Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Human Race - ETel 07

There were so many fantastic people, technologies and presentations last week at the show, that I probably won't have time to blog about them all... but a few I just have to dish about.

The Human Race is a student project by Summer Bedard presented at last week's O'Reilly Emerging Telephony Show, and at first I loved it, then it made my stomach twist, then I REALLY loved it. The Human Race is a voice application that you put with an IVR for people on hold. It gives them something to do while they are waiting for their turn. This part I loved.

"So, Summer...", I asked with a jet lagged voice, "tell me about the game. What do the people do?" With a smile, she told me that they have to answer a series of questions with a psychology/personality bent, looking for inconsistencies. Consistencies are rewarded - inconsistencies are not. People who are consistent wait less; people who are inconsistent wait longer. For instance, a caller on hold is asked if they get mad when they are criticized. I press 1 for no. Then, it says, "I hate your shirt. Does that make you sad to hear me say that? "Yes, you automated piece of sh*t. This is a mercerized cotton Oxford with..." Back in the queue I go. Then my stomach twists - I realize I'm never, ever, going to speak with a human. I'm reminded of that George Carlin piece where he thinks beauty pageant contestants should be forced to come back, year after year, until they win.

My head clears, as the coffee replaces the lag. Of course, I DO love this. I would love a world where IVRs are a thing to be briefly tolerated, but that's not happening anytime soon. There probably is a pretty cool set of games you could write for IVRs, and have some benefit to the person for playing. Maybe you could educate your customers in a way they would enjoy, instead of making them listen to inane music or obnoxious commercials. Now, I don't know if Summer has Dogbert for a teacher, but if we could only turn her ideas into a force for good, she'd be cooking.

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