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Do Kiosks and IVRs Threaten Human Interaction? 294

DavidGilbert99 writes "According to research by the Hyatt Hotel group, one third of customers are already checking in at self-service kiosks in their hotel lobbies, eschewing the traditional route of the receptionist. This is indicative of a wider trend according to voice recognition experts Nuance who believe we simply never want to talk to a real human again, preferring the clipped, efficient tones of its Nina virtual assistant. Expanding this from mobile to now include the web means we could soon be living in a world where speaking to a real live human is the exception rather than the rule." When things go smoothly, I prefer the automated versions of many things (airport check-in, ordering products to arrive by mail, depositing a check); it's when things go wrong that voice menus and web sites just seem to make simple problems into complicated ones.
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Do Kiosks and IVRs Threaten Human Interaction?

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  • Speed and cost (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhcompy ( 1877290 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:49AM (#43079125)
    I just want to check-in faster. I don't care if it's with a person or a kiosk. And if you charge me to talk to a real human, I'll use the machine.
    • Re:Speed and cost (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Samalie ( 1016193 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:53AM (#43079169)

      This really is everything.

      Imagine for a second I'm a poor bastard that has been travelling for the last 30 hours. Between flights, security, check-in-delays, etc...I'm fucking BEAT.

      I just want to get in my fucking hotel room as fast as is humanly possible.

      People are (generally) slow. Inefficient. Worse..talkative.

      Bring on the machine!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Human interaction can be invigorating, and psychologically refreshing. To each their own, I suppose.

        Quite frankly, with an attitude like yours? I don't think they want much want to talk to you, anyways.

        "Thank god. He went straight to the kiosk..."

        I am less forgiving - because people like you are responsible for the rise of Sirius Cybernetics, the robotics company behind some of the galaxy's most aggravating robots. "Share and enjoy!"

        • by Imagix ( 695350 )

          Sirius Cybernetics, the robotics company behind some of the galaxy's most aggravating robots

          I thought that was Cyberdyne Systems....

        • Re:Speed and cost (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lxs ( 131946 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:07PM (#43079367)

          Human interaction can be invigorating, and psychologically refreshing.

          Agreed, but when facing an overworked underpaid desk attendant who has had to deal with 35 cranky customers before coffee it tends to be a chore for both parties.

          • Re:Speed and cost (Score:5, Interesting)

            by zarmanto ( 884704 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @02:05PM (#43080977) Journal

            ...when facing an overworked underpaid desk attendant...

            Bingo. This is exactly why I came to the comments of this post... to call "bull" on Nuance, for the very reason that you've already cited:

            ...experts Nuance who believe we simply never want to talk to a real human again...

            Nuance assumes that people don't want to have conversations with customer service reps -- but what they fail to consider is that most people do indeed enjoy human interaction... when it's actually human interaction. Whether it's the rep behind the counter at a hotel with their fake plastic smile and artificially exaggerated concern for your exhaustion, or the cashier at your local supermarket with their scowl and monotonous droning "Thank you... have a nice day..." it's all just forced and... well, predictably inhuman.

            Generally speaking, people love interacting with their friends -- and for some of us, that even includes family -- and that type of camaraderie has largely been lost in today's customer services... the small town where you know Doris behind the register at the supermarket and your good buddy Joe who pumps your gas for you is gone. So the reaction from far too many people in "customer service" roles are, quite frankly, already so robotic as to offer no real advantages over the automated check-in kiosk and automated check-out registers... so why wouldn't I want the efficiency of an actual robot?

            Now, mind you, if more companies were intentionally hiring employees who show genuine customer focused attitudes -- for example, in the same fashion as the folks running Chick-fil-a seem to have done -- then the pendulum might start swinging back the other way. In the absence of that, I'll go to the kiosk at every opportunity.

        • Meh, Samalie not entirely wrong. In some circumstances I just want to get done with the check-in quickly. Perhaps I had a long flight, perhaps it's midnight and I want to go to bed, perhaps I'm in a hurry, etc. It's not rude or anti-social... it's the way things work.

