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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Voicemail Lady

This weekend we replaced our voicemail system here at Stanford for all Medical Center phones. I just got a call from a doctor in the Med School who was having a bit of trouble accessing saved messages on the new system. He wasn't actually certain what a web browser was, so that the change was tripping him up wasn't a really big surprise.

We worked through his basic problem with some saved messages, and then he admitted to having another complaint. The new voicemail lady just wasn't as nice as the old voicemail lady. She seemed more abrupt and pushy.

This isn't the first time we've heard this complaint. I said that we'd heard the same thing from other folks, but that unless we wanted to rerecord every system prompt using someone here at Stanford, then we were limited to using the voice the company gave us, and that we'd already approached the powers that be about such a thing (and what it would cost) when they made the same complaint. The dollars just couldn't be justified, so we keep the voicemail lady we've got. This actually seemed to make him feel a lot better about it.

It's just interesting to me because though I agree with him, I couldn't put my finger on why it's true. It's such a tiny, subtle difference between the voices, but it's enough to make lots of people think kindly of the old system. Is this a unique expression of the usual change management problem - they hate the old right up until the moment they're forced onto the new system - or is it something totally