I was expecting a package to be delivered today via UPS. I managed to arrive home just in time to watch the UPS truck drive away. I called the service number where, to my horror, I found myself speaking to one of those robo-secretaries we have all come to loathe.

However, this one allowed keypad entry of the tracking numbers etc. in addition to voice recognition, and offered me just about every conceivable option that I might want. She/it also spoke RAPIDLY and not in a weird monotone - it basically sounded like a normal human, or nearly so.

The conversation went something like this:

Robo-secretary: "Hi, and thanks for calling UPS. Please enter your code number, located just above the bar code on the door tag."

Me: (enters the number on keypad)

Robo-secretary: "We tried to deliver your package on Wednesday the 24th of May at 3:43 PM. We will try to deliver it again tomorrow after 3:00 PM. Is this ok?"

Me: "No!"

Robo-secretary: "Ok, would you like to arrange for pickup, change the delivery address, return to sender, or do something else?"

Me: "Arrange for pickup."

Robo-secretary: "All right. Please hang on a moment, and don't hang up until I let you know everything's done. " (five second pause) "It is still early enough for you to get this package today. Would you like to do that?"

Me: "Yes!"

Robo-secretary: "All right, I need your phone number and an alternate number. A UPS representative will contact you in one hour or less to give you the information you will need to pick up your package today. Please enter your primary contact number now."

Me: (enter cell phone #)

Robo-secretary: "And an alternate number?"

Me: (Enter wife's cell phone #)

Robo-secretary: "Thanks. You'll get a call in an hour or less. Now, would you like to: track another package, order supplies, arrange for pickup of a package at your residence, ..."

And gave me several more options. I interrupted her/it with "No" and she said, immediately, "Ok, thanks for calling", and hung up.

I was impressed. The system worked perfectly, didn't once ask me to repeat anything, didn't miss any of my key presses, never went through laboriously checking any of the numbers I entered, spoke rapidly and clearly, and presented me with exactly the options I wanted. The entire thing took about three minutes or less, from the point where I arrived home until the point where I had arranged to pick up the package at the local UPS depot, which, according to the phone call I recieved eleven minutes after I spoke with Ms. Robo, will be available between 7:30 and 8:30 tonight.


Dylan says:

I send a lot of stuff through FedEx. Because I know the prompts already, I enjoy "interrupting" the automated voice. I don't know why, but it feels good to cut them off with an immediate answer before they even get started. Maybe it's making up for all the times I've wanted to do that when going through a similar process with a live person.

rnewhouse says:

Awesome. I had to call Bank of America the other day and sat through about 27 hours of an eerily perky voice going "Gosharooney, I'm sorry, I just couldn't quite make out what you said there. Please press or say 1 if you are calling from your own home and still wearing pajamas. Press or say 2 if you have more than three cats...."

And all the while I am punching the 0 key like crazy. Five minutes later Ms. Perky says something along the lines of "Apparently you are too stupid to use our system. Please wait while I try and find someone who can work with you."

On some of these things if you just don't say anything or push any numbers, they send you to a real person just in case you are still using a hand-cranked phone and are digitally impaired. (Digitally impaired = no fingers to dial with, get it? hahaha)

Good for UPS. It makes me want to forgive them for those stupid "brown" ads.

Jackson says:

I deal with automated systems for insurance carriers all day long, and none of them are that polite or efficient. Some I know I can key ahead in (Mercury Insurance) and some have an absolute fit and disconnect me when I try to key ahead (Safeway Insurance). I've learned that if "0" doesn't get you to an operator anytime soon, sometimes pressing and saying NOTHING will get you to an operator after they try to get you to repeat your answer 3 times with no success.

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