          And some people don't realize (or care) that there's a huge line behind them and perhaps showing the clerk pictures of their grand-kids or talking about their kid's soccer game isn't the most sensitive thing to do for everyone else in line.

          • "For grocery shopping: it's a mixed bag."

            If I'm only buying one or two items, Kiosk is usually faster, if I have multiple duplicate items, or 10 plus, if I don't get a discount for using the kiosk, then I'm using a cashier. If they don;t want to pay a human to cash me out and bag my goods, then I should get a discount on them. Otherwise, keep somebody employed and use a human cashier whenever possible.

            • by Mystakaphoros ( 2664209 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @01:41PM (#43080639) Homepage
              Now what I'd love is an automated check-out at the liquor store, because getting to know the cashiers *there* gets a little embarrassing.
              • by Fwipp ( 1473271 )

                Why do you think I buy my sex toys on Amazon?

        • Human interaction can be invigorating, and psychologically refreshing

          It can, but when the human you are interacting with is a desk monkey hired for their appearance and tasked with giving you as little for your money as possible, it probably won't be.

          Quite frankly, with an attitude like yours? I don't think they want much want to talk to you, anyways.

          They don't want to talk to most of the people they talk to, but they do because they're paid to.

          I am less forgiving - because people like you are responsible for the rise of Sirius Cybernetics

          Ah yes, the old "people like you". Except in this case, the people like him are the ones who value efficiency and quality of service. If a machine can give me a higher quality of service than a desk jockey, then neither I nor the mach

        • Human interaction can be invigorating, and psychologically refreshing. To each their own, I suppose.

          Right. Some people are extroverts, some are introverts. And that goes for the people checking in, and the receptionists. And plenty of people are already maxed out with the number of people they are dealing with.

        • Re:Speed and cost (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:40PM (#43079841)
          Hmmm, GP says they'd rather avoid people when they're stressed and tired and not in the mood.

          You then respond by getting judgmental. You toss out a platitude about the benefits of human interaction and then proceed to insult them. Cause there's nothing like being snide to encourage human interaction. (I guess being insulted could technically count as "invigorating", not so sure about the "refreshing" part though.)

          You know, just going by the sample comments, i think i'd rather talk to the GP when the GP is in the mood to talk, and just avoid you. Unless you want to make the defense that you're currently stressed and tired and not really up to decent human interaction at the moment?
        • I've probably made mention before that I'm an asocial type of guy. Just call me an asocial asshole, and everything is good. I don't want to talk to a receptionist, I don't want to deal with some toad carrying my luggage, I just want my room.

          BUT - I'd rather deal with the talkative receptionist, and the toad, and whoever else, than the machine.

          When things go drastically WRONG, there is zero satisfaction in trying to strangle the damned machine. COME HERE TOAD!!!! (choke the toad until his eyes bug out)

        • I am less forgiving - because people like you are responsible for the rise of Sirius Cybernetics, the robotics company behind some of the galaxy's most aggravating robots. "Share and enjoy!"

          Go stick your head in a pig!

      • by Picass0 ( 147474 )

        If you've been traveling the last thirty hours I'm going to guess you probably had your hotel reservations set up in advance. Most big name hotels have an automated check-in for people with advance reservations.

        I agree about wanting the check in to be simple but after the fact I appreaciate if there is decent local concierge service. That's not the type of thing people want automated. Some hotel chains may have a centralized call center but even that creates it's own set of problems .

        • Definitely agreed.

          I'm not an anti-social asshole (as some have suggested). In this exact scenario, I want to skip any potential lineup, talk, generalized bullshit, and get to sleep.

          I hope I have a great human concierge service, and even just a front desk/bellhop that I can talk to about the area, or any issues I may have. I even love meeting the housekeeper responsible for my room...more towels :)

          I guess I came off harsh...I don't want no humans at all, but anything that gets me in my room, comfortable

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Imagine for a second I'm a poor bastard that has been travelling for the last 30 hours. Between flights, security, check-in-delays, etc...I'm fucking BEAT.

        I just want to get in my fucking hotel room as fast as is humanly possible.

