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

Is talking to a robot really any less annoying than talking to a person? 1

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.