Is talking to a robot really any less annoying than talking to a person?

When ringing up the customer services department of pretty much any company, you will often be left feeling like the label ‘customer service’ is some kind of ironic joke. Whether it is complaints about call drops, being put on hold or the dreaded clueless call centre worker, there is always something that allows people to moan about customer service. And the latest fad that is making people rage more than ever?

Talking to the robot.

Automated services are nothing new. Press 1 for one service and 2 for another is part and parcel of customer service calls nowadays. Yet nowadays it is almost impossible to skip the initial automated robot, leaving most people something more to moan about. Yet I think there is one important point that many people miss: is talking to a robot any less annoying than talking to a person?

Without automated services it is up to humans to direct you to the place you need to go and to the information you need. In the time before automated services, were we any less happy with customer service? People ring customer services when something is wrong: the experience is rarely satisfying. So I’m going to take the unpopular opinion, play Devil’s Advocate and ask ‘are robots as bad as we make them out to be?’. Here are some of the good things that automated services do for you that you maybe aren’t appreciating.

1. Robots eliminate human error and speeds up response.

We spend so much time talking about what robots do wrong when in reality if all interaction was human then there would be mistakes there too. It is just as often that an unhelpful person frustrates just as much as an annoying automated ‘press this button’ service. At least robots don’t have a sassy attitude.

In addition, automated services are often designed around frequently asked for services, meaning they are designed to be streamlined. Odds are you will get the department you need faster through an automated service than in the free-for-all of all human call centres.

2. Reduced costs are good for you too

Automated services cut down the costs of customer services for businesses dramatically, as people are directed to where they need to go quickly and easily. By employing less people and streamlining services, companies save money. While you might not be happy about companies getting rich on the back of annoying robots, you will be pleased to know that some of that benefit will be passed on to you to. Less operating costs often means a cheaper product. So the next time you see a slash in prices, you may want to thank the robot.

3. Voice control will get better

Perhaps the most raged against form of automated services are those that require you to literally talk to the robot. Voice control technology isn’t perfect: one muffled vowel or a particularly strong accent can leave you infuriated. So because of this, I’m not going to even try defend it, except to say it will get better. Voice control technology is growing (hello Siri!) and will probably be around for a long time. At least by rolling out prototypes now we are likely to get a better end product.

At the end of the day, customer service calls are rarely a rewarding experience. Automated services actually take some of the annoyance out of it by getting you where you need faster, pushing down hold times and improving the quality of service.


Is Talking To A Robot Really Any Less Annoying Than Talking To A Person? – by John Sz., on behalf of Capita Customer Management, a call centre outsourcing company in the UK.

The rise of the food truck empire and secrets to business success

Food trucks: magical capsules of iron and rubber wafting delicious and beautifully foreign smells from their insides, which tease our noses and prompt our mouths to water. Heaven? These babies are pretty close to it.

What Is A Food Truck?

Food trucks are vans or trucks that are modified in order to accommodate a kitchen and all of the items that accompany it- stove, oven, grill, deep fryer, microwave, etc. They may be moved from place to place (they are vehicles, after all) or simply occupy a designated spot on the street.

Food choices range from traditional and simple foods like hot dogs and tacos to much more unique recipes including ethnic cuisine and gourmet options. While the idea of mobile food wasn’t born yesterday, more and more cities are beginning to adopt the creative idea. Cities such as New York, Los Angeles, D.C., and Chicago are no strangers to the food truck phenomena, where grabbing a bite from a food truck is considered a fashionable norm. Let’s take a look at how exactly the food truck empire was born and how it’s gained popularity through the years.

1. Chuck Wagons:

People in the 1860’s used chuck wagons as a means to carry food and cooking supplies across the US and Canada. What’s a chuck wagon, you ask? It was a modified wagon with special compartments designed to preserve food for a longer period of time. The chuck wagon also had a special back flap designated for storing firewood. When the flap was laid over a fire, it provided a cooking stove. Traveling cowboys and cowhands were able to cook food wherever they traveled, which proved very useful.

2. Mobile Canteens:

During the 1950’s and World War II, mobile canteens were used to take snacks and beverages to military men and women. The canteens provided the workers with a boost of military morale as well as encouragement to help a profitable business. Military bases in the US were often visited by mobile canteens, which would offer a different variety of snacks and beverages than what was provided in the “chow halls.”

