Editorial: In search of human life (at the other end of the phone line)
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel-Tribune Editor   
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 09:24
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Jan Larson McLaughlin
I've been accused of sounding like Andy Rooney in this week's editorial. You know what I really hate ...
So I'll try to not be too curmudgeonly, and to check my eyebrows when I'm done.
Navigating the way through an automated answering service should not be like wandering through a corn maze. I realize that personnel is the greatest cost at any workplace, but some costs are worth incurring.
If private companies want to put up phone hurdles in front of their potential customers, that's their business - or lack of business if the customers don't have the patience to wade through numbers, names, departments and dialing destinations.
But public entities should not put up such barriers to citizens trying to talk to a human being. Citizens don't have the option of hanging up and dialing another local government service or school system.
I will admit, some phone automated systems aren't too difficult to navigate. So kudos to public entities that make sure their answering systems are user friendly.
But some are next to impossible - especially if you are searching for human life at the end of the other line. Granted, some systems turn the caller over to an actual person if zero is dialed. But several don't give that option.
One of our reporters tried to reach a person at an area governmental agency last week. None of the options listed on the automated system allowed him to actually talk to a person.
Frustrating.
Some governmental phone systems, under the guise of being more efficient, require the caller to know the correct spelling of the person's name they are trying to reach. Good luck trying to get to Cathy, Kathy, Catherine, Kathleen ... then taking a good ole spelling bee stab at their last name. You'd think if you got even remotely close to the correct spelling, the phone system would reward you by connecting you to that person. But some require complete accuracy. Pretty unrealistic for many citizens.
Might I suggest that any public entity replacing a human with an automated answering system first try to make it through their phone maze themselves. I appreciate governmental efforts to be fiscally responsible, but not when it means sacrificing service to the public.
 

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