TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: "Please Enter Your ID Number" So We May Ignore it

Re: "Please Enter Your ID Number" So We May Ignore it

Rick Merrill (
Thu, 22 Mar 2007 16:25:36 -0400

Ron Kritzman wrote:

> I don't know why they bothered to ask for your account number if they
> had no mechanism for passing the info back to the attendant. ...

One reason is that they use a central phone number, then use your
account ID to switch your call to a centering handling your area.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: But as long as they are going to that
trouble to start with (of transferring your call between centers), why
not just transfer your enti
Date: 22 Mar 2007 14:00:23 -0700
Newsgroups: comp.dcom.telecom
Subject: Re: "Please Enter Your ID Number" So We May Ignore it
Message-ID: <>
X-Telecom-Digest: Volume 26, Issue 81, Message 12 of 12
Lines: 183

On Mar 22, 10:41 am, wrote:
> I recently called the local Blue Cross. I waded through the
> voicemail, and then they asked for subscriber id. This is now done
> with voice recognition since the subscriber ID now has letters. (Why?
> We moved away from SS numbers, but why add letters? 10 billion ids
> aren't enough?) Then I connect and they ask my ID number again! Why
> waste my time and their money on the voice system?

Oh boy, does voice recognition drive me crazy and raise my blood
pressure! (Ironically from calling to Blue Cross! Do they know
they're making their subscribers sicker?)

Voice recognition never seems to work for me. I don't like it at
all. I complain to the human who eventually answers and they say "oh
yes, we have a lot of complaints on that". Well, get rid of it, damn

I don't mind--as much--keying an ID into a Touch Tone phone, at least
that's hopefully clear to them what I'm doing.

Back in the 1960s the movies/TV had spoofs of future life, with
frustrated people trying to order a computer to do something. I think
"Get Smart" made fun of instructions that the computer or robot
(Hymie) took absolutely literally instead of figuratively. (e.g. "Run
this through the computer" meant he would physically run through the
computer gear.) Other sci-fi movies did so, sometimes with seriously
unpleasant results. Generally, they mocked the upcoming technical

And they were right. Reciting your 16 digits is harder than tapping
them in, especially when the machine comes back "Sorry, I do not
understand" five times and you go crazy trying to get through it.

And the S.O.B. administrators won't let you enter zero to get a human,
they freakin' force you to go through their hell.

These same $&*%# people encourage you to use the web, but they screw
you over on that as well. It's not a simple enter your name and
secret code and you immediately get the data you need. No, they want
to sell you something first, then make you agree to some microfine-
print contract, etc. I tried getting on to a credit card company but
I rejected the terms of their contract which authorized lots of spam
from them. No matter, I still get the spam and they tell me there's
nothing we can do about it. No, I can't change credit cards because
they all credit cards come from very few places these days.

Very frustrating.

I suspect the managers who order these irritating systems don't have
to use them themselves, they have executive assistances or spouses to
worry about that sort of thing.

To all who replied, thanks for your responses.

On Mar 21, 8:56 pm, The Kaminsky Family <> wrote:

> The problem with all of these automated systems is that it is much
> easier to create a bad application than a good one. Both companies
> provided a way to build applications which did not require a
> programmer -- for the voice mail product, anyone with the proper
> access to the system could sit there with a telephone and create an
> application. For the platform product, an application could be
> created with "drag and drop" programming and some simple
> configuration. However, to build a good application requires
> programming skills -- such as making sure that all paths work, and all
> error conditions are handled properly.

Skills that most non-programmers don't have. Indeed, in today's
highly automated environments, many programmers don't have a good
understanding of error conditions and the necessity to trap EVERYONE
of them properly and provide a smooth exit, not just an infinite loop.

In the old days, sloppy programming would result in a program abend, a
phone call in the middle night, and an angry boss the next morning.
After one such experience, programmers were damn careful to be sure it
didn't happen again.

