Please Give the Computer on the Phone a Moment to Act More Human

by Barrett

When a computer on the other end of your phone call can’t move fast enough, is that good customer service? Well, it depends…

Customer service call centers are dominated by automated voice response systems, voice recognition, computer-generated voices, and growing AI capabilities. These non-human IVR interfaces are the first line of defense before you can talk with a human being. It’s been that way for years.

And granted, more sophisticated technologies have vastly improved the user experience these days. But it’s still not the same as talking to a real person. Not even close.

So why do voice recordings and computer generated voices pretend like they’re actual people? Do the human designers feel like their cyber creations are somehow totally pulling it off?

Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL
When I hear the computer “typing” in the background… now that’s just silly.

“Please give me a moment while I submit this.”
(That’s what the computer lady said when I called the New York Times to set up a vacation suspension before we travelled to Massachusetts to see family over the holidays.)

Is there some laptop computer running down the hallway to get my order into the in-box ahead of a hulking iMac that can’t turn the corner quite as fast?
(That would be fun to watch.)

Seriously, though…
Is there a pause in our ‘conversation,’ because the technology requires the delay?
Or is the delay inserted there just to make me feel more comfortable?
(Because an actual person wouldn’t be able to move any faster)

In a future world ruled by AI, I certainly hope sentient computers aren’t going make us wait around for answers, because they think we’ll like it better that way.

Or maybe they will… just to annoy us.
Because we all know they’ll be able to figure out any question instantaneously.
(Including the fate of humanity… but that’s another conversation.)

Can We Speed it Up, Please?
Look, I certainly understand that the goal is to make this kind of tech feel more approachable to today’s human population.

When I hear a computer’s interactive voice like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home or Apple’s Siri, and these smart assistants are sounding so real… that’s already amazing, right?

When the day comes where I can’t tell the difference between a computer and a person’s voice on the phone, it’s going to be pretty wild. And that’s a whole other conversation.

If that computer voice wants to throw in some extraneous sounds to lock in the whole reality, I say go for it!

But until then, please don’t do silly things to try to appear human.
That’s what humans do.

Please just be a computer and get the job done better and faster than a person can.
That’s how you’re going to make people happy.

Wait… what?