“Welcome to Joe Klutz’s Funeral and Pizza parlor automated phone system. If you know the extension number of the person you wish to speak to, enter it now.  For Joe’s executive office and washroom, press one, if Joe is not there he might be in the mortuary, press two,  or he might be in the kitchen press 3, to order a pizza press 4, to arrange pickup of a corpse press 5, if you are using a rotary phone, hold the line and Joe will answer your call”

Are you kidding! It’s not like Joe needs an automated system, like he might otherwise be swamped with so many phone calls he will not be able to function, and callers will become frustrated with the long waiting times.

We are seeing ‘automated phone system’ everywhere, even in one or two person operations. They seem particularly popular with government bureaucracies, “if you want to talk to our dog control person, press one, or our cat control person press 2, or all other animal complaints press 3 and so on”.  Even worse, these systems are badly designed; do we really need to hang on while we are told ‘if you know the number of the extension you are seeking, enter it now’?  Maybe we could figure that out for ourselves?  And does anybody this side of Bangla Desh still use a rotary phone?

Well-managed private enterprise businesses understand that such a system is an insult to the client or customers, it says loud and clear “we do not really care at all about you or your issue, we are in charge, not the customer or the client”. Of course bureaucracies, government or otherwise have already decided that we the sheep do not matter; they see it as a mark of status in the organization to have an ‘automated phone system’, and status is what is important, not actually getting the job done.

We see this kind of focus on enhancing the bureaucracy everywhere. For example, does it really make sense for the government to advertise ‘oh, your bank deposits are insured by the government, aren’t we nice!”  Or the liquor store to give you Air Miles, it’s not like you are going somewhere else for your booze if they didn’t!

Here’s a hot flash, it would be less insulting and more personal if instead of an ‘automated phone system’ you just give each bureaucrat his own phone line, and let him answer it himself, with a ‘leave a message’ alternate. And maybe bureaucrats ought to pay for useless perks like ‘automated phone system’ out of their own pocket.

Might be a first step toward ‘serve the customer, forget about status or who is important’. OK, I suppose that is a dream, but sure glad I got this off my chest.

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