Automated Audrey

The world is going virtual, and there’s not much we can do about it but is it a good thing?  I recently read an article which made it appear that it is and that it’s what people want.  A recent study they cited said:

“Actually, what customers prefer is self-reliance. A recent Forrester Report showed that only 28 percent of U.S. online consumers ‘prefer to contact companies via telephone or e-mail rather than using a company’s website to get answers to their questions.’ And we feel certain that, as younger generations turn into a larger segment of the market, they are going to drive upward the percentage of people disinclined to interact with humans for assistance.”

I see a few problems with this finding and wonder how you all see it.  Here’s what I see:

First, this says that only 28% of online customers prefer to contact companies via phone or email.  What about all the other customers who are relegated to calling an 800 number answered by Automated Audrey who prompts them to state the problem in a feeble attempt to rout their call to the proper department?  How many times have YOU been on hold for twenty minutes where you were told for the third time you weren’t in the right department even if you pushed the proper button…TWICE?   It’s happened to me more times than I care to remember.

Then it goes on to talk about how young people are increasingly disinclined to talk to a live person.  I think that is probably true, however mostly because they are more accustomed to technology (an overabundance of texting) and to some degree because the average young person really doesn’t know how to talk to human beings!  Part of the problem stems from the low rate of effective communicators out there anymore.  Very few schools teach communication skills, public speaking maybe, but not general communication skills.

Next, while customers may prefer self-reliance, how much of it is available to them on a website?  Many websites I visit aren’t easy to navigate, are not well-written or intuitive and don’t answer the particular questions I have.

Wondering if I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, I asked my 20-year-old daughter (Text Ninja and Google Wizard) for her opinion on this topic, and she said she often gets frustrated by Automated Audrey mostly because she doesn’t ever seem to have the answer to her specific issue programmed into her databanks.  She says if she were able to find the answer to her query without calling, she wouldn’t need to ask the question.

So what say you out there in blogland?

* Do you prefer to call or find the answer for yourself on the company website?

* Do you often get frustrated with Automated Audrey and long for a Real Rhonda or at least a Breathing Betty?

* What’s your experience?