Yesterday I had to call Expedia.

For the first time in a long time, I used the site to book some upcoming travel. When my credit card statement arrived, I noticed they had only billed me for about 1/4 of the trip.

I called the 1-800 number on the itinerary only to have an automated response tell me they found an itinerary associated with my phone number. That was kind of neat, except it also said the trip started two days before the day I’m actually supposed to travel.

When I finally spoke to someone, we could barely understand a word each other was saying.

Today’s tidbit isn’t against Expedia but rather my abject hate of automated voice systems.

It provides a great lesson to those of us using them and those of us who use other tools and systems for customers to contact us (whether it’s email, or phone, or live chat, or website contact forms, or other automated forms of communication).

If you’re still using antiquated interactive voice response (IVR) systems….

Press 1 to put up with my BS!!! 

Press 2 to get to a menu that won’t help…

Press 3 to have us randomly hang up on you and start the whole thing over again…

…then you’re messing up in two pretty important ways.

First, you’re making life very, very difficult for anybody who’s trying to call you while using a hands-free device (i.e. most of them).

Second, you’re inducing an awful LOT of ill will by making your customers jump through these terrible hoops.

Here’s the kicker and the reason it’s time to dump these terrible systems and find a better way.

If you’ve successfully annoyed the customer with #1 and #2, then when they finally do get someone on the line, it means your people have to be pretty much PERFECT.

If they’re not, then it turns a bad experience into an awful one.

On the flip side, if they’re awesome in person, it makes a terrible experience only decent.

Decent is okay but awful is just terrible.

Today’s Key Challenge: 

Look at all the ways customers can get in touch with you for service, support, and even sales-related questions.

In what ways are you making your customers jump through hoops to talk to a real human?

Are you setting yourself up for failure by making things easier for you, but more annoying for them?

How can you go from decent to incredible in 2016?