        In other words, you're the perfect person who the kiosk can go and say "Check me in now" where I can add a whole pile of addons to your room (with charge, of course) and you'll happily pay for it because you agreed to it.

        Just like how some things (like Java installer) can go and bu

        • by Zalbik ( 308903 )

          Sounds like a great business model to have, actually - I wonder why kiosks don't do it now...

          Cause when I go to check out, I'm certainly going to notice those charges, and won't be beat and in a hurry to get to my room. At that point I'll hunt down a clerk/manager and refuse to pay for items they tried to sneak by.

          Many companies are wise enough to realize that trying to trick customers into paying for things they don't want is a stupid business plan. I really don't get why software installers haven't fi

    • Re:Speed and cost (Score:5, Informative)

      by frinkster ( 149158 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:55AM (#43079193)

      I just want to check-in faster.

      That's basically it. When I check in to a hotel, the person at the desk spends five minutes typing on the keyboard. Why? What kind of garbage reservation system are hotels using that forces the worker to type so much?

      Want to reduce your personnel costs? Get a reservation system that doesn't require so much typing and you could have a single clerk at the desk instead of three.

      • Re:Speed and cost (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:17PM (#43079485) Homepage Journal
        This is also true at airports. When I do a self-service checkin it's 2 minutes of "scan credit card", hit "decline offer" half a dozen times, and get my printout. If I go to a person they are apparently required to type out War and Peace to complete every single transaction on their terminal and it takes ten times as long to check in.
        • AS/400 green screen character display archaics from the early 80s are to blame.

          • Re:Speed and cost (Score:5, Informative)

            by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:25PM (#43079623) Homepage Journal

            AS/400 green screen character display archaics from the early 80s are to blame.

            No, no they aren't. It doesn't matter if you have a GUI or not. Also, they do effectively have a GUI. Those terminals understand fillable fields and the system presents an interface for you to fill out. There's no technical reason it can't ask them for the same information for which it asks you, and present its responses without graphics. Those systems were designed to be changed by the very way you build applications on those mainframes. Change the layouts, change the program, it's easy.

            The problem is that the applications are poorly designed for the purpose of getting you through the airport quickly. I don't know what their actual purpose is, but that's the case.

          • I'll take an AS/400 form over a web form ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

            To a pro they are far faster for data entry than any GUI.

            • A properly coded GUI or website is just as data-entry friendly than a green-screen.

              Hell you don't even need to have a field-exit key. Just tab to the next field.

              • by cusco ( 717999 )
                Good luck finding a web developer who understands the concept of tabbing from one field to another. Something as simple as a remote access login should be username-Tab-password-Tab-RSA key-Tab-login, but on three of our customers' login page the tab takes you from password or RSA key to some other random link on the page, and one doesn't allow tabbing between fields at all. In the majority of them you have to click in the Username field anyway, which is just plain stupid. You went to the login page to lo
        • by alen ( 225700 )

          i bet they have to type out your name, DL number and other info from your ID to match up to the ticket info.

          if you scan a credit card then that's already an identifying piece of info so they can get it from the database. since you have the CC in hand, you are probably the person who bought the ticket.

          security and lessening financial liability due to fraud. say you steal someone's CC to buy a ticket. you go to the counter with your ID and it will be easier to flag you. same for TSA requirements

      • by Zalbik ( 308903 )

        Also, it's almost self-fulfilling that the kiosk's will be faster.

        Why do people stand in line to talk to the single check-in person at the airport when there are several available self check-in terminals? Typically because they have some issue that the terminal can't deal with (e.g. unconventional luggage, specific seating requirements, lost booking code, etc).

        The kiosk's handle the 95% of "I just need to perform the standard tasks". The poor desk jockeys are left with the 5% of exception cases. That

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      use machines is fun! it let's you talk to even more people and use more time!

      like this one hotel, had to ask staff where to find more staff to check in! BRILLIANT!

      and like this one flight switch over, had to ask staff where to find staff to find another member of the staff! EXCELLENT!

