Expedia Throws Its Voice

Here’s an interesting phenomenon, Dave writes in about his experience buying a flight through Expeida.

According to his story, not only was the customer service routed through India, the Indian who answered had his voice artificially processed by some sort of voice modulation system in a vain attempt to sound more natural.

Read his encounter, after the jump.

Dave writes:

    “I booked a flight through Expedia (yes, I know, good money after bad,
    etc.) and, as always happens when you have the unmitigated gall to buy tickets a couple of months in advance, the flights changed.

    So I log into Expedia to look for hotels, and I get a prompt telling me that my itinerary has changed and please call 1-800-EXPEDIA for assistance. I call them and the first thing they ask for is the itinerary number.

    Is it on the webpage? No.

    Is it on the prompt? No.

    You have to go past the “please call us” screen and then it’s waaaaaaaay down at the bottom. Glad I’m computer-literate. Hate to see if my mother had to do this.

    After I ignored the IVR system (my voice is incompatible with every brand of IVR in use today), I got connected to a gentleman named “Bill”, who is of course in Hyderabad or Bangalore or some other city that looks almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Omaha. This is a regular occurrence these days and despite being an IT wonk, I’m really not bitter about call-centre outsourcing.

    Expedia, though, has the voice modulator from XBox Live on the line, so that it sounds like an Alice-type computer talking. I suppose this is so that any oddities in pronunciation (ever ask one of these folks to pronounce “utility”?) would be subconsciously chalked up to “weird connection” or “computer” and not to “incompletely trained customer-service agent”.

    It didn’t work, by the way. By the end of the call, in which I wished to ascertain what the change was and whether they felt that an hour and twenty-five minutes was sufficient to go through Swiss customs and change planes with a wife four months pregnant, our friend “Bill” (or Upainder or Srinivasa) got flustered and all those precious hours of accent-neutralisation training went straight out the window.

    Expedia gets two black marks: having a crappy IVR, and trying to fake people out with the XBox Live voice mangler. They answered right away, though.”