Technology is progressing further every day. Televisions listen to you and change channels at a vocal command. Cars drive themselves. Artificial intelligence has almost taken over free thought altogether. I know that AI is the newest fun toy. Admittedly, it is intriguing to think that sometimes people can’t tell the difference. After a few more kinks are worked out, nobody will be able to tell who is real any longer.

One place that hasn’t caught up in technology though is phones, particularly business lines. Investing in AI as a small business is definitely cost-prohibitive and maybe not effective. Many businesses opt for an automated system rather than hiring a secretary. Sure, it gives information to the caller with an option to leave messages, but it leaves out something people desperately need. They want to talk to a real person because pressing 1, 2, or 3 doesn’t match anything they are calling for.

How Do I Get a Real Person on the Phone?

I’ve been in the room when my mother tries to use voice recognition software over the phone. I’ve watched this sweet happy lady turn into that little girl from ‘Firestarter’ after a few rounds of “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that”. Sometimes pressing “0” works, sometimes not.

I realize that paying for a person to answer the phones may be tough financially for a small business. My sister recently tried to get a piano mover hired. She couldn’t get online scheduling to work so she called to ask for assistance. Not one company she called had a person to answer the phone. She left a message. A month later she still has had no return call.

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I cannot imagine trying to call a counseling office to get help only to be rewarded with a machine. There’s a reason you are calling a counselor. Wouldn’t being sent on the phone tree of hell cause more distress? If anger management is what you are calling about, please hang up and call another place.


Perhaps it is time to re-think the idea of not having a receptionist. Having been a front-office receptionist and also an administrative assistant, a live person on the phone is imperative to customer service. This person can deflate an angry caller and sort out many issues before they become an escalated problem that the manager or owner has to deal with. The machine can take care of after-hour messages to be addressed the following work day.

Please support your local economy. Hire front-office staff to answer the phone whenever possible. Save my mom’s sanity.

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