A real, live person answers the phone!

Remember the days (it wasn’t that long ago) when you called a number on the telephone and someone answered? Despite countless complaints and numerous jokes by comedians, it appears that “automated attendant” telephone systems are here to stay for most large organizations. But, in what many people are hoping may be the beginning of a new trend, a police force in southern Ontario has returned to using “live operators” on its phone system. Responding to public concerns, the Peel Regional Police Force now answers its main number with a live operator. The current automated attendant, with its recorded instructions, has been taken off the line.

“Since my appointment as Chief there has been one issue of concern that has been identified at almost every community meeting and public appearance I’ve attended,” says Peel Police Chief Noel Catney. “The feedback I have received from the public is that they want a person to answer when they contact our police service, not a computer.”

Finally, someone listened to what is a very common consumer complaint. The automated attendant was put into service in July 1996 in an effort to deal with the more than 1.5 million calls received at the el Regional Police switchboard annually. The initiative was a qualified success and cut the number of calls that required a live operator by 40%. But, the automated system was seen as an obstacle to several sectors of the community, in particular those who use English as a second language, some seniors, owners of rotary dial phones and those in extreme emotional stress who need an immediate police response.