Volume 33, Number 4, April 1998

The Business - 4/98

Automated Articulation

by Lyle R. Hill

It was a voice like none I had ever heard before. It was not simply pleasing, but beautiful. Yet even the word beautiful is not descriptive enough. It was . . . celestial, yes, that's it . . . celestial.

"Welcome to the friendly world of Velocity Metals, your quality metal supplier," the angelic voice said, "where your complete satisfaction is our only goal."

The calm serenity of the voice had a soothing, almost hypnotic effect on me. It was a good thing too, because once again the mortals at Velocity had fouled up an important order for one of our best customers. That order was now six weeks overdue and I had been steaming when I dialed the phone. But now the ethereal quality of her timbre was starting to work on my anger.

"If you'd like to place an order, press one," she said.

"For product information, press two.

For technical assistance, press three.

To review the status of an existing order, press four."

She must be an angel, I thought. Human beings never sound this good. She could probably read the phone book to me and I wouldn't mind. She could even read it backwards and I wouldn't complain. But, alas, I needed answers and quickly. I pressed four.

"Your order is important to us," Angelica continued. "And we will always do our best to deliver the highest quality products on time, every time. After all, that's why we're your quality metal supplier. We have even developed this high-tech automated communication system to keep you informed of your job's progress through our shop.

Now, I should have pressed three, but curiosity overtook me. I wanted to know what she would say to a poor guy who'd been waiting months for his material. With a slight pang of guilt, I pressed five.

"We are oh so sorry for any inconvenience we have caused you," she said with a heavenly cadence. "When your quality metal supplier does not deliver on time, we feel your pain. But just remember, a million people will go to bed hungry tonight in China, so who are we to get upset about a little old aluminum order?"

I wiped a small tear from my eye and wondered aloud how I could possibly be angry with this warm, compassionate creature.

"Please listen carefully," she continued, "and select the proper response.

The list of options continued endlessly. Yes, it did seem that my quality metal supplier knew the business well, as I had experienced each and every option at some point in my dealings with them. Finally though, the voice that belonged to my new best friend gave but one final choice.

"If you are now as clueless as we are as to what happened to your order, press 138," she said. I pressed the three numbers and waited.

"For the Dial-a-Prayer hotline, press one. To hear a reading of the entire phone book, press two. For great ideas on what to tell your customer about their lost order, press three."

I slipped my shoes off, leaned back in my chair and pressed "two."


Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.