Perhaps one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century, right behind the flush toilet, is the telephone. And one of the greatest inventions designed to negate any usefulness the telephone might once have had in connecting you in any meaningful way to a business is the automated menu. I will assume that you have had the pleasure of interfacing with one of these menus. Here’s an example we’ve all grown to hate:
“Thank you for calling the law offices Loathe, Sickman, Snidely, Lipschitz, and Gross. Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed. (Note to audience: NO THEY FREAKING HAVEN’T! YOUR MENU OPTIONS HAVEN’T CHANGED EVER, EVER, EVER!!!!! STOP LYING, AUTOMATED MENU!!!!) If you are calling regarding pending litigation, press 1. If you are calling on a previous litigation, press 2. If you are calling to begin the litigation process, press 3. If you would like to leave a voicemail for Daniel Loathe, press 4. If you would like to leave a voicemail for Jerry Sickman, press 5. If you would like to leave a voicemail for Kathleen Snidely, press 6. If you would like to leave a voicemail for Stanley Lipschitz, press 7. If you would like to leave a voicemail for Randolph Gross, press 8. Para escuchar este menu en Espanol, o prima nueve. To hear these options again, press star.”
Well, that certainly was a waste of time, wasn’t it? Right about the time the pleasant female voice says ‘thank you for calling’ I zone out and begin to drool uncontrollably, don’t you? Notice at no point is there an option to actually speak to a living, breathing person.
And this is just the first menu. Had you pressed 1, you’d be taken to another menu asking you about your personal information, then another menu about the details of the litigation. You’d better have your case number, or you’ll be starting from scratch.
Then, if you did manage to make it through the tangled, incoherent web of numbers and worthless platitudes like “we appreciate your business”, you’d be asked to hold while a representative from the law office notices a call in queue, stretches, gets another cup of coffee, boots up her computer, puts on her headset, mentally prepares herself for the inevitable litany of curses she’ll hear when she takes the call, and then sighs in relief when you disconnect your call in a frothing, inhuman frenzy.
Everyone hates the automated menu. Nobody’s ever said, “Thank God I didn’t have to deal with the trauma of speaking to an actual person. And this menu anticipated my needs with remarkable accuracy!” Because you and I both know that the automated menu is not there to assist us. It is there to make the company feel like it is providing a service without actually providing a service.