Water on the Brain

Here is a picture of a human brain. In fact it’s mine. I’ve been desperate to find an excuse to put it in a blog post ever since I obtained it and put pretty colours all over it. (Turner prize, this way please).

The human brain is a wonderful organ. It can process information at lightning speed. It can generate emotions and amazing ideas. It also likes to interact with other human brains.

Today, mine generated the emotion known as ‘exasperation’. Yet again, as I tried to pay my water bill over the phone, a series of devices apparently devised to frustrate the human brain were triggered at every turn. Running order as follows:

1. The inevitable phone keypad menu. “Press one for blah, two for blah blah…”, and so on*.

2. Automated voice ‘recognition’ system. “Please say your account number” / “I’m sorry, I did not recognise that account number”. (Repeat four times). Now, I never went to elocution classes but I am pretty confident I can clearly pronounce any number between 1 and 9, as well as most of the letters of the alphabet without having to refer to my phonetic notes I made last time I attempted to wade through this mechanised fiasco.

3. Placed on hold. Horrible music. Automated voice advising me, “Your call is important to us”. (No it’s clearly not) I’m also waiting on an 0845 number that isn’t included in my phone provider’s inclusive minutes; I’m therefore funding my own frustration. Nice touch.

4. Tricked by this non-human tormentor into thinking I was about to be connected to another human brain as the music suddenly stopped…. Pause…. “We are experiencing an unusually high call volume at the moment”. Music cuts back in.

5. Repeat stages 3 and 4 ad infinitum.

6. Finally put through to a human. Payment made seamlessly within seconds.

I pointed out just how easy the transaction was once put through to an entity with a human brain. The person with the human brain agreed, acknowledged the water company’s automated payment system exasperated a lot of their other customers, and even expressed frustration at experiencing the same non-human interface when dealing with other organizations that adopt such an approach.

So, why do some companies insist on dehumanizing their processes? “Because it’s cheaper for the organization and better for the customer”, is the usual response. Well it’s neither! It costs more to set up and maintain these inhuman abominations and makes the customer’s journey through the process unnecessarily lengthy and frustrating. The company also has to position perfectly capable human beings behind these absurd hurdles to cope with the failure demand caused by this soulless and defective front-end design. More waste and cost!

The whole thing makes me suspect that these anti-human devices were unleashed for the express purpose of aggravating innocent customers like me. Whose brain came up with that stroke of genius? And as for the fact that this company has an instantly deployable robot-voice to advise those trapped in the purgatory of an ‘unusually high call volume’ (whilst languishing on eternal hold), well that simply suggests they haven’t bothered to design their system against predictable demand.

Why not cut out this layer of uselessness, increase profits and do what the customer wants by just putting me through to the human being in the first place? Someone with a brain.

There’s an amazing idea.

* Yes, I know I’m not the only one to get wound up by this sort of thing. I saw a great post about the subject on another blog site a while ago. Credit it where it’s due - My brain just ‘borrowed’ the idea to bring this post to you.

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About InspGuilfoyle

I am a serving Police Inspector and systems thinker. I am passionate about doing the right thing in policing. I have a big problem with numerical targets, unnecessary bureaucracy, and anything else that stops police officers from providing the best possible service. I believe that by adopting a systems approach, policing can be transformed beyond the wildest expectations of many.
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2 Responses to Water on the Brain

  1. Crofty says:

    ‘I’m also waiting on an 0845 number that isn’t included in my phone provider’s inclusive minutes; I’m therefore funding my own frustration. Nice touch.’
    - This is nothing to do with Systems Thinking but 08 Wizard is a great app if you are trying to contact 08 numbers and you have a smart phone!

  2. Blue Eyes says:

    I’m always impressed by how accurately those voice recognition account number doo-dahs are. I hate them more than is sane, but they often work.

    Maybe like the famous voice-activated that cannot understand Scottish accents, your water company’s system cannot understand Yimyow*?
    ;-)

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