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:52AM (#43079161)

    It seems 90% of the time I can't use the IVR since for that kind of thing I would have used the web page, which means I am now stuck trying to get a human which is getting harder and harder. I suspect that this is intentional, the longer you have to play around with the IVR the shorter the queue wait times are in the call center.

    • by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:03PM (#43079287)

      You might try looking up the company at GetHuman []. They've got a pretty good database of the arcane paths you need to follow through the IVR systems to get to a person.

    • by neminem ( 561346 ) []

      Last time I had an issue with a major company (I think it was FedEx, it might've been UPS), their website failed horribly, I called their support line, tried several times to speak to anyone, and eventually got auto-disconnected after waiting on hold for a bit. In frustration, googled how to talk to a person there, ended up on that site. Immediately got an actual person, and a minute later, everything was fixed. It's a pretty awesome site.

  • Place item in bagging area how about place a real person at the check out.

    • I make a point of only using human checkouts. If everyone did this, they would be perceived as an expensive waste of hardware, rather than a convenient money saver for the supermarket.

      Human checkouts are faster. I can concentrate on my task (packing), the checkout person can do theirs (scanning). Specialization is what all efficient production lines are about. So robot checkouts are not superior for the customer, they are superior for the store.

      People still use them. Because the line at them is shorter. Pro

      • At my grocery store my job is taking the items out of the cart and putting them on the conveyor. The store has people that scan/check, pack things into bags, and place them in my car. The only time I use automated checking is if I have only a couple of items. You actually have to pack your own items in bags? I hope that never comes to Iowa.

        • by Richy_T ( 111409 )

          This is the way it is in England as my American wife found out when she stood there watching the groceries pile up the first time she went shopping there. To me it makes sense. I have nothing better to do and I have more of an interest in making sure my groceries are stacked properly. Wal mart doesn't even have separate baggers, the checker does it so that just means more time and longer queues at the checkout.

          • by Dracos ( 107777 )

            The fact that Walmart generally only has half as many lanes open as it needs at any given time is also a factor.

            I chalk this up as more evidence that corporations consider their non-executive workforce a liability rather than an asset.

      • by Richy_T ( 111409 )

        The best reason to use the robot checkouts is that the people why typically take the longest at checkouts (old people, check writers etc) tend to use the human checkouts. Also, the robot checkout is a pretty known quantity. Nothing worse than hitting a human checkout where the checker gets you through in the time the next checker over gets two or three people. Also the robo-checker tends to have a uni-queue at the times it has a queue at all. Definitely room for some Clooney-esque optimization.

      • by cusco ( 717999 )
        I also make a point of going to the human checkout, because even though cashier is not a great job, it's still a job and that's still one more person employed and able to feed their family through their own labor.
    • Personally, I would rather see the technology develop to the point that I don't even have to scan my groceries, just drop them into the bag. If that means RFID in packaging so be it, my trunk is made of metal and I own a microwave for any edge cases.

      Hopefully this will eventually advance to the point where most of us can do our shopping online, which will save us a lot of effort and time which we can use for meaningful, voluntary human interaction.

    • by Dracos ( 107777 )


      Self-checkouts at stores are a dereliction of customer service. From my totally unscientific observations of them remaining unused while there are lines at the real checkouts, most people don't like them.

  • by MasseKid ( 1294554 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:55AM (#43079195)
    There is a difference between interacting with an average human and interaction with someone getting paid minimum wage. There's no value added by the later.

    On two recent trips I had drastically different experiences. Front desk clerk at a cheaper hotel took 25 minutes to check in the three people in our group. We asked about simple things like which of the three restaurants next to the hotel was better and he couldn't even tell us what restaurants were next to the hotel. The second was at a much nicer hotel. The person behind the counter was clearly paid more, smiled, and was very nice. It took them all of about 10 minutes to get all four rooms of the group checked in, including changing floors for one of them. They also made some great recommendations for food.

    What people want is value added. I'd never check in via a kiosk for the second hotel, but I'd be very glad to check in via a kiosk at the first. Not wanting interaction with idiots isn't the same as not wanting interaction with people.
    • This : telling a machine to fuck off (with a cancel button) because they are are dumbo-know-nothing is much easier than doing the same to a human dumbo-know-nothing.

