Magazine article Management Today

The Impersonal Touch

Magazine article Management Today

The Impersonal Touch

Article excerpt

Automated call handling can help business but hinder customers

The spread of touch tone telephones has been accompanied by the growth in automated call handling (ACH), where a robot voice asks callers to make choices by pressing phone buttons. But while companies using the system enjoy considerable cost savings, customers miss a warm and responsive human voice. Does the embrace of ACH suggest an insensitive 'take it or leave it' approach to customers?

One of ACH's most common uses is in cinema bookings. Barry Keward, operations director for Odeon Cinemas, installed a [pounds]1 million automated call centre in Bromley in the face of rising cinema attendance and a related appetite for pre-booking. The system handles bookings for 52 cinema sites nationwide. 'We were concerned that people couldn't get through,' says Keward. Ian Stanton, commercial manager of BT Business Systems, confirms (a shade predictably) that such systems are a more efficient use of staff - and considers the alternatives for the customer. 'How much irritation is caused by callers holding for a long time or a constant engaged tone?' he asks.

If you are in a volume business like Keward, the fact that ACH puts more bums on seats must be irresistible. …

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