I need to find a 12-step program to help me quit playing Angry Birds—something I’m apparently not alone in. This insidious, addictive game is an iTunes App Store bestseller, hitting something like 1 million downloads per day, according to Peter Vesterbacka, the “Mighty Eagle” (read: CMO) of game developer Rovio.
When I sit and play this game while doing other totally time-wasting and mindless things (like watching TV), I have on occasion been so totally clear of all random thoughts as to come up with a few of my more creative ideas.
Recently, as I was mindlessly engaged in slinging the various flying flocks to their certain demise, it occurred to me that these birds are not unlike customers calling a poorly designed IVR. For the one or two people out there who have never seen it played, the object of the game is to demolish structures, whether made of bricks or sticks, with birds of various sizes and potential velocities that begin their plight perched precariously on a slingshot.
First, I’ll start with the game categories that one must go through in order to achieve the final mother lode of all accomplishments: Golden Eggs. Now, if we assume on a high level that the Golden Egg is the equivalent of a live agent, one would first have to pass through these Angry Birds categories to get to one: Mighty Hoax, The Big Setup and Ham ‘Em High. Are you seeing the connection yet?
In addition to Angry Birds’ various categories are each category’s myriad levels. Now if you are open to going along with me on this one, the analogy is between the birds (your customers) and the structures they must overcome (your IVR). If you’ve ever called into a poorly designed IVR (and who hasn’t?), you’ll see why this comparison rings true.
When playing the game, or calling an IVR, you must first consider your bird’s position on the slingshot (a company’s phone system). Then, once you’ve selected the right angle from which to sling your bird, you have a limited number of birds (or options) to hit your target (get to the information you want).
In the game, as you persevere from one level to the next, you must rise to the challenge of breaking down increasingly more uber-fortified structures with fewer birds. (Some levels are so difficult, you sometimes have to resort to asking one of your kids to do it for you.) Just so, a poor IVR gives you a very limited number of options with which to accomplish your goal; some are so bad that you often are driven to hang up and call back, only adding to your growing angst.
Once you make it through the barriers, you may even find that there really is no end to the game. For instance, if what you really need is to speak to a human being, you might instead continue to hold for what seems an eternity, or at least long enough to forget why you called in the first place. Likewise, if you stop playing the game long enough, all your scores are wiped out and you have to start all over again at square one.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, back to the bad IVR.
I recently had the experience of calling a retailer about a late fee on my credit card. All I wanted to do was speak to someone to let the company know that I’d missed the payment because the paper bill had likely been mixed with the rest of the junk in my mailbox. I’ve got a good history, so I knew this would be overlooked if I asked for forgiveness this one time. Well, owing to their poorly designed system, which left me no option for speaking to someone, I must have touched or said the option that resulted in closing my account. I only realized this when a few days later I received a confirmation letter saying that my account was closed—at my request.
Who hasn’t dialed a customer support line expecting to actually get some support, only to find that there is no live agent—nor will there ever be one—anywhere, by saying any phrase or pressing any digit? Many bad IVRs are out there, but one that tells you upfront if a live agent is available is something we at Angel believe is just another way to respect callers’ rights.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to flinging some birds.