On Tuesday 23 September I picked up my home phone (landline) to make a call. The cordless handset produced only static and I was unable to dial out. I tried an experiment with my mum calling me to ascertain whether it would be possible to receive incoming calls. The phone failed to ring. It did, however make a slight noise and on picking it up the sound of ringing, but no mum’s voice could be heard.
On Wednesday morning I contacted my Internet Service Provider (ISP) who also provide my phone service, to report the fault. I fully expected to be asked 20 questions by the automated system prior to being privileged to speak with an actual flesh and blood person. However from start to finish I had no interaction with a breatheing entity.
An automated voice asked me to explain my problem (my inability to make or receive calls using my home phone). I was then asked whether I would like to divert calls to my mobile while the fault was being investigated. I answered “yes” and was asked to say my number. The system then repeated it back to me and asked me to confirm that my number was correct by saying “yes” or “no”. It wasn’t and I then had to enter my number using the buttons on my telephone.
Over the next few days I received regular texts updating me on progress. The first one confirmed that tests indicated that there was, indeed a problem with my line while the last one, received on Friday 26 September informed me that everything should now be working and asked that I confirm the position by text. I picked up the phone and joy of joys was able to make a telephone call. I texted my ISP confirming that the phone was now working and my interaction with a robot was at an end.
The whole interaction with Mr or Mrs robot was surprisingly painless and efficient. Other than the automated system not understanding the mobile number which I relaid using voice, everything worked smoothly. I have visions of an android engineer twiddling with dials, checking connections until, finally my telephone connection was restored to working order. Of course there was no android diligently working on restoring my telephone connection. It was a living, breatheing human being but, in the future who knows.
I must confess to having been sceptical as to whether the automated system would relay messages regarding my phone problems correctly. Surely something would go wrong? Well it didn’t and I admit to being impressed with the automated system employed by my ISP.
In theory at least the automation of tasks such as resolving faults should enable organisations such as my ISP to free up resources for customer services so when I have a query about my account which can not be answered by the online system, an actual person will pick up the phone, in double quick time and deal effectively with the query. Well I can live in hope!