FTC is incompetent at dealing with robocalls

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just announced the winners of their Robocall Challenge.  

On the surface, the FTC Robocall Challenge appeared to be an opportunity for industry people to come up with a solution that eliminates (or greatly reduces) the illegal Robocall volume.   The reality is that this was nothing more than a a ploy by the FTC to divert attention from their incompetence in coming to grips with the Robocall problem.

The primary reason that it is so difficult to shut down the illegal Robocallers is that they are difficult to identify.  The Robocallers are doing Caller ID spoofing.  Numerous complaints are received by the FTC, but they claim that a spoofed CallerID makes it impossible for them to identify the source of the illegal robocalls.   The telephone companies charge an extra $5 to $10 a month for caller-ID services (nearly pure profit for the telco), in no small part to filter some of these junk call.   They have a responsibility to assure that this service is working properly, which they are avoiding.   CallerID Spoofing for illegal purposes has been against the law since the end of 2010, when the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 was passed.  Criminal fines of up to $10,000 per violation (not to exceed $1,000,000) can be imposed.

The telephone companies that carry these calls are the only ones that are in the position to identify the illegal Robocallers.  They are being paid for each call and they certainly know who they are.  Without some additional motivation, it is understandable that the telephone companies would be reluctant to do this identification.  They would be jeopardizing a significant revenue stream that is coming from the illegal Robocallers.  They could also reduce caller-ID fraud but it would cost them money to filter PRI ANI, etc.

The solutions that were announced as winners of the FTC Robocall were ones that required that each consumer implement a their own solution.  This would be a grossly inefficient.  It’s like shutting down the FDA food inspectors and requiring each consumer to figure out whether the meat that they are purchasing is safe to be eaten.

A good and simple solution for the illegal Robocall problem would be for the FTC to require that the telephone carriers test to assure that robocallers are not doing CallerID Spoofing.  If an illegal robocaller is discovered, then the telco must immediately report this violation of the law and provide the identity of the illegal Robocaller to the FTC.   An additional motivation for the telco would be that they be given a share of the fine proceeds. The primary motivation, however, would be that the telco would be charged as an accomplice to the illegal CallerID Spoofing, and fined apprpropriately if they permit a high volume caller to utilize their network without testing for CallerID Spoofing.

Apple should use this technology for Siri

I recently needed to locate an Apple store to have some work done on my iPad.  I called 800-MY-APPLE.  I was greeted by an automated system that was just awesome.  In fact, it performed so well that if it had not gone out of its way to announce that it was an automated assistant, I would have thought that it was a human.  The speech recognition worked flawlessly.   Not a single “did you mean…” response.  I’ve never experienced that before.    It worked like Siri should work - without the errors.  It provided the locations of three Apple stores that were nearby in a quick and precise fashion.

Does anyone know where this system came from?    It works amazingly well. 

Automated Attendant Data Validates Natural Language:

Apple’s SIRI has gotten a lot of folks enthused about speech communications.  Now, Parlance Corportion has obtained data that shows that a natural language interface for a corporate automated attendant yields a major improvement in performance.  Callers respond much better when they believe that they are talking with a human.   

1) The time to reach a person is shorter (32% reduction in average call duration).
2) Fewer calls are going to the operator (26% reduction in the number of calls). 
3) 56% reduction in 1st try operator; and
4) 20% immediate hangup reduction.

Parlance obtained these results by modifying their Operator Assistant automated attendant so that it sounded like a human that was speaking to the caller. They simply attempted to replicate what a human attendant would say.

A natural language interface works extremely well.  It meets the expectations of the caller and the data shows that callers respond much better.

Inside the Call Center

Call center managers must be tired of living in a world of complaints. They must dream about complaints or is it as you suspect, that they don’t actually review any of the complaints prepared and presented by customers? You might remember the days when the customer was always right. These days the customer can’t possibly be right when the call centers find every way of avoiding the main issues of customer complaints.

There are three areas where call center managers can learn from general complaints and to make the customer’s lives easier: location, employees and software.

