Saturday, December 03, 2005


IVR stands for “Interactive Voice Response” or some such. What this boils down to is you call a company and, instead of getting a human, you get a machine. Worse, many times this whole complicated system gives you no immediately obvious way of reaching a real live human being.

Some years ago, Ford Motor asked me to record the messages for an internal IVR system at World Headquarters. It took me a week of working at home for a couple of hours every day to get all that stuff recorded. There were 9 main options, and then each one branched down from there.

I don’t recall ANY of the options being, “If you can’t sort through this crap, press ‘0’ for a live human being.”

This is the wave of the future, apparently. Go to an I.T.T. plant, for instance and, when you walk in the entrance, you find yourself in a pleasantly furnished small room. Besides comfy chairs, there’s a TV set on the wall and, beneath it, a telephone. Instructions are on the monitor, along with a listing of extensions for departments.

Picking up the phone gives you a system whereby you start punching in the first three letters of someone’s name and, as soon as the system gets enough letters to match, that individual’s voice pops up telling you his or her extension number. You take the extension number, call it, and someone comes down to talk to you or escort you in.

No sweet thing to say “Hi! Welcome to I.T.T.!” or anything similar … like, “May I help you?”

Of late, I’ve encountered an increasing number of companies who, on the phone, give you no easy, obvious way to get to a live human being … but, in the wondrous way of the human race, one guy by the name of Paul English has made it his task to find out how to burrow your way through over a hundred companies’ IVRs and get that elusive individual who just might be able to help you.

He also addresses other things in that general area. For instance, “Frustrated? How about when you call your phone company and they ask for your phone number? Or when your bank asks you to type in your credit card or ATM number, and then when you finally get a human on the phone, they ask you to tell them again.”

Paul posts what he calls the IVR Cheat Sheet™ wherein he tells you what’s up. His “sidebar” links to his comments about how some companies are trying to take a leak on his reputation, and he pats on the back companies like Southwest Airlines who don’t believe in leaving you at the mercy of a computer … and, strange coincidence, make a lot of money and get lots of loyalty from its customers.

Good reading, good points. Go visit the man.

And thank you, Warren Darden, for bringing this to our attention.

Now, to leave you in a smiling mood ….

Bubba calls his Boss one morning and tells him that he is staying home because he is not feeling well.

"What's the matter?" he asks.

"I have a case of anal glaucoma," he says in a weak voice.

"What the hell is anal glaucoma?"

"I can't see my ass coming into work today."


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