      Alas, no-one encourages people to be good at their job anymore. Franchise places want consistency - the same experience in every location. Which means you have to reduce the skills to do the job to a three-ring binder that even a dumbo-know-nothing can read, meaning the only people who will stay in that job are the ones who found their level.


    • by mk1004 ( 2488060 )

      Then why did you choose the cheaper hotel for the one trip? Some people will complain that the more expensive hotel is wasting its money on expensive help. Why pay people a living wage when there's plenty of people looking for work? Then we complain when we get poor service. I don't know how many times a friend complained about the incompetent help at MacDonalds, but he clearly loves the $1 value menu for his 4 kids. You get what you pay for. Usually.

      I don't mind IVR when things go right, and if that saves

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        If only that was the deciding factor. I've been more expensive hotels where the people knew nothing about anything. They didn't even know who they could ask and clearly didn't care. The furniture was ornate but the AC in the rooms didn't work. The food was OK.

        I've stayed in inexpensive places where the staff was fast, knowledgeable and courteous. The furniture was simple but functional, the AC worked well. The food was really good.

        It seems that like many consumer goods, price is a poor indicator of quality.

    • The person at the cheaper hotel can't afford to eat out. They can probably tell you which brand of ramen is best, though.

  • by Matt_Bennett ( 79107 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:56AM (#43079199) Homepage Journal
    If I'm at a counter and the person behind the counter is just reading things off a screen to me, what's the point? If the person adds nothing to the transaction, what I really should be talking to them about is what they are going to do after their job is eliminated.
    • Because computers never have bugs and people always know what the things on the screen mean. Having a person there slows things a bit, but they're supposed to be there to fix things and answer questions as well.

      Also, this sort of attitude is why customer service in the US is so incredibly bad most of the time. In China, where I'm pretty sure the government mandates a minimum number of employees, customer service is good to the point of being creepy often times. You'll have an employee for ever 4 or so aisle

    • Exactly. I'll talk to a concierge or someone who can offer services not available from a computer, but if it's just a check-in drone at the front desk, why would I wait in line if I can hit the same buttons they can with none of the hassle?

      Besides which, this, at least to me, seems like an interface issue. We all know that progress indicators slow down computers by stealing cycles to update the screen, yet we'd still rather have them than not, simply because they significantly improve our interaction with c

  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:58AM (#43079223)

    1/3 of the Hyatt's guests are tech savvy introverts who have figured out that they can lessen stress inducing interactions. The other 2/3s are either extroverts or introverts who haven't figured out how to use the kiosks.

  • If I want to talk to someone, I will.

    If I want to get something done, unless said "something" is to speak to someone, I want to get it done - whether or not interaction with others is required.

    Remember: you are not special.

  • Yes, I don't want to speak to a human. Humans are rude and unhelpful, and they don't need to give me askance looks when they see all the weird stuff that I'm buying at the drugstore.

    But I don't want to speak to a computer either, because I don't like repeating myself. Just let me push buttons.

  • When I talk to one of the machines over the phone, they usually give me a list of options, none of which relate to my problem. I have no problem starting with a machine, but PLEASE, give me a way to get to a human when the machine doesn't cut it.

    • I'd have no problem moving on to a machine, if the machine was good at dealing with my problem.

      Say :

      Menu : three confusing options, fourth option for a human operator
      Human : You explain your problem and then... they direct you to
      Machine : The correct piece of software tailored for your issue

    • But when you do get to take to a human, they are just sitting at a machine themselves with exactly the same options.

  • slide credit card and/or enter a few numbers to identify yourself
    answer a question or two about checked luggage
    grab your ticket/key

    most times you talk to a person their computer system is some ancient software where the person has to type in war and peace to get the same thing done

    • by mjr167 ( 2477430 )

      most times you talk to a person their computer system is some ancient software where the person has to type in war and peace to get the same thing done

      THIS What the fuck are they typing? Why does it take so many keystrokes? They are all pretty fast typers judging by the rate of "clicky clack click" soa re they just hitting random keys while staring at the screen doing nothing? I can't imagine what kind of UI forces a person to type that much.

