Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Am I talking to a machine...?"

Every now and then we receive calls from folks who, for whatever reason, assume that they are talking to an automated answering service. Seriously... We provide them with our greeting and they'll do one of two things: they'll either ask point blank if they're talking to a machine, or they'll start talking as though they are.

Now, regardless what federal line or private business line you call, if you are dealing with an automated system, it will tell you so. It won't involve any guesswork on your part. You'll be told to select a certain number on your phone's keypad, to receive a particular service or information. It's really not rocket science. One of my co-workers whom we'll call 'Grouchy', received the following call from a French-speaking caller from Quebec:

Grouchy: "Fisheries and Oceans, Pêches et Océans...bonjour ---- speaking!"

Caller: "Fran-çais!" (French!)

Grouchy: "Oui, monsieur...comment puis-je vous aider?" (Yes, sir...how may I help you?)

Caller: "Res-sources... hu-maines!" (Hu-man... re-sources!)

Clearly the caller was under the impression that he was dealing with a type of voice-recognition system, which could understand and interpret words. 'Grouchy' finally clued his caller in to the fact that he could talk to him like a human being, rather than yell directives into his phone. Of course the caller told him that he thought he was talking to a machine. Now 'Grouchy' might not be wildly exciting on the phone, but you can certainly tell that he's a living, breathing human being. Well, at least if you have a clue to begin with, you can...

My favorites are the ones who will ask you straight up, if they are talking to a machine. Like a machine is going to have the capability of answering yes or no to that particular question. Much less carry on a full question and answer period with you. A machine will never ask: "And how are you today?" Or: "And how did you find out about our service today?"

I have always wanted to be able to respond to this question as follows:

Caller: "Hey...am I talking to a machine here?"

Me: "Why, yes... how very astute of you to have deduced as much. I am actually a cutting edge, top-of-the-line Cyborg 'Ultimate' 1200-XMY, voice-responsive information processing system. Truly, your hard-earned tax dollars at work! I can communicate flawlessly in 15 languages and am able to detect the smallest of nuances in a caller's dialect. I can simultaneously monitor your breathing, heart rate and speech composition, to detect any attempt on your part of providing me with false information.

From our conversation so far, I have deduced the following:

- You are looking to report the unlawful lobster fishing of your neighbor, in order to deflect any suspicions about your own poaching activities,

- Your boat which you use for commercial fishing is licensed as a pleasure craft,

- Your favorite colour is blue,

- You have Type 2 diabetes,
- The left front tire on your Jetta is down by 5psi,

- Your driver's license has expired,

- You think Liberace was a God,

- Your wife is with child and you are not the father,

- You cheat on your tax returns,

- There's a hole in the toe of your left sock,

- Your daughter is a crack whore.

To return to your enquiry, Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Reporting Fisheries Violations program receives reports of the following commercial and recreational fisheries violations in the Gulf Region, the Maritimes Region, the Pacific Region and the Quebec Region:

- illegal fishing (poaching)
- fishing without a licence
- fishing in a closed zone
- exceeding authorized catch limits
- using illegal fishing gear
- selling fish illegally
- altering, disturbing or destroying fish habitats
- polluting the marine environment

The program also receives reports of commercial fisheries violations in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Arctic marine waters of the Central and Arctic Region.

You may reach your regional office for the Maritimes at the following toll-free number: Tel.: 1-800-565-1633 and that line is in service 24/7.

Now... Is there anything else I can get for you today...???"

No comments: