The Looking Glass #1: Automated Demons

Welcome to our new regular feature!Down The Rabbit Hole Podcast

The Looking Glass will be a recurring series of articles that serve as a companion to Down The Rabbit Hole.

My ‘Supplemental Material’, so to speak.

Topics we may not have had time to cover, clarifications on things we discussed on the podcast, or just related rants. It will be dealt with here.

Danny will be doing his own version of this on his blog, and we’ll link over to it when he posts his first article.

In this installment I’ll be covering automated political calls… or Demon Dialers.

For my ‘day job’, I work in customer service, answering phone calls, talking to customers and shipping carriers, and generally just trying to be a helpful guy on the phone.

I’ve been doing this for quite some time, and one thing that I can count on is every election season I’ll be getting a lot of calls from political activists.

No, they don’t take the time to call me personally, they use an automated system to systematically call every number in an area code (generally associated with caucuses, primaries, or elections in that area).

Harmless, if not a little annoying, right?

There’s a side of it that you maybe aren’t aware of unless you take calls for a living.

Many times these dialers will be calling the trunk area code for a company’s support line.

This means, starting around August (earlier in years that have a presidential election) I start getting calls at work for political groups.

In the last week, I’ve been getting calls from supporters of Bernie and Hillary (fully automated, of course), urging me to go out and support them with my vote. I’m sure I’ll be getting them from supporters of the other guys as well.

When this happens, I disconnect the call, have to make a note of it, send a message to our tech team so they can filter future calls from that number, and then move on to the next person waiting on hold… and sometimes this next call is also an automated dialer with a special message telling me I need to go out and vote for their favorite superhero.

As we get closer to the actual election, these calls will become more frequent, and more insistent.

I’d like to make two points about this.

  1. I’m thinking it’s a waste of time and resources. Has anyone ever had their mind changed or their behavior modified by these calls? Really, if you’re already motivated to vote for a candidate, would you simply forget to vote? Do you need the reminder? If you weren’t going to vote for that candidate (or you weren’t going to vote at all) would this motivate you to head to the polls for that person?
  2. I’m less inclined to listen to your automated message, and it pisses me off. For every automated call that’s in queue to be answered by a hard working individual, that’s one more real person, with a real issue, waiting on hold to talk to someone that can help. Not fond of waiting on hold to talk to a real person? Perhaps you’re waiting that long because there’s an automated message a rep has to deal with before they can talk to you. More work for the phone rep, and more wait time for you.

While my employer makes every attempt to identify these dialers and block their calls (other companies do too, I’m sure) it’s not all that easy. They are crafty, and generally find a way to get the calls through.

It’s an annoyance, a first world problem. But really… these candidates want your support, are angling to make you think they are looking out for you, and then they do this. I’d call that a mixed message, at best.

Think about it the next time you’re on hold.

The views expressed in this article belong to Matt. Nobody else. Don’t blame anyone but him. Blah Blah Blah.