[NETIZENS’ VOICE]Have people answer, not machines

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[NETIZENS’ VOICE]Have people answer, not machines

The editorial columns from readers are often complaints about the automatic response system. When reading readers’ opinions, we nod our heads along since they mostly write about the things that we have already experienced.
When citizens call government offices or major companies to complain or ask something, they must get through the company’s main phone, which is usually an automatic response system. But it is hard to get connected to a consultant and even if we do succeed, a recorded voice ― “Please wait since there are many calls at the moment,” is repeatedly played. This is the main content of their complaints.
In the past, people answered the phone when we called government offices to ask questions. A clerk then connected us to the department related to our civil appeal. When the desk clerk was not polite, people used to bawl them out. However, these situations seldom occur now. It is because an answering machine now answers the phone, not a person.
Automatic response systems began to spread widely about 10 years ago, starting with the 700 Service that provided information on professional baseball games in the early 1990s. Now the service is used widely in various sectors for horoscopes, health consultation, weather forecasting and much more. As computers’ memory storage became massive, highly accumulative and faster, voice digitalization became possible. The automatic method developed and became more varied as the technology to compress sound developed.
For a company that uses the system, it is a useful device, saving human resources and time. However, the citizens tell a different story.
First of all, it is disturbing that we must follow and press numbers according to the orders of the recorded voice, which are rather complicated. If citizens were able to talk to the person in charge after going through this process, we might be able to bear it, but on failing to talk to the person in charge, we get dissatisfied. Actually, when you continue to hear “Please wait since these are too many calls,” after getting connected to the department you want after going through this process, you start to get angry.
If the number is not toll-free, the burden of a phone bill is added for us.
Because of these inconveniences, major companies now use a system of connecting the person in charge directly, like mobile communication companies where the competition is very intense. When you call these companies, you get a different feeling from calling government offices. The companies know very well that their only way to survive is to provide the best service.
The current situation might be different, but the city of Boston removed all its automated phone systems after receiving requests from its citizens, saying, “We want to hear a person’s voice, not a recorded machine.” Boston teaches us very well what position government offices that provide service to their citizens must take. In the case of government offices, we cannot say they are providing all services to citizens just by installing an automated system. If it is hard to respond like Boston, I hope they could station a desk clerk at least during times when civil appeals are heavy. This way, the inconvenience on citizens can be reduced.

by Lee Jae-il
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