I understand why they do it. Call centers can be pretty costly to setup, with the biggest expense being salaries. Although each individual may earn what would be considered a relatively low salary, when you multiply that by 600 you can see you are dishing out a fair amount of change. Then there's the technology costs, and training, etc. So for every CSR (Customer Service Representative--being a bit on the techy side of CS) to have billing capabilities could pose huge additional costs, with each having to have access to the credit card system, and then there's security--how do you protect everyones credit card numbers from being copied then used fraudulently later on? Then you have that training expense, the list goes on.
Then there's the reporting systems that all these Customer Service systems have. What was the total call volume, who called for what department, then quality for the CSR's themselves, did they resolve the question in the company way, did they stick to policy and save the company money, did they save face and make an exception to policy to have a happy returning customer. All this can be reported upon depending on the options chosen, and they can report on length of call, etc. Can you imagine a CSR having to know every nuance of the company to ensure their quality remains top notch. That would make them directors.
However, us customers, poor plebeians that we are want to speak to someone. A lot of us have tight schedules to adhere to, and deadlines to meet, and having to wait for hours on end to get answers can be very frustrating. The telephone systems have to change, and they have to become more streamlined to deliver targeted, effective services, much like search engines work hard to get algorithms right so that the most relevant results get displayed at the top. Why not apply these principals to telephony systems?
This is how I see it, when a customer phones your system, it's not how you pizazz them with how fancy shmancy you sound, or how professional the recorded voice sounds, it's how effective the message is conveyed, and the speed of service and the expertise of the person who deals with their inquiry or problem that proves how good your company is and the services you provide. People know that the phone systems are cleverly programmed computer systems that act on DTMF frequencies to "click the links" for the appropriate queue. So lets bring the systems back down to the level of being a computer driven menu and drive it for speed:
Thanks for calling ACME Industries. For Spanish press 2, Sales 1, Billing 3, Tech support 4, Operator 0, Directory 8.
See how simple that is. Single keywords and single digits, quickly annunciated for complete clarity. There's nothing worse than having to listen for 10 seconds while an individual option is slowly spoken. With the shorter system, it's succinct and quick to listen to. If we were on a website we would skim through the keywords to find the information we want, lets skim through voice prompts to reduce frustration.
Which leads me onto the next thing, while it may be convenient for the CSR to have my information presented to them as my call comes through, it's one total nightmare trying to get the system to understand me when asking me for my account information before I get put through to someone, unless I specifically choose to use the self help options first. It isn't because people can use an automated system that you get less calls, it's because they don't want to go through the hassle of spelling out a name, then having the system say "I'm sorry, I didn't understand that, can we try again? " (ignores "NO" when shouted) "...What was your...".