Tjebbe van Tijen on Sat, 29 Aug 2009 01:50:52 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Kafkaphone: telephone automation and the decline of the social realm

Het volledige artikel met illustraties is te vinden op De Hinkende  
Bode/The Limping Messenger 

Kafkaphone: telephone automation and the decline of the social realm
August 28, 2009 by Tjebbe van Tijen |

[diagram of a kafkian system with a Dutch electricity company  
automated menu information system and the effect it has on the  
custoimers blood pressure]

A preliminary diagram I made today after spending over one hour on  
the telephone trying to contact the firm that had place a new gas  
meter in my house without them checking if it worked properly (and it  
did not). I do not have the time to make a complete diagram of the  
multiple-choice menu structure of the telephone system of my energy  
provider NUON (it must have more than 20 options) and other  
enterprises which have some relation to my gasmeter. What I have  
depicted here is just one of many stages of inquiry with four  
enterprises/institutions that were needed before I had a real person  
who understood my real problem and managed to arrange the right thing  
to allow me I to cook again. Several times the end point of yet  
another telephone answering system 'bifurcation' was another help  
number, or just a spoken message + the announcement "you will now be  
disconnected". The blood pressure graph below, is still imaginary,  
but I could picture a serious research method which would use such an  
objectified ways to measure the growing anger one experiences while  
navigating spoken messages larded by muzak style pause music and  
interwoven with announcements like "just be patient, one moment  
more..." Who knows there may be some USB connector blood pressure  
meter on the market that could be connected to my wrist while I am on  
phone to help creating such a visualization ...
Automated telephone menu/choice systems must be one of the most hated  
renewals of the last decade in the realm of customers or citizens and  
the way they are forced to communicate with the institutions that  
claim to exist on their behalf. I have tried to find analytic  
researches on the subject but failed to do so (I will be grateful for  
any hint). The variety of reasons one can have to call for a certain  
inquiry any kind of service or institution is theoretically endless.  
The repetitive character of certain questions certainly does exist  
and to a certain extant some preliminary sifting and redirecting of  
incoming calls is needed and can be beneficial to both customer and  
provider, but once the number of options channelled into one central  
telephone number goes beyond a total of 5 or 6 options, there is left  
only a customer that is subjugated to the economy, arrogance or  
negligence of information and service providers (the Dutch energy  
firm NUON has a total of 25 spoken options in 5 sub-layers with  
general messages in the opening menu and for each of the 5 sub- 
levels, bringing the total  messages to 33; there could be even more  
layers but researching that, goes beyond my actual research energy  
potential at this moment).


It is time to get rid of these primitive and de-humanizing  
communications systems. There is a need for employment of  
knowledgeable functionaries who can combine the wonders of electronic  
communication with the pleasure of a human voice and a minimal  
understanding of a human need at the other end of the line. These  
reborn telephonist diplomats of the 21. century can be home workers  
linked by the internet to all necessary information, having smart  
systems of quick checking with the right persons in charge, having a  
prompt-collective meeting on a special case, using SKYPe, mobile  
phones transfer of documents and chat, whatever comes handy. This is  
in the end a real profitable economic way to engage happy customers  
and an open democratic way to deal with citizens needs and demands.

Tjebbe van Tijen
Imaginary Museum Projects
Dramatizing Historical Information
web-blog: The Limping Messenger

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