Losing our humanity

I recently had an experience of calling my internet/phone/tv provider to reschedule a service appointment. First, I tried the online option but – due to business rules – the program would not allow rescheduling the appointment. I was instructed to return to the main menu, or use “chat service” which was currently unavailable. I called the 800 number and received an AI robot after a 2 minute wait. The AI asked me a variety of questions which I was supposed to answer using words. Talking to this AI was useless and it got stuck in a loop of not accepting my phone number. It had repeated my number back to me correctly yet then refused to accept it even though it was the phone from which I was currently calling. I was now about 15 minutes into this and I was losing my cool fast. My attempts to ask the AI to let me speak to a human were repeatedly sent through various attempts to make ME use the AI correctly. Finally, I heard the magic words that I would be transferred to a specialist. The AI had given up on me.

Once the specialist was on the phone, I found myself grateful and truly interested in whether or not this person was having a good day and how helpful he/she sounded. I was determined to not take out my frustration from the AI on the nice human. It took another 5-7 minutes to complete the reschedule and give me the obligatory confirmation code. When we were done I realized how much we are taking away from our own humanity when we put these automated systems in place to deal with human transactions. If someone needs help, they need to talk to a person who genuinely cares about helping them. They don’t need to talk to an AI that doesn’t work.

I’m all for self-help and giving people the tools they need to get things done. I’m also pro AI for business processes. If you’re going to make humans talk to AI, you better integrate with my Alexa or my Google Assistant so I can just tell them to reschedule the damn appointment for me. That’s what the experience needs to be like. Anything else is wasting a human’s time.

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