An acronym to strike fear into the heart of any innocent attempting to pay for the privilege of wasting their own time. It’s not – as you might suspect – shorthand for It’s Virtually Rude or even I’m Very Rustrated*, but the rather more semantically challenging Interactive Voice Recognition.

Worked with these things a bit in what passes as my professional life. Fairly sure they’re designed specifically to ensure that a) you slam the phone down in righteous anger having pushed 1,3,7,6,3,2 waited for half an hour and then hit gjhfu97874 with your fist and been immediately disconnected and b) you enjoy a significant contribution to the non-customer-service service line profits by dint of a premium number.

Today, I’ve been lucky enough to batter through the electronic barriers to real people – who obviously don’t give a shit either but at least they answer back, albeit in monosyllabic grunts farmed from non-helpful scripts – in order to give them some of my money.

Firstly Vodafone. They have a “customer experience” system designed by a sadistic lunatic with a specialism in repetition. Dialled the access number, prodded my way through to “any other enquiry” – because you’ll always end up at the same place so no point shunting through multiple queues to get there – exiting the numeric maze by entering my mobile number.

I get Gary: “Can you tell me your mobile number please?” I explained I had just done so to his electronic IVR colleague. “We have to ask again” he tells me. But he can’t tell me why. I provide it so we move onto the address. Which one? Head Office, My Office, Home? Either, or, all apparently. No, still not sure why.

After a dull game of “no not that one, try again” we establish it’s the firms’ head office. “Do I know the post code?” Obviously not because I am not some kind of mnemonic memory man. “I need it before we can go on“. Don’t ask why, I did. It wasn’t a conversational branch finishing in an epiphany.

Apparently it’s for “Security Reasons“. All I’m going to do is Google it so it’s unlikely this would deter any thief with access to a) the Internet or b) an IQ of more than 11. This triggers a surly response from an increasingly grumpy Gary that this is not his fault, and – power crazed with the opportunity to deal some small minded smackdown – he refuses to proceed until I’ve pony’d up the six digit code.

I fail to do so. We agree to disagree. Up to the point when I mark him as a “script based monkey with the customer facing skills of a baseball bat“. I hang up before he does. So I win, right? Okay probably facing imminent phone cut off, especially as Vodafone – with staggering ironic timing – then called me asking for any feedback regarding their services.

Probably wished they hadn’t.

So flushed with failure, I attempt to wrest control of my administration nightmare with a multiple-no-choice assault on the DVLA. In a rare and welcome example of joined up Government, it seems my gurning passport photo can be seamlessly transferred to my driving license with nary a filled in form or extreme post office queuing all for the princely bribe of£20.

Except I can’t. The electronic form burped me out once it established a tiny discrepancy between names on the two documents. We’re not talking much here; Alex Leigh on one, Reisling J. Pineapple The Third on the other that kind of thing, but no amount of 20-year-IT-Man-and-Boy shouting at the screen garnered any progress.

So back to the hated IVR. Boredom ruined my first attempt with random button jabbing leaving me in some repeating cul-de-sac. For some low-rent entertainment, second time round I counted the number of menus, sub menus and options. I ran out of fingers just before I ran out of enthusiasm but was shocked from my increasing torpor by a human saying one thing and meaning something else entirely.

Try it next time you hear “Hello, how can I help?” have a proper listen to gain the real meaning which is “reading OK magazine, go and read the web site, call back if you’re still stuck, it won’t be me you speak too“. I explained in great detail the issue I’d had, how I’d tried to work around it, what options I’d considered and a proposal that would save me from a possible stabbing in Hereford Post Office.

For all my hard work, reasoned argument and lucid rationale I received a response from the best of the best that the DVLA can offer.


IVR? I think it’s probably call centre short hand for “That half an hour of life you had? It’s ours ALL OURS MWWWAAAAHHHHH

* I couldn’t think of an angry work starting with R. Rapscallioned? Rucked off?

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