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Chapter 1. No, Sir, the Problem is Not the Machine. It’s You.

We may not realize it, but our horror stories on virtual assistants are directly proportional to their funny stories on callers’ stupidity.

Who wouldn’t laugh when the call goes like this?
*** Virtual Assistant: OK, in the bottom left-hand side of the screen, see where the “OK” button is displayed?
*** Caller: How can you see my screen from there?
Ok, so it’s understandable that not everyone is technologically savvy. Some people only have basic knowledge of how things work. Maybe the person calling is a Finance expert and not used to tinkering with gadgets or a baker whose expertise is in converting flour to cakes. But you can’t help but laugh when this happens:

*** Caller: Can you give me the telephone number for Jack?
*** Virtual Assistant: I’m sorry, sir, I don’t understand who you are talking about.
*** Caller: On page 1, section 5, of the user guide it clearly states that I need to unplug the fax machine from the AC wall socket and telephone Jack before cleaning. Now, can you give me the number for Jack?
*** Virtual Assistant: I think it means the telephone plug on the wall.

Do you know that virtual assistants often press their mute buttons so we can’t hear them lol? Sometimes they go rofl before they go back on the line with their perfectly trained i-am-taking-you-seriously tone. It would definitely take all your reserve of seriousness not to crack up when you get something like this:

*** Caller: Hello. I can’t get on the network.
*** Virtual Assistant: OK. Just read me your asset number so we can open an outage.
*** Caller: What is that?
*** Virtual Assistant: That little barcode on the front of your computer.
*** Caller: OK. Big bar, little bar, big bar, big bar…
Oftentimes, even if these virtual assistants make it as simple as possible for us, there are really those humbling moments when we realize that we are not as intelligent as we should be. Like this girl:
*** Virtual Assistant: Do you see a butterfly on your desktop (MSN Explorer icon)?
*** Caller: Ok, I will look for it.
After 2 minutes…
*** Caller: Do you want me to look on the computer screen?
And some things are really a bit confusing for people, like time, for instance:
*** Virtual Assistant: The number you dialed is open 24 hours a day,
7 days a week.
*** Caller: Is that Eastern or Pacific time?
Often a wrong number that we dialed reveals our ignorance, and causes a brief smile and a “tsk, tsk” from virtual assistants:
*** Virtual Assistant: How may I assist you?
*** Caller: Yeah, I need to pay my bill. You need my Visa card?
*** Virtual Assistant: I think you have the wrong number. Who were you trying to call?
*** Caller: The phone company.
*** Virtual Assistant: This is not the phone company. This is a government agency.
*** Caller: What’s their number?
*** Virtual Assistant: Whose number?
*** Caller: The phone company’s.
*** Virtual Assistant: Sir, I have no way of knowing who your phone company is.
*** Caller: So you don’t have their number?
*** Virtual Assistant: I’m sure I have it, but you haven’t told me which phone company it is.
*** Caller: You mean there’s more than one?

And so it happens that although we get a kick out of blabbering about stupid and irritating virtual assistants to our friends, some of them happily blog about the stupid calls they receive from us for the rest of the world to laugh at. Although we like to think those people on the other end of the line lack the needed IQ to match ours, there are simply times when we have to admit it’s the other way around.