Thought for the day

It’s been a month since I blogged, but what with the holidays and absolutely frantic work thereafter, I thought I would give it a break. But then the golden opportunity came to say something when I listened to Thought for the Day yesterday. Now don’t get me wrong, it is not often that I listen to Thought for the Day – as it is at 5 40am – let alone agree with it but the speaker really hit a nerve when he talked about those voice recognition machines which are becoming universal.
I had just been forced to use one to book a Virgin train because, as ever, the Virgin website rejected me. I don’t take it personally Richard, but I could start to do so. Then I had this ludicrous ‘conversation’ with this female machine to book the train service, full of mishearings and hesitations. She was not, how can I put it, very understanding and she did rather speak to me as if I were a five year old retard. Nobody, but nobody, would prefer to talk to a machine!
It got me thinking about a point of issue that I have with my partner. I tend to want to believe that the world is getting to be a better place and things are generally improving whereas she is far more sceptical of that view. And she scores heavily when mentioning things like these automatic voice recognition machines. There is no doubt that they are one of those things that makes life harder and not better. They are simply awful and inhuman, in both senses. Which is the point the speaker on Thought for the Day made, and then prayed for people who get frustrated with them. How touching to be prayed for at 5 40am.
Presumably these systems save money at the expense of jobs – though eventually I did speak to a fellow in India who provided me with the code number I needed to book the ticket. But since call centres are becoming the back up for the web, surely Virgin and the other train companies ought to think before installing them. If something has gone wrong, as happened with me a couple of months ago when Virgin sent out three sets of tickets for the same journey, charging me each time, then it would be so wonderful if a human being picked up the phone and said ‘can I help you?’ It would give the train companies an edge over the likes of Ryanair who not only charge £1 a minute to contact the call centre, but also make it virtually impossible to do so.

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