Location of the call center

Even if the call center is offering deals for customers, location is vital to both the call center employees and for the customer.

So often call centers are located alongside a number of other high profile call centers with management believing that the state or town must be experts at answering (or avoiding) call center questions.

Unfortunately, to make call centers cost productive, management consultants may choose areas in a low salary neighborhood so expectations do not rise too high. Government incentives may direct a company to a certain area or maybe the low cost of real estate proves to be the deciding incentive. Whether anyone thinks about quality employees being available for work, you never know.

So many companies have moved their call centers across to India or other nations and easy access to cheap labor, at the customer’s expense, appears to be the priority.

With so many consultants choosing to locate call centers in the same area, a number of companies are making the same decision and therefore, defeating their very aim; to have sufficient employees available in the area. When so many call centers locate to the same part of town, employee availability disappears.

Finding dependable and professional employees

There are too many supervisors in call centers. They put so much pressure on their employees to perform and achieve impossible results that the negative reaction reaches the customer.

While students filling the traditional call center role may require supervision, many quality people who can’t find other work end up taking a job at a call center. These people probably run homes and a family so supervision is not the main requirement. If people are assessed fairly on their real results, the need for training will become apparent, rather than total time supervision.

Giving call center employees the initiative may help them form an interest in their job, and helping customers may become second nature.

Finding the right employees is not the main problem for call centers; it’s keeping them that’s the toughest part of the management role. So often the job is seen as a way to earn money between jobs, often because of the low pay.

Always blame the software

Call centers live and die by their software. If it doesn’t perform, the future of the business is at risk.

It should be the company that tells the software designers what software they need, having spent countless hours finding out what they do require. Unfortunately, many call centers complain of poor software. This attitude is then passed to the software people for not listening and understanding the requirements of their working models. The software people will always want to pass the blame back to the company for not providing the right brief.

With the high numbers of constant leavers, it must be difficult for managers to train their new employees in overall software use. You know when you get your own home software; it takes hours if not days to learn how to use a new email program properly. Now think about the stress levels at performing the same task in the office with supervisors hounding the employee and the job at risk.

Software provides reports that show that call times are monitored. Employees taking too long on a call are effectively at risk. The other half of the report that management loves to devour is the time employees take between calls. Can they take and end more calls per hour? Management believes this makes employees more efficient when the opposite may become true.

If call center management understood what customers really wanted, they could provide employees with better working conditions. That in would turn help customers, preventing them from telling all their friends about dreadful service and losing that company many more sales. 

By, Rosie Ferris

Nuance has a horrid DNS support line:

The company that claims to be the leading speech technology provider has one of the worst self-service support lines that I have ever run into.  When you call 407-241-1822, you don’t even get a basic greeting and identification of who/what you have reached.  Instead, you hear a voice instructing you to go to different website addresses depending on just what you are calling about.  It babbles on about how you should go to this website location if you have purchased the Nuance Dragon LifeStyle product or to another website location if you have purchased the Dragon Gaming Pak product.  While it is babbling away, the keypad is locked so you are forced to listen to the entire spiel.  When it is done, you then get another different voice that again tells you to go to the Nuance website for technical support.  It then announces that “if you are calling about Technical Support, just stay on the line”.  This is what I did.   It then gave me a menu which said that if I was calling about a customer service issue, that I should press 1 and that if it was a Technical Support issue, I should press 2.  I did neither, since it had previously told me to just wait to get to a human.   Thirty minutes later, it was still playing the menu to me in a repetitive fashion.   I now wonder how many hours (days) this would have gone on for.   I finally selected 2 for technical support and got looped back to the same initial message that told me to go to the different websites.    This is an endless loop!   What an awful experience.   They don’t even use their own speech recognition technology.   Heard “please pay attention since our menu has changed a number of times”.   I finally attempted to make a selection based on the instructions.  When  I did this, it hung up on me.

No wonder everyone hates telephone self-service so much.  The self-proclaimed speech industry leader puts together something as awful as this.  They constantly preach about using good practices when implementing telephone self-service, and then turn around and put together something like this for their own customer support line.   Nuance should be ashamed and embarrassed for doing this!

