A lot of the time technological innovations improve the way things are currently done. Every now and again, though, something comes along that will change the process completely. I found an example of this in a Slashdot article a few days ago. The Wired article it links to talks about a variation on voice-recognition systems, designed to detect anger and frustration in the callers voice when dealing with automated phone systems in call centres. The idea is that they want to transfer you to a real human voice as soon as you get so frustrated that they think you might slam the phone down.

Great idea? Well, yes and no. Stuart previously ranted about call centres, since he feels they are unfair and insulate the company from criticism. People you eventually get to speak to might be useless (usually because they’re not well trained), but at the end of the day it is the company that has annoyed you and not the poor soul being paid next-to-nothing to deal with your complaints. I tend to agree with him. This is why although on the surface of things the new “redirect me when I get really annoyed” system will be great for the customer, I think it will actually end up changing the whole arena for the worse.

Imagine a world where getting annoyed gets you somewhere (even more than it does already). So I call up one of these companies. At the moment I’d try to be calm, since it’s not the person I’m speaking to’s fault that x went wrong in the first place. When these new systems are in, however, I’ll know that the fastest way to get through to a human being and to get my call dealt with will be to sound angry, frustrated, about to put the phone down. I’ll be gaming the system … and everyone will do it. Which is why I think this is a great example of a piece of tech redefining the way a whole function operates … and it will be interesting to watch how it develops.