3. Food Trucks:

Over the years, food trucks became more prominent; the name “food truck” began to stick in peoples’ minds more than any other name the mobile wagons had. Businesses like the Salvation Army and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) started to use food trucks in order to feed people in post-disaster communities, as their houses and any other form of shelter was most likely destroyed in some way.

4. Roach Coaches:

“Roach Coaches,” a nickname for a food truck, provided fresh food on site to construction workers and farm workers alike. In rural areas, particularly in the 60’s and 70’s, food trucks were loaded up with locally grown produce and garden products and driven to busier commercial areas to sell their goods. Today, food trucks have evolved and become so diverse, it can be quite difficult to choose what to get- even more so if you’ve only got a 30 minute lunch!

5. International Trucking:

Back in the day, it was obviously quite common for the food trucks to drive to your location. Nowadays with mobile apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Maps, all you have to do is search for where food trucks park themselves and go to them, depending on where they are for the day, week, or month. Food trucks are worldwide, too: In Canada, lunch and coffee trucks provide items for people to buy throughout their workday. In Asian countries, food trucks provide the unemployed with a source of income, as out of work cooks and bakers load up trucks with prepared food and other food ingredients that can be easily and quickly prepared upon order. Snack trucks have also become increasingly popular in the United Kingdom, where the vehicles frequent universities and other areas with high traffic.

Secrets To Success

So, want to know how food truck owners keep their business flourishing? While there’s no magic potion in order to reach food truck success, there are a few specific traits that undoubtedly help. Take a peek at 6 traits that successful food truck owners possess:

  1. Ability to collaborate
  2. Being self-fulfilled
  3. Focused on the future
  4. Curious
  5. Action oriented
  6. Tech-savvy

If you’re the adventurous type looking to travel the country with your food truck in tow, this business is definitely for you. The above traits are necessary in order to prosper; just sprinkle in (a lot) of fun and make food people can enjoy, and Voila! Food truck success.

Kim Olsen freelance writes online and covers a wide variety of topics from business degree programs online to business startup tips and business technology developments.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Solid tips for buying water machines and water coolers

Up until about a year ago, I was a busy employee, dodging glances and losing some staring matches with my boss. Most of our hypothetical altercations happened in and around our office pantry, where a few of us milled about during our breaks.

More often, I found myself getting a stare-down from my boss because she thought I was lingering around the water cooler more often than I should. I blame it on poor timing (or on my bone-dry throat). I flunked my employee evaluation and in retrospect, perhaps this bad luck was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

You see, I got fired and moped around for a few weeks until I decided to start my own software development company. When we nailed our first big contract, I decided to get an office for the friends and family I now kept on payroll.

One of the first things I had to tick off my list was getting a water machine for my office. The process was long; I screwed up a few times. Coming from a fellow small business owner, here are a few things I’d like to share about getting office water coolers:

Metered vs. Tap Water

Before you start ringing up any water company near your area, you need to know if your water’s fit to drink. This can save you the potential expenses and hassles of getting a water machine.

You can start by getting a water testing kit from your local builder or gardening supply. These cost no more than a few quids and they’re fairly accurate. At the very least they can give you a good idea on how much filtration your waterline might need.

Freestanding vs. Countertop

On paper, this question seems like a no-brainer but I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from family and friends. If you’re renting out a building with plenty of room, a freestanding water machine seems like a solid choice.

If your office already has a pantry, consider installing a countertop water dispenser. They take much less space and if you’re looking to connect to your tap, they’re relatively easy to install. Easy cleanup is also a nice bonus.

Still Unsure of What You Might Need?

Get a free contract. Yes, some water service providers do give a free trial, sometimes for a week or a fortnight (while others run up to a month). These are excellent chances to find out what water cooler will fit your office needs like a hand in a glove.

Don’t be in such a hurry to furnish a new office with a water dispenser. Chances are, if you do your homework well, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of trouble (not to mention expense) in the long run.

In sum, here are a few things you need to know about choosing water machines or office water coolers:

  1. Find out if your tap’s fit to drink. This will also help you to choose what machine to buy.
  2. Consider your space. Remember, real estate’s a lot more expensive than water.
  3. Take out a free trial from a water dispenser near your area. These are wonderful chances to test drive a cooler or to find out what you really need.

Have I missed anything? What other tips can you share with small business owners looking to furnish an office with a water dispenser? Leave your story in the comments below.

About the author: Between hunting down bugs and providing inexpensive cloud computing options for small businesses, Beant Bajwa also writes for hepscott a brand leader in providing water machines and office water coolers for companies in the UK.