Bank of America Telephone Self-service still is awful:

We evaluated the Bank of America telephone self-service line over five (5) years ago when the speech-activated service was first installed.  This month we decided to re-visit it to see if they had fixed any of the many problems that we had previously identified. 

About the only positive thing that was observed was that the BofA telephone self-service did not get much worse than when we originally tested it.  Virtually all of the problems that were identified over five years ago still remain as problems.  BofA now refers to their agents as “associates” and they used to call them “specialists”.

The lack of basic personalization is a real irritation.  After five years, and perhaps 50+ calls, the system still greets me by announcing that I can disable the speech feature and provides detail instructions on how to do it.  I call from the same phone all of the time, so implementing CallerID would make it easy to eliminate this problem.  This is a gross waste of my time. 

Why on earth does it insist on wasting my time telling me things over-and-over each time that I call.

The speech recognition is awful.  It was unable to recognize my access ID or my PIN.  I finally had go to TouchTone in order to access my account.

The entire application is still painfully slow and hard to use.  It is much to verbose.  They disable overstrike, which forces you to listen to their lengthy prompts.  They still don’t tell you how long the wait queue is. 

When you see how really badly the BofA telephone self-service application is implemented, it’s no wonder that users detest telephone self-service so much.

L&H sentencing; Brussels is good place to commit financial fraud:

The sentences that the Lernout & Hauspie criminals received were pathethically lenient.  The defendents received 3 year prison sentences and were fined 25,000€.   Bernie Ebbers (MCI Worldcom) and Ken Lay (Enron) each received 25+ year prison sentences.  They also forfeited virtually all of their personal assets which were in the hundreds of millions of $s.Their fraud was also a bit more sophisticated than what the L&H folks did, which was just gross. None of the L&H criminals ever admitted that they committed the fraud. 

The Belgian legal systems appears to be really pretty awful for honest people.  It took a decade to obtain the 1st conviction.  Now, of course, they will appeal the verdicts.  Highly unlikely that the L&H criminals will ever actually go to prison.

If you commit financial fraud, you should do it in Belgium.

Call Centers are a huge security breach point:

Every time that a caller provides their credit card information to a human agent, they are running a high risk that they will be the victim of identity theft.  For call centers that are taking calls that originate in the state of Massachusetts, they are in direct violation of the the new data privacy law that went into effect on March 1, 2010.


The Massachusetts Data Privacy law states that all businesses that collect personal data from or about Massachusetts residents will need to adopt a comprehensive written security program. Unlike most state-based data privacy laws, which focus primarily on public disclosure once a breach occurs, the new Massachusetts law prescribes that more stringent protective measures be taken to prevent breaches from occurring in the first place.


With the use of existing technology, call centers could readily eliminate the security breach point.  The caller would enter their private information via the IVR and the agent would never see it.  The only flaw with this approach is that the agent must utilize the computer telephone integration (CTI) capability.  If the agent asks the caller for their credit card information, then we still have a security breach point. How do we solve this?


Real straightforward:  Monitor what the agent is saying with speech analytics.  If they ever ask the caller for their credit card information, they are shut down.

Volunteer for National TV show

Fort Lauderdale area volunteer needed for national TV story on Get2Human.  Anyone in the Ft Lauderdals area that is interested in participating?  They are looking for people to interview that have used Get2Human and are willing to provide a soundbite about their experience with it.  If you are interested, send us your contact


Welcome to the Get2Human blog. 

The Get2Human™ movement was created from the voices of millions of consumers who want to be treated with dignity when they contact an enterprise for customer support.  Our goal is to convince enterprises that providing high quality customer service and having satisfied customers costs much less than providing low quality customer service and having unsatisfied customers. We encourage you to post your call center stories (good/bad), opinions about how call centers should operate and anything that would help enhance our gethuman database of gethumans (new companies to add or invalid Get2Humans).  It is our goal that the voice of the consumer will be heard and listened to and that automated call center systems will improve and work better for the consumers!!