      • by Pope ( 17780 )

        THIS What the fuck are they typing? Why does it take so many keystrokes? They are all pretty fast typers judging by the rate of "clicky clack click" soa re they just hitting random keys while staring at the screen doing nothing? I can't imagine what kind of UI forces a person to type that much.

        A UI designed by the programmers, not a UI designer, unlike most self-serve kiosks.

        That said, the self-serve kiosks usually have 2 or 3 actual tasks do to, whereas the desk ones can do EVERYTHING. Of course it's easier to design a kiosk UI.

    • Don't knock old software too much - the oldest stuff is probably the fastest.

      The best airline systems are still based on terminals. Because even though they have a learning curve, they were really, really, well designed for maximum throughput. Many of them are probably either still running ancient mainframes or virtualizing them if they are smart.

      Systems with GUIs often concentrate on presentation to the detriment of usability. I've seen systems that don't even make any provision for keyboard usage patterns

  • by StillNeedMoreCoffee ( 123989 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:04PM (#43079321)

    How many times recently have you tried to call say a cell phone or cable company only to go through the decision tree hierachy that does not give are you an option your need, but you don't find that out until you are 3 or 4 levels down on the tree and you have already invested 10 minutes and then r put in a wait queue for another 20 just to find out you are in the wrong place. That design may save on some human salaries but at the cost of many very pissed off clients.

    I think most people would like to talk with a person that can understand what you need and help. We certainly don't have a technology yet that allows a machine to take that place.

    There also seems to be the effect if not the intent to limit access to only certain problems or complaints which you can do by design with an automation but not a person. So limited access for complaints is the other problem.

    • How many times recently have you tried to call say a cell phone or cable company only to go through the decision tree hierachy that does not give are you an option your need, but you don't find that out until you are 3 or 4 levels down on the tree and you have already invested 10 minutes and then r put in a wait queue for another 20 just to find out you are in the wrong place.

      Forget how many. What percentage of the time when I call a company and get a human do they send me to the right place, versus what percentage of the time can I get to the right place via the call tree? I have no statistics, but you're not even asking the right question. My personal experience of the matter is that either way I'm likely to have a bad time when I call any company, whether I speak to a human or not. More than half the time when I get a person they don't know what the fuck I'm talking about any

    • In the age of the smartphone it could be so much easier - instead of having the menu on your phone system, have the menu on your website, in a format that's more useful, and have the phone directly call the relevant department at the end of it.

      Hmm. I'm sure there's an app in that.

  • "Coffee with milk and no sugar"
    "That will be three dollars"

    OMG! The meaningful interactions I will miss! What am I going to miss out on? Meaningless protocol driven exchanges? The occasional moments where protocol breaks and customer and server have a brief moment of human interaction? Frankly, if it bothers you to lose these minute interactions, then you have bigger issues.

    • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @01:29PM (#43080481) Homepage

      "Coffee with milk and no sugar"
      "That will be three dollars"

      "Coffee with milk and no sugar"
      "You said you wanted 'coffee'. If that is correct, say yes."
      "Would you like milk with that?"
      "I just said, 'milk and no sugar'!"
      "I'm sorry, I didn't understand your response. Please answer 'yes' or 'no'."
      "Would you like sugar with that?"
      "What? No, dammit!"
      "I'm sorry, I didn't understand your response. Please answer 'yes' or 'no'."
      "What size would you like?"
      "I'm sorry, I didn't understand your response. Please answer 'grande', 'venti', or 'tall'.
      "Um, which is the big one?"
      "I'm sorry, I didn't understand your response. Please answer 'grande', 'venti', or 'tall'.
      "Whichever is biggest."
      "I'm sorry, I didn't understand your response. Please answer 'grande', 'venti', or 'tall'.
      "Tall! Give me a tall!"
      "I'm sorry, we're sold out of the beverage you ordered, or one or more of the add-ins. Please make another selection and start again."

