The age of IVRs

Arshid Malik

It is the omen – the omen of an eventual takeover of the entire human civilization by fleshless, bloodless and in some cases nerveless men in steel armor, the generation of robots driven by an average nail sized computer chip embedded with all the active ingredients of artificial intelligence. The arrival of the IVR or in more descriptive words the Interactive Voice Response system which has been adopted by almost every other company in the world which intends to serve the entire population of the globe, and serve them well.

The IVR is a technology that “automates interactions with telephone callers; IVR solutions use pre-recorded voice prompts and menus to present information and options to callers, and touch-tone telephone keypad entry to gather responses, while pretty modern IVRs also enable input and responses to be gathered via spoken words with voice recognition” – telephone callers meaning people who are dying to get in touch with colonies of companies which have sold them products and services, to rectify the mistake of actually having bought anything from these companies or in the least seek assistance to make these so-called products and services work efficiently for them.

And from the technological perspective that’s the general idea though the actual idea is to cut down on common costs of hiring common sales, service, collections, enquiry and support personnel to make the cycle of mass consumerism run the whole cycle. By installing IVR and related technologies, companies do not have to hire people to attend to other people and that actually also saves them the costs of stockpiling aspirin to shoot headaches which the supposedly “should be there personnel” would get while explaining the whole thing to the consumers. IVR is headache-less and that means no headaches for the people who actually run the businesses – the CEOs, the Managers and the Floor People. Now it hardly counts whether the callers get headaches or not while lopsidedly interacting with the IVR systems, since the points of concern are cost cutting and an average increase in total revenue.  

The thing is that the IVR is a good thing for the companies who sell products and services and a bad thing for the average lot since it 1) gives common people headaches and 2) eliminates a whole lot of workforce and thereof chances of employment. Now, figure this: you call up a number for assistance and a pre-recorded voice responds tabling out an entire gamut of choices (mainly numbers) followed by another gamut of choices (to be made) and then another gamut of choices which supposedly gets you nowhere and you are left high and dry hoping for the mapping to lead to you an actual person who would respond to what you want to know without blowing off your precious talk time and that rarely happens. So, we are actually kept – from talking straight to a human and here I am forced to draw the inference that the omen is here and that it won’t be long before the entire human race is leashed up by a generation of “artificially intelligent” robots, androids and animitrons.

I remember the time when mobile telephony companies swooped Kashmir valley and you were sure to be taken aback by a person standing almost in the middle of the road, talking to himself, even though he was not talking to himself but rather had a hands-free installed in his ear and was indulging in telephonic chatter over radio waves. Then IVRs dawned upon us and we were in for more and more surprises. We Kashmiris were always laden with naivet? and outside the speed rink of IVRs I recall a personal instance where one of my cousins called up a number and when a pre-recorded voice responded she actually cursed her in a very loud voice and hung up.

By the way I am also sometimes led into deep dramatics when I approach an ATM machine and find a person inside who would just not leave the machine alone and punches all sorts of numbers and keys and crushes and folds printouts from the machine without caring about the fact that a whole lot of people are queued up outside for their turn at the “pinball machine”. Digression is never helpful!!!
Anyways, we are approaching the dawn of the machines, the rise of the cult of steel and springs, the awakening of the brainless mind, the eventual bedtime of human civilization and there is little we can afford to do except make some intelligent choices over the IVR, push some buttons lazily around till a Leo jumps out of the Idiot Box and salvages us from the Matrix.

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