Phone menu navigation

You hear the whispers coming out of co-workers, hushed tones with odd inflections repeating words like ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘customer service’. Is this some weird conversation with a loved one? Then it dawns on you that your co-worker is busy navigating the world of a voice-recognition-based phone system.

Almost everyone has used one of these systems by now. Many companies are using them these days and the trend seems to be moving away from number-based (“please hit 1 if you require immediate medical attention”) to voice-recognition-based (“please say yes if you require immediate medical attention”) phone menu navigation systems. The question is why?

There is nothing inherently better about these systems and I’d argue that in fact they are worse. In most cases hitting a number on the keypad would be quicker. In all cases it is certainly not as disruptive as navigating a voice-based menu system. I suppose there is one situation in which a voice-based system could be better and that would be a menu that gets very deep with options.

With a voice-based system it would probably be easier to skip levels of the menu depending on what the person is saying. Something like “pay my bill” could certainly save time if the keypad-based option required inputting more than 2 numbers to navigate down in to the menu system. In my experience with these systems though I am not seeing this savings.

Most of the systems have voice input that is closely tied to menus that would be equivalent to the keypad-based systems. I just don’t see the savings in time and see a lot more aggravation. I have had, on more than one occassion, had to repeat myself multiple times to be understood. Higher levels of background noise really mess with the voice recognition. In some instances I have even been transferred to a human because the voice recognition can’t understand what I’m saying.

Keep the keypad-based systems guys. They are the less annoying option.

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