A technical problem has occurred

I had to call Southern Electric (in the UK) the other day to try and get my gas meter fixed. Later that day I was rung by an automatic system of theirs, asking me to take their customer satisfaction survey.

The first question asked me to rate how friendly the representative had been earlier, from 0 (for very unfriendly) to 9 (for very friendly). Almost out of habit, I pressed # (the hash key, or the pound key, depending on where you live), to see what would happen.

I expected to get a response along the lines of “sorry, please press one of the numbers on the keypad”, but instead I got the message “sorry, a technical problem has occurred”, and it hung up the call. Ok, so I was just playing around, but people often accidentally hit the wrong key on mobiles, so an IVR has to be resilient to this sort of thing.

I’m guessing the IVR was built using some system that has a default handler for unexpected inputs. If someone just sits there endlessly pressing the hash key, then the system should give up politely, as it’s costing them money to make the call, and tying up resources while the call’s in progress. But dropping the call on the first bad response? That’s not just laziness, it’s poor testing.

I then wondered if my details would be put back on the queue, and I’d get another call back? No.

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