Located in Nevada, Tahoe Call Center is a small family-run business with a big heart, ready to help with your communication needs. Since 2012 we have assisted clients coast to coast in varied economic and emergency climates: wild-fires, blizzards, ice storms and unforeseen events (with affordable, competitive pricing that didn’t add further trauma).
Rain or shine, short-staffed or no staff, we help keep your business going: Answering phones / taking messages/providing information / Taking credit card orders / collecting and transmitting confidential information via email, SMS, or API (linking with existing systems). Our agents are trained to process sensitive information with courtesy, respect, and maintain the strictest of confidence. We also help with those intermittent overflow call surges during business hours and cover your customer inquiries when you are closed. “Always here so you don’t have to be” – We help keep things running smoothly 24/7, 365 days a year.
The Voice of the Future
PRELUDE: Blast from the past
It’s 1986. Engineer Scotty and Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy of the Star Ship Enterprise are on a secret mission back in time to acquire materials for bringing back humped back whales (extinct in their future time). They enter the office of a manufacturing firm where Scotty poses a mathematical “what if” to learn the current limitations of this engineer’s knowledge and materials. He then proposes something the man scoffs at until Dr. McCoy suggests, “Perhaps the ‘professor’ can use your computer [and show you].” The manufacturer directs him to a sizable box requiring its own desk support, whereupon Scotty sits in the designated chair and begins to speak… “Computer?” He leans in closer, raising an eyebrow and asks in his memorable, strong Scottish brogue, “ Oh Computer?” Quick to solve the dilemma, Dr. McCoy notices a small device connected to this box by a cord. Reaching across the keyboard, he smiles, picks it up and hands it to Scotty. “Ah!” Scotty nods to McCoy then holding it before his face, speaks into the mouse as if it were a microphone, “Hello computer…” The exasperated manufacturer interrupts, “Just use the keyboard!” gesturing to its location. Scotty replies, “The keyboard,” looks around, cracks his knuckles and comments, “…how quaint…” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hShY6xZWVGE)
Blog 5 – August 2020
When it comes to technology children of the Star Trek generation were raised with endless expectations, fueled and awed by scientific advances and artistic formations seen on another ‘new’ technology, Television. We now laugh at the primitive designs of early Sci-Fi creations. It’s hard to believe 60 years have passed and in that time Hollywood special effects and visuals have, ‘gone where no man has gone before.’ So why did so many, who welcomed and marveled at the ‘what ifs’ of Sci Fi then, put their foot down when many of these ideas and concepts actually came to fruition? Perhaps (unlike what we were shown on the Star Trek Enterprise) despite promises of ease and advancement, it’s because operating so many of these improvements has been a cumbersome and complicated endeavor.
Today’s ‘AI’ (automated intelligence) voice-activated technology may be taking a cue from Scotty to address a decades-old challenge: How to make technology function with less stress. It’s evolving and advancing quickly to solve marketing problems many high tech manufacturers have faced: How to introduce and sell their products to the, ‘it’s not broken so why fix it’ generation and others. There are still many ‘hold outs’ and the economic, geographic and educational circumstances, reasons, and excuses are varied:
- “I can’t afford it”
- “I don’t understand it”
- “It’s too complicated for me to learn”
- “I can just use a pen and paper”
- “I’m used to doing it my way, it’s simpler”
- “My mind’s a steel trap, I keep everything I need stored there”
- And, the overriding and perhaps most important question, “…this is important to me because?”
And then came “Alexa”, Amazon’s voice-activated ‘assistant’, merging technology with easy access. Scotty would be pleased. Similar in concept to the Enterprise ship’s all-encompassing computer he often conversed with, once turned on, Alexa will answer any and all inquiries whether you are asking for her help or not (“This is an A and B conversation Alexa, you can C your way out of it”). Alexa’s program will listen for any indication her services are needed and promptly chime in with whatever knowledge she has been uploaded with.
Not condoning, but setting aside the marketing and privacy issues that have recently surfaced, technologically speaking, it is a great example of a voice-activated bypass to keyboard, F-key codes, and mouse devices previously required to access such information. It also appeals to our ‘lazy’ nature. “Mom, how do you spell …” once was answered with, “There’s the dictionary, look it up.” Now we all can just ‘ask’ a question out loud or make a simple request and Alexa sounds off to provide a quick solution. We are interacting with a machine -a machine with a name.