In my programs, I always put in provision for "soft failures",
situations I never expected to occur, but if they did, at least I'd
stop running with displays of all relevant data and the circumstances.
These traps came in handy years later when someone changed a program
improperly and caused a logical error. The information displayed by
the trap enabled debugging to be quick.

In other words, if a customer is to be transferred to another number,
what happens if that other number is closed? Is there a voice mail?
What happens if the voice mailbox is full? What about emergency

> Many of our customers built their applications themselves, rather than
> hiring our development teams.

In the old Bell System days trained Bell professionals would work with
businesses to set up their call distribution systems. Not only the
hardware, but the operating techniques as well. Bell wanted its
customers to give good telephone service and provided support and
training to make that happen. It might even have been free.

> As far as I know, neither company had any program to evaluate our
> customers' applications and let them know how they did -- that would
> have been a great suggestion while I was working there!

That was a service Bell provided to large business customers, they
would audit response times, service quality, etc.

> In the last few years, voice recognition has become good enough to use...
> opportunity to escape from the limited interface provided by the
> twelve buttons on a telephone.

Years ago I believed that basic telephones would all come equipped
with a little keyboard and simple small screen so that customers could
use the keyboard to enter things like their name and address or more
sophisticated answers than could be keyed in a pad. The read out
screen would provide answers, maybe a small adding-machine type
printer along with it. I still think this would be a very useful
feature. But the Internet came along and all data entry goes via

The problem is that using the Internet for many tasks is like using a
tractor-trailer to deliver one pair of shoes. Complex overkill and
way too much overhead.

While some businesses took a long time to answer their phone, a great
many stores and movies answered it promptly with a knowledgeable human
able to answer questions quickly. I figured that telephone keyboard
would be easy and quick to get movie information, for example.

> So the technology is available to build far better applications than
> most of the ones we get stuck using. If enough people complain when
> they find a bad application, perhaps companies will realize how much
> bad applications are costing them -- which might motivate them to
> improve. I'm not holding my breath ...

Unfortunately, it is impossible for us individual consumers to

Companies are huge today, thanks to mega mergers. If you can reach a
human, they're thousands of miles away in a boiler room being watched
by the millisecond. They have a quota to meet. They and their
immediately supervisors care about that quota and perhaps sales, not
complaints, esp about something they have no control over.

If you write a traditional letter these days it will be ignored.

Years ago companies once maintained public relations people who
actually read complaint letters and tried, within reason, to resolve
the complaint if practical. They would track complaints and
suggestions and pass them on; the company would respond if practical.
With megamergers and huge companies, the volume of complaints is too
high and such support people are expensive. So letters are ignored.

They do have an assembly line operation for email complaints, but they
basically send you a coupon for your next purchase and a gushy form
letter, but no effort at all to resolve your concerns.

If you don't like a food product, there's a good chance a "competing"
label is actually now owned by the same company thanks to mega
mergers. So, you can't just change brands anymore.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Lisa is correct; there is little or
nothing of significance any of us small, individual users can
do. Except one thing -- we can attempt, for whatever it is worth, to
use the Ayn Rand philosphy: go on strike, use as little of the world's
resources as possible, live in a small, rural area of Kansas or
Colorado or perhaps Montana, deal with them when we absolutely have to
and get by on our own when that works instead. Long time ago I
quit dealing with _any_ of the large communications carriers for
example. Not a one of them has the morals of a snake. Withdraw your
talents and abilities; give them only to people YOU choose. I live in
a very small town, pinch my pennies very closely in a small number of
stores (mostly family owned, local businesses), am _very careful_ with
whom I give my money. Refuse to be part of their system as much as you
can. That is the only way to do something you (and maybe one or two
other people) consider 'significant'; _refuse to play along with them._
Won't it be great to see Iran/Iraq/whoever eventually get enough of us
and bomb us back into the stone-age? And you know they probably will
some day. It will force many others to come around to our way of
thinking. And what's with whoever decided last week to poison all the
dog and cat food? These harmless little creatures! PAT]

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