  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:08PM (#43079377)

    "Not Sure" - Idiocracy.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:11PM (#43079405) Journal

    While the overly-aggressive push to IVRs in areas where they are clearly too immature to be viable is a rather annoying penny-pinching move, it hardly seems like most of the situations being described are really the sort of 'human interaction' that we want to hold on to.

    Interacting with the poor bastard getting paid not-enough to push whatever paper is connected to my situation isn't all that pleasant. I hate to think how it is for the CSR, whose reward for finishing with me is yet another customer...

    It is certainly possible for technology to be isolating(or, perhaps more accurately, quietly ease somebody into isolating themselves); but if your quota of 'human interaction' is currently with people slated for replacement with voice recognition and expert systems, I have some bad news about how isolated you already are.

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:14PM (#43079445) Journal
    Maybe a kiosk at a hotel is fine, but self-checkout at the grocery store is usually a pain in the neck. More often than not there is some sort of problem, even when scanning normal items, so you end up needing the help of a person to clear the error anyway. Of course the person who does this also attends to a register, so they have to wait until the people in their lane have been helped first before they can help you, so it ends up taking longer than if I just went straight to the human cashier.
    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Are you sure you're not just doing it wrong? If I don't have much in my cart I tend to prefer those self-checkout terminals because they're so hassle free. That said, I never use the ones at Warmart or Food Lion because they're badly designed and horrible. Even the old annoyances of "This item is 1/4 gram different than its database weight, you thieving con artist!" have largely disappeared over the years.
  • I always like talking to an actual human better. I spend enough time dealing with (or building) automatic systems. And I know how much they suck. The machine at the airport NEVER recognize my passport. Voice system NEVER recognize my foreign accent. Systems ALWAYS assume you know why you are there or the proper term for what you are trying to do or the procedure.

  • by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:24PM (#43079591)

    Rant mode on: I work on laboratory equipment for a university. I spend a lot of my time and frustration on the phone with the companies who make scientific gear. Breaking out of canned menus and hold only works sometimes and often just results in voicemail sans returned calls or email.

    Yes, for the 14th time this call, I did know that you have a web site.

    If the answer I needed was on the web site, I would have gotten it there.

    If I wanted to order a new machine, I would've dialed sales directly. You make that easy.

    If my user wanted to drop N thousand dollars to have your tech come out three times again to fix a simple problem, they wouldn't have come to me out of frustration

    I want tech support so I can ask a technical question that YOU (the company) removed the manual that had the answer from your web site.

    And when we drop half a million on a machine, I expect better than some lame voice menu system with only a very few highly overworked tech support types on the other end.

    (There. I feel better. But only till I get in another phone runaround with the instrument makers. Don't let me get started about them dropping support and parts for instruments after as short a time as possible.)

  • I can't stand talking to humans, for basic day-to-day stuff. I don't have any great desire to answer how I'm doing or hear how other people are doing, or comment on how the weather is or what some rich guys did playing with a ball. I just want to get on with my day and not be distracted from the voices inside my head.

  • []

    "The book focuses on the unusual traditions and culture of Solarian society. The planet has a rigidly controlled population of twenty thousand, and robots outnumber humans ten thousand to one. People are strictly taught from birth to despise personal contact. They live on huge estates, either alone or with their spouse only. Communication is done via holographic telepresence (called viewing, as opposed to in-person seeing)".

  • What was possible the most prophetic movie of the 20th century nailed this one.

    Erwin: "Greetings and salutations. Welcome to the emergency line of the San Angeles Police Department. If you prefer an automated response, press one, now."

  • For routine stuff, the automated systems are usually faster and smoother. When I know what to expect, have everything ready and don't have anything exceptional to deal with, I much prefer to punch a few buttons on a machine and be done with it. When I want a human being involved is when the exceptions pop up: there's a problem, or I don't know exactly what to expect or what I need, or I have something that's not part of the normal flow that needs dealt with. That's when I want to take it to a human being wh

  • Any company that gets you to a human fast is likely only doing that so they can give you a sales pitch. I'd rather have a screen I can just click on "no". It wastes less of my time that way.

