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A Note on Being Human

A recent viral video clip making its rounds on the Internet has been a series of phone calls Time Magazine reporters have received from telemarketers. Known as “Samantha West” or “Jacob Hall”, the telemarketers sound human and speak with regular cadence, and are able to respond to most queries someone would ask. One thing they can’t respond to, though, is the question, “are you a robot?”

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Most likely, it’s been determined that the robot is pre-recorded sound bites being chosen by someone who is a non-native English speaker, using recordings of an American to sound more realistic. This communication wall has definite limitations, though. Since becoming covered by every news outlet, the company using the realistic robots has shut down their website, and the number linked to “Samantha West” has been diverted to a busy signal. Without a doubt, the fact that the telemarketers were using prerecorded responses instead of having actual conversations hurt sales, as well as their reputation. 

Nowadays, you can buy groceries, check out a book from a library, or buy an iPod out of a vending machine – no interaction required.

There are a lot of benefits to automated systems – it simplifies routine processes that might otherwise be a chore. It cuts overhead for businesses and saves time for consumers. As automation has become the norm, human interaction has become a premium – and brands that recognize this make clear, transparent communication between company and consumer a priority.

As much as people crave certain technological advances, consumers want to buy from companies that have a face. They want to be able to ask questions to a person, not read an FAQ; if they need support for something, they want to talk to someone who has experience with the product and can offer actual advice and expertise, not navigate through a complex web of phone commands. As robots become entrenched in jobs previously held by people, companies that retain a human element and speak directly to their consumer are the ones that will survive.

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