-A-REPRESENTA-TIVE!!!!” She was, by now, shouting into the phone mic. An elderly gentleman tapped her on the shoulder “Just ask for the Operator”, he suggested. “OPERATAH” she tried loudly. “OP-O-RA-TAH” Another woman suggested “Agent! Just say that! One word, Agent!” She was wiggling in her seat with glee. “AGENT” shouted the young woman “AGENT!!!!!!”. By now she had set her phone on loudspeaker. “Just one moment please” came the response, “I’ll connect you to someone who can help you”, chimed in the robotic response to her magic command. Everyone present around her burst into applause, it was a very New Age moment, and also a very New York one. People just love to come to the rescue, especially on public transportation, it seems…
But wacky situations can turn into extremely frustrating ones that come along with these A.I. receptionists. Put in place to cut down on personnel, responses are created to field out very specific problems and all else is sent down a spiral of repetitious nonsense. If transactions are easy, artificial intelligence is great for everyone. The moment anything does not conform to standard, that is when things gets tricky. Have you ever managed to get through to “Customer Service” only to find more automation? “Now, in just a few words, can you describe your problem?" "You can say: my TV does not turn on or …my TV does not turn off?" Mind you, it never suggests: “speak to a live agent…." That would be breaking the rules of the repetitious nonsense spiral! You have to outfox the fox, just say OPERATOR, if that doesn’t work, try: AGENT, CUSTOMER SERVICE or SPEAK TO A REPRESENTATIVE, just like the woman in the bus, one of them should work. Eventually, even A.I. gets tired and you might get transferred over to Sri Lanka where they won’t understand your problem anyway, but at least you can ask them how the weather is over there?
How about the field of Health Care? If you ever have the misfortune of trying to reach your physician or any of the live medical staff, even occasionally during business hours, you are surely out of luck. A.I.’s standard greeting: “If this is a true medical emergency, please hang up and dial 911” Really? Oh, gee, thanks for that! My liver is hanging out, maybe I should call 911. Silly me! And here I thought I was calling for medical care! But wait, they said a true medical emergency? Is my bad cold really one? Let’s clog up emergency and find out! But so many people ahead of me on the call? I just might need more than a new liver by the time someone actually answers! And what about the bad cold…? How can one get back to that nice fellow in Sri Lanka? He said the weather was fairly warm at the moment, maybe he can help?