  • Inevitable. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anarchy24 ( 964386 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:40PM (#43079845) Homepage
    I don't want to wait in a line if I have a simple transaction - like checking into a hotel or printing tickets. Faster line to the kiosk, faster service by the kiosk, (usually) no confusion on the part of the computer. I like to have the opportunity to do things for myself, before having to rely on another person - often, this is not possible. Complex problems require human intervention. Computer errors too. And customer service by a computer exacerbates problems, because it is perceived as insincere and says, "we don't care about you and we aren't going to waste our time on you". Human workers will always be necessary - but in declining numbers, as machines become increasingly efficient and capable of performing complex tasks that could only have been done by a human before.

    And for as fun/cool/effective as technology is, Slashdot readers are innovating their own demise.
  • If people in general didn't want to talk to other human beings, most of our planets population wouldn't be crammed into tiny areas ridiculously over crowded of land, better known as villages, towns and cities.

    What people don't want is to deal with the lip of the teenage prick behind the counter who thinks his shit doesn't stink and that you're an asshole because you didn't realize that your 6 pack of soda counts as 6 different items so you now have 21 items in the 20 items or less line.

    • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

      Wow! Where do I have to go to find the stores where they actually enforce that maximum number of items rule? I'm the guy with 6 things and a $20 bill waiting behind the person with 25 items and a malfunctioning debit card. The kids at this store where I often buy groceries have told me they're not supposed to give the customers a hard time even if they're over the limit.

  • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:43PM (#43079893)

    Wouldn't this be more of a Western culture issue? Many parts of the world value the human interaction much more that Western, industrialized cultures, especially the American culture, which is off the end of the chart with its task oriented nature. This is NOT America bashing. Our culture is what you want when you want to get task done in the shortest time possible. We are good at business and getting projects done. Other cultures are not nearly as concerned with "git 'er done", if it sacrifices human interaction.

    Would other cultures prefer the kiosks?

  • by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:53PM (#43080001)

    I'm sick and tired of automatic systems that say "please be sure to listen to all of the following options as our menu has been changed". As a rule, they never give you a date when the menu has been changed, so this statement seems to typically be a lie used as an excuse to convince people to listen to the options every time.

  • by jurgen ( 14843 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @01:00PM (#43080103)

    The problem with human interaction in much of the service industry today is that most of the corporate employees we have to interact with are so dis-empowered, they really are just robots... they act according to very limited scripts with neither real knowledge about the systems of which they are part nor any real decision making power. So they are just robots with the additional defect that they execute their programs imperfectly because they human and even have hurt feelings when you swear at them because of their incapacity to actually help you. This is frustrating for the customer and dehumanizing for the employee. So better real robots than fake (human) robots, right? Just so long as they understand "let me talk to a human"...

    (And then there's the small problem of all the low-end jobs we're eliminating, etc, etc, but hey, progress is progress.)

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @01:14PM (#43080261)

    my personal experience is that voice recognition systems are slow. buggy and practically never give me the options I actually want. As a Brit living in the USA I cant tell you how annoying it is that I have to put on a very exaggerated nasally American accent to make those things even understand me.

    Besides, I nearly always end up eventually talking to a real person anyway so IMHO they are just a total waste of cellphone and life minutes.

  • by slickrockpete ( 868056 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @01:15PM (#43080281)

    The supermarket self checkout systems are a model of how automated kiosks can work and make things a little more humane.
    Typically they have one person monitoring and helping people for 6 machines. If it's done well that person engages each person pro-actively to make sure they are getting what they want and the process goes smoothly and is watching to make sure nobody is gaming the system. That last thing is the real reason the person is there and so helpful, but because of that the process is much smoother and *more* personable. Contrast that with the typical human supermarket checkout. The cashier is scanning the items as quickly as possible looking down at the groceries and the screens. The customer is staring at the card swiper and entering a pin or loyalty card number. The only time they make eye contact is when there's cash back or handing over the receipt.

  • It appears that an automated replacement for the barrista has already been developed [].

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.