It is human nature to imprint our emotions and expectations onto items we are fond of. It makes things easier to relate to (less threatening) more familiar like us. We attach human qualities to our pets; dressing them in funny outfits, even treating them like children or grandchildren. We name cars, boats, bikes, and appliances, even storms are named for their temperaments or personalities. Voice-activated ‘AI” devices are no exception. People desire to interact with things as they would another human or pet; meeting those expectations infused in us from Star Trek and later Sci-Fi shows. But unlike people and pets, devices don’t need feeding (recharging aside), will do anything (within their programming) requested, produce service without stigmas, stand by 24/7 awaiting our needs, won’t judge us (unless programmed to do so) won’t talk back (unless programmed to do so). Manufacturers have been realizing the more personality they can infuse in their devices, the more interaction people will have with them, and the more inclined people are to buy them (James Vlahos- “Talk to Me: How Voice Computing Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Think).
But also true to human nature, with each technological advance we will expect and want ‘more’. We are never satisfied; always looking for “the next best thing.” Advertisers and manufacturers know it. But, here’s the million-dollar question: if their product or machine saves money, saves time, serves a purpose, fills a need without the flaws and expense of humans, why do they or other businesses even need humans? Quite the conundrum: if we’re no longer needed, where do we obtain work and income to support our families and purchase these new marvels that are replacing our jobs? Are we creating things to make our lives easier, or creating ourselves out of gainful employment? Will this be the result of Technology’s “Good Intentions?”
The linking of humans with machines; the challenge to create advancements that are easier to use and more relatable; opens up some unique opportunities. Voice-activated devices are much easier to operate than having to use a keyboard with various codes, a mouse, or even a smartphone. Telling something what you want and giving it a voice and the understanding for how to do it is the next natural step in techno–“logical” advancement. Voice-activated systems will make it easier for everyone to access information, on the job, understand it, and utilize it to better solve problems in the workplace. Other businesses such as the voice-over industry known for: cartoons, movies, radio, video games, and all the commercial/advertisement/ Government and public service-related fields it’s currently utilized in will only expand further. Add in the voices needed for appliances and systems to operate your home, your car, your office, your phone, your computer, etc. and a way for all to be interconnected? Unique human voices are becoming a commodity, and if you are blessed or trained to use yours ‘AI’ technology (and manufacturers) will need you. If a voice can ‘make or break’ a product’s marketability (look at what Jim Dale‘s voice did for the Harry Potter book series), what will the right voice for your business do? How powerful the right voice can be! But why?
What is it about a voice that appeals or repels the listener? It is more than notes, tones, inflection, and accent. The right voice in the right application compels the listener’s imagination to conjure up an image we associate with many attributes: strength, dependability, honesty, knowledge, sympathy, competence, all qualities associated with being human. Link a significant voice to a machine and (good or bad) human imagination fills in the rest.
“Is this a machine or a live person?” It makes me laugh to read but I hear this question sometimes. Even more comical (and sometimes maddening) is trying to convince a caller I am a live person. As the quality of voice for automated phone systems continues to improve, many callers are trained to assume a machine is the first response to their call. Directing them to the appropriate department (press 1 for this, 2 for that…) is what these machines are programmed to do. While becoming more sophisticated in their selections though, they cannot ‘think’ or ‘interpret’ a caller’s needs. They can only respond to the button a caller presses with the answer they are programmed with (I’m sorry, I didn’t get that…”). Automated phone systems are good for the initial sorting of large quantities of calls (press 1, 2, 3, or ‘other). More complex systems may then direct you to another series of options (A, B or C) to bring you closer to that actual, “Live Person”. Until you finally reach the ‘Live Person’ whose answering machine directs you to leave a message because they are on another call. It has now taken three separate machine programs to accomplish what one Live Person can. If you are spending money for each of these call answering programs only to have to keep investing, updating, repairing, or changing them, the claim of ‘economy’ comes into question and the concept of ‘value for your money’ as well. Three machines required to accomplish what one person can do more effectively reassures one earlier concern of machines replacing humans.
It isn’t an argument of human versus machine. A hybrid combination would be more ideal, especially in the case of large call loads where more calls come in than the number of agents available to handle them (sorting time, press 1,2, or 3), or for times when call loads surge. But then follow up with live operators. People do not like being put on hold for long; no one wants to sit on a runway waiting for take-off. The longer you have to sit there the more you want to scream, “Get on with it!” Relying on automated answer systems and placing your callers in holding bins will do nothing for your business’s reputation or your caller’s patience. Tahoe Call Center can help with those call surges; using ‘live people’ to take timely, comprehensive messages and direct that information to the correct departments for prompt service. The human touch, offering patience, compassion, and empathy to ensure callers, they are appreciated, they are important and will be contacted back by the correct person to help them (not pushed down the rabbit hole of what was it you wanted?)-asap. We are here 24/7, 365 days a year for those times you need coverage and are not able to provide it. Affordable rates, Temporary, Seasonal, Emergency, Part-Time or Full-Time, business hours back-up, after hours, holidays, and regular days, we are here for you with economical and value-for-your-dollar solutions.
“Always here so you don’t have to be…”