Life is More Than Programs

Since I was experiencing technical difficulties with my Comcast/Xfinity account last week, I had occasion to engage in a lovely chat with the robotic, AI-driven account person who auto-answered my call.

The first thing that struck me was that her voice sounded female. Is it me, or does there seem to be a decided dearth of male robots working call centers these days? Maybe the programmers of such things believe female voices are more soothing, thereby leading them to believe irate callers will be more easily mollified by the caring tones of a female robot.

The second thing that struck me was that she seemed surprisingly inquisitive in a manner that made me feel as if I were testifying in court. There were many yes/no questions (my responses are in parentheses):

  • “Are you Mark O’Brien?” (As far as I know.)
  • “Please give me a yes or no answer.” (I’m sorry, counselor. The answer is yes.)
  • “Please give me a yes or no answer!” (Yes.)
  • “Are you calling from the mobile phone you listed on your account?” (It’s the only phone I have.)
  • “Please give me a yes or no answer.” (Shit. Yes.)
  • “Please give me a yes or no answer!” (Yes.)
  • “Your honor, I request permission to treat Mr. O’Brien as a hostile witness.” (WHAT?!)

Are We Having Fun Yet?

When it was my turn to cross-examine, I started gently. Aside from her seeming impatience, I had no general idea how quick robotic, AI-driven account people are to anger. And I didn’t want to take any chances. For the sake of ease in the transcription below, I’ll identify myself as Me (with points taken for originality). And I’ll identify the account person as Petunia (because it’s a perfectly ridiculous name and it makes my grandchildren laugh):

Me: Can you help me?

Petunia: I’ll ask the questions around here.

Me: Okay. I’ve called for help with my broadband connection.

Petunia: From what number are you calling?

Me: Didn’t we just determine that?

Petunia: I’ll ask the questions around here.

Me: We’ve already agreed it’s the mobile number listed on my account.

Petunia: You don’t have to get snippy.

Me: Is this really happening?

Petunia: I’ll ask the questions around here.

Me: Good grief.

Petunia: Will you respond to a short series of questions about our service at the end of this call?

Me: I’ll ask the questions around here.



That frustrating experience inspired me to start a new organization. I haven’t decided if it’ll be a 501(c)(3) or a B Corp. But I’m going to call it People Are People, Too. At the rate at which we’re cutting people out of loops and consigning human interaction to the trash heap of ostensible progress, people need all the help they can get.

I took the liberty of creating our first promotional video:

God help us.

DON'T WAIT! ONLY 14 OF 50 SEATS LEFT! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE

Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brienhttps://obriencg.com/
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.