• October 1, 2008
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI


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The speech-related developments spotlighted in this column don’t quite warrant a full news story, but they’re still too eccentric for us to pass up.

»» Calling all call center agents: Nuance Communications wants to hear about the funniest, weirdest, kookiest call you’ve ever received. Like the one about the man who tried to defrost a bag of frozen peas in his clothes dryer and then called the appliance maker’s call center to find out how to get mashed peas out of the dryer’s lint filter. Or the lady who called a computer manufacturer because she could only squeeze two CDs into her desktop’s single-disk CD-ROM drive and the program she was trying to install came on three disks.

With the launch of Nuance’s "Can’t Stop Stupid Calls" contest, Julia Ochinero, the company’s executive communications director, is giving a little recognition to the agents on the front lines of customer service trying to do the best they can with calls like these. Entries can be submitted online at www.cantstopstupidcalls.com. The deadline for entries is October 6, when the stories will go live. People will then be able to post comments and vote for the funniest stories. The first 20 entries will receive $100, and $1,000 will go to the winners in three categories: You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me, Sounds Like Fiction, and Vacation Day Earned. The person who submits the entry that receives the most votes online will also receive $1,000. Winners will be announced the week of October 27.

Ochinero said the contest is about providing a forum for some light-hearted fun and not making anyone look stupid, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. People do that all by themselves.

»» In the "I Just Don’t Get People Sometimes" category, the latest trend in GPS automotive technology is downloading celebrity voices to your Garmin or TomTom to give you driving directions. Companies like Pigtones, Navtones, and a few others have put together a lineup of celebrity voices—some of them real and some of them impersonated (often badly)—that include President Bush, Gary Busey, Burt Reynolds, Elvis Presley, Dennis Hopper, Ozzy Osbourne, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Clint Eastwood, and pop-culture icons like Yoda, Darth Vader, Austin Powers, and Homer Simpson. There are even a number of self-professed politically incorrect voices like "Billy-Bob the Cussing Redneck," "Jamal the Ghetto Pimp," "Wrong Juan," and "Habib the New York Cabbie."

I can certainly see how some people might find these voices entertaining at first. As for me, if I’m driving around lost in unfamiliar territory, I already feel badly enough; I don’t need Mr. T calling me a fool as well.

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