Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Press 4 to hear this menu again

I spent yesterday cold calling. Cold calling is a boring, tedious business punctuated by a little shock when you reach an actual, live human being. Yesterday's adventures in cold calling were no different, but I did learn a great deal about automated answering systems. 

To set the stage, I was dialing the main number of small businesses. My goal was to reach someone who would be helpful to me, who, in about 50% of cases, might even be the president or the CEO. 

In the best of cases, I reached a breathing operator. That girl (invariably) could:

a) Politely take my name and company, and pass me to the correct person's voicemail (invariably), after telling me - "oh, you need to speak with Sven Jorgenson. Let me transfer you to his office" - this was ideal, if not utterly miraculous.

b) Mumble something like "oh, that's Stevn" so that I couldn't tell if it was Steve or Sven, and transfer me to a voicemail box without giving me a chance to ask "Steven? Sven?"

c) Silently transfer me to someone, who, as often as not, did not properly configure their voicemail to say "This is Sven Jorgenson, and I am the chief poohbah here. Leave a message" so instead, I heard "To leave a voicemail for mailbox 893..."

But that's when I reached a breathing person. At least 50% of the companies I called now seemed to operate a digital receptionist. Because she is digital, I shall document her in the manner of computer code.

10 Hi! Welcome to Poohbah Industries! If you're know your party's extension, please enter it at any time....
This is where things got sticky. I didn't. 

20 To dial by name, press pound or hash.

Except their web sites had no names. Hmm. Any other options? Well, at some companies, they were wise enough to say:

30 For sales, press 0

Some did not invite sales into their business, for reasons I find unfathomable. Either way, I'd press 0.

Then, either I got a living breathing human or a digital sales voicemail box (ugh. I didn't really want sales - I needed someone else). OR, in a flurry of brilliance, I got this:

GOTO 10.

more than 10 times, I actually found myself in an infinite loop of "Press 0 for sales/receptionist/human being" and got "Hi! Welcome to Poohbah... " again. Swell.

The only thing more frustrating was when I dialed the main switchboard and got the following message:

The Google Voice subscriber you're dialing will be located. Please speak your name, and we'll try to locate the google voice subscriber. Beep. 

Naturally, that lead was lost.

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