Company Blog

Can you hear me now?

July 2, 2009

We love automation at Redcort Software. As a case in point, take a look at our time and attendance software. It takes that old mechanical employee time clock and replaces it with an automated time management system. Timecard reports are automatically calculated and totaled instantly. Overtime calculations are always accurate on every timecard. But automation isn't so helpful in every facet of life as a trip through phone system purgatory reminded me recently.

I needed to correct a problem on a bill from a large utility company so I called the not so prominent help number displayed in the smallest imaginable font on the back of my bill. A delightful voice answered the phone and promptly asked me what language I’d like to continue in. I was tempted to say Sumerian, but decided to play it safe and continue in English. The same delightful female voice asked what my call was regarding. I was a little taken aback since I was expecting to hear a list of numerical choices to punch into my telephone keypad. My delayed response was not well received on the other end of the phone line. The still delightful voice told me in no uncertain terms that she didn’t recognize my response and that if I would be so kind as to state the purpose of my call she wouldn’t immediately terminate me, I mean terminate the call.

I sputtered something akin to “Billing question” and winced. She kindly repeated my response and then proceeded to ask me other pointed questions. I was starting to get the hang of this and in no time was rattling off responses like a pro. The best part about it was that she was polite, never lost patience, and spoke the King’s English.

Then the unfathomable happened. We came to a point in our conversation where she wasn’t happy with anything I said. I found our new relationship deteriorating rapidly and with a rookie move hit “0” for the operator. I thought that was my ace in the hole, it works all the time. Unfortunately, in this case a not so friendly voice firmly informed me to call back during regular business hours. Immediately, I was thrust back into the role of regular Joe, my fast track relationship with the pleasant auto attendant quickly forgotten.

Like many companies, we jumped on the phone system bandwagon many years ago, thinking the same thoughts as many small businesses, “An automated phone system will improve our time management by answering calls and routing them more efficiently than we can.” We've deliberately kept it simple over the years, limiting the system to one level of voice prompts. Our auto attendant has served us and our customers well.

Though we've never had complaints about our telephone system, at a recent management meeting we discovered everyone had a phone system horror story in our dealings with other companies. Since our culture is to treat others as we like to be treated, we quickly decided it was time to send our faithful auto attendant to an early retirement and pick up the telephone the old fashioned way.

For the past month, every Redcort Software call is answered by a live, friendly, helpful human being during business hours. It's pretty retro but we like it! Customers have been commenting on how great it is to have a live person pick up the phone. I’ve even heard them fumbling around on the other end of the line trying to take the phone off speaker because we answered so quickly.

That's our story. I’m not saying that auto attendants are bad. I’m just saying that when it comes to automation, I’d much rather deal with time clock software. After all, it doesn’t talk back.