Friday, August 29, 2003

Stoopid Emily

In January, Bell Canada introduced Emily - their new telephone customer service representative:

Emily is a native of Fredericton, New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton University who enjoys listening to live music in her free time... And she's a computer. Emily is dedicated to making the lives of Bell customers simpler by engaging them in conversations to determine what their needs are. Her ability and willingness to assist customers is based on sophisticated speech recognition technology. Emily received her calling in life as part of the Company's broader plan to simplify processes. While Emily doesn't fully eliminate the need to make selections using a dial pad, she does take her role of making things easier for customers to heart and reduces the number of steps and the time required for customers to get the information they want. "In years to come we'll look back and see that Emily was one of the very important steps we took to bring simplicity to customers," said John Sheridan, President and COO, Bell Canada. "She's proof that technology can be used to make things easier for customers, not more complicated. Emily is a symbol of change for the company and its customers and we expect that she'll become the inspiration for re-inventing the ways in which we serve our customers."

Whatever. Emily does have impressive voice recognition capabilities provided by Nuance, but the system is still poorly designed.

This morning I called Bell because I forgot the PIN for my calling card. Emily's voice said "To obtain or change your calling card PIN, please select 4." I did. Emily then said "Please enter your existing PIN. If you forget your PIN, you will not be able to use this service. Please contact a Bell calling card representative." Then nothing. I had to hang up, call Bell back, wait on hold - only to be told that although Emily could do it immediately, it would take the live Bell rep two weeks to get me a new PIN. I admit that I then freaked out. But to give the person some credit, I was promised a new PIN within the hour. So far nothing.

Now I don't know which is worse: that Emily did not make things easier for me, or that the university in which I'm currently enrolled is giving out degrees to incompetent avatars. Damn.

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