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The Data Is In. We Hate Chatbots, and Here's Why

I had an extremely frustrating and embarrassing string of moments today that almost caused me to lose a student...and AI is to blame. It started with a cracked rim. It ended with me angrily and loudly screaming "Hello!!?" into a dead receiver after a customer service rep in India hung up on me...accidentally in front of one of my guitar students and her grandmother. In between was a litany of failed attempts at getting a human being on the phone for several companies...eBay, Fedex, and Chase Bank to be precise.

Let me preface this story by also pointing out that I am a very mission-oriented person. And as a mission-oriented person, I like to get shit done and I like to get the stupidest shit done the first and the fastest. I recently had a life crisis moment in which I realized that thousands of hours of the one life that I have has been spent running errands. All of those thousands of hours of adulting came crashing on my little curly blonde head like a dumptruck full of pennies...ten minutes in line at the bank here, fifteen minutes at the post office there, an hour spent organizing emails, twenty minutes on hold, minutes here and there clicking the "unsubscribe" button and then having to wait for a website to load so I can tell the company which of their newsletters I want to unsubscribe from and then clicking "confirm."

Those potentially thousands of hours are time that I will never ever get back. And you will never get them back. A cringe starts irking me from somewhere deep in the pit of my soul when I begin understanding that the majority of my life will have been spent doing the laundry, doing the dishes, organizing the house, checking the mail, sitting in traffic, going to traffic ticket court, monitoring my credit, checking emails, going on bad dates with men who don't care about me, brushing my teeth, and getting mad about packages being stolen from off my porch.

Worse Than Vogon Poetry

Recently, a new "adulting" monolith that is worse than Vogon poetry has arrived on the scene of life to steal even more of our life away. Since the terrifyingly sudden AI takeover, every company that can has put an AI gatekeeper in front of all their customer service reps.

I hate talking to customer service reps who clearly hate their jobs and could care less about your problem. I never knew there would be something worse than talking to a human being who is barely listening to you, and who is probably not making a living wage. In 2022, it arrived in the form of the now-ubiquitous AI customer service rep, who companies tout as "great," but that are in reality causing customers like me to just scream "agent!" until we get a human being. I never listen to the menu options anymore. Who has time for that?

The Data Is In: We Hate Chatbots

When I read this in an article on Forbes, I had a deep sense of satisfaction that my fellow humans are with me in our vehemence towards the AI Vogons.

According to Forbes:

[A] survey, produced by cloud contact center provider, UJET, raises questions around the capabilities of current AI (artificial intelligence) technology. Can chatbots really resolve service issues, and deliver satisfaction for customers? Consider these statistics, entered into evidence in the case against chatbots:

  • 78% of consumers have interacted with a chatbot in the past 12 months – but 80% said using chatbots increased their frustration level.

  • 78% of consumers were forced to connect with a human after failing to resolve their needs through an automated service channel.

  • 63% indicated that their interaction with a chatbot did not result in a resolution.

  • 72% felt that using a chatbot for customer service was a waste of time.

  • More than half of consumers (54%) believe that a phone call with a live agent provides the fastest resolution and best overall customer experience.

Clearly, I am not the only one who doesn't bother chatting with a chatbot. The only thing I try to do when I encounter them is get around them as fast as possible. Now I know so do you.

The Magic Number is 9

Warning: This is going to be a short paragraph. The magic number to get a human being used to be zero. I found out that if you press "9" over and over, many of these services will forward you to a human being. The end. And you're welcome.

Back To The Story About My Rims...

So the story goes like this: I got a cracked rim on my child (my C7 Corvette for all you car enthusiasts out there). I ordered a used one from eBay thinking I was saving money. It arrived. I had a mobile mechanic come and take my cracked rim off. The tire was shredded. I took the eBay wheel in an Uber to Discount Tire to get a new tire on it. They told me the rim was bent. I submitted a return request to eBay through more AI bots. I realized that I only had to spend a few extra hundred dollars to get 4 new (non-OEM) rims in the color I actually wanted in the first place (black), and I could then sell my 3 remaining chrome rims and save some money there. I ordered them new from eBay.

The company did some shady shit and sent me an envelope with the tracking number on it in order for it to look like the rims had been delivered to my house when they had not. I complained to eBay, but not before having to deal AI bots again. The company then sent me separate FedEx tracking with a date farther out into the future than they had advertised on their eBay listing. I was pissed because I chose that listing in part because of the shipping estimation, as I would be spending money on Ubers for every additional day my car was on blocks. I like doing straight-forward business and I have zero tolerance for anything that involves trying to trick people.

Threatening Police Action Against a Lying Fedex Driver

I took the day off to wait on the Fedex truck with the 4 new rims. On that day, the Fedex delivery person lied and said I wasn't home, and even input a mysterious doortag number even though he didn't give me a doortag. I called Fedex and got hung up on by an AI chatbot twice before figuring out how to get a human on the phone. The rep told me that a ticket had been created and that the delivery person would return by 5pm to drop my rims. He didn't come back.

The next day, he did the same thing. I went on Fedex forums in my area and found out this area is notorious for Fedex drivers doing that if they don't feel like picking up the packages if they are larger or heavier than usual. They will just say you're not home until the package is returned to sender or you go into your portal and click "hold at location" and go pick it up yourself.

I jumped on the phone again to report my driver for lying. I had to force my way past the AI fuckers again. This time I did it in less time but more frustration. I finally got a dude in India who told me the only way I could report the driver was if I had his name or license plate number. I asked him how was I supposed to know that if he never came to my house? I also asked why doesn't Fedex know where their drivers are at any given moment? The rep answered they do but only at the local distribution center. I asked to be connected to the local distribution center. He said he couldn't do that. I then screamed "Well I need to report my driver so do something! Figure! It! Out!" He then hung up on me.

Several similar stories happened with eBay and with my bank that day regarding the rims. Calling. Getting an AI chatbot. Me getting pissed trying to force my way past them. But I will save you my version of Vogon poetry and skip ahead...

That's when I screamed "Hello!!?" into the phone right outside my school. Right next to me inside the glass was my student and her grandmother. They both looked at me like I was a crazy person. And to be fair, in that moment, I was.

After my lessons that day, I decided to report my rims as stolen by the driver. I called Fedex, ran into the AI Vogons again, got pissed again, got past them after several frustrating minutes of screaming "agent!" and pressing 9. I finally got a human being and I told them I was filing a police report about my driver stealing my rims. They told me someone would be calling me back. Shockingly, a human being that sounded like she was in America called me back. And even more shocking, my rims were dropped off the next day.

Moral of the Story

We shouldn't have to force our way past brainless Vogon gatekeepers to resolve simple and mundane issues. We shouldn't have to threaten police action to get a package dropped off. The greatest companies in the world used to founded on a customers first principle. What happened? The reason I choose to give my business to certain companies over others is usually not the product, its the customer service. But now, it seems that there is no choice. It doesn't matter if you go to company A, B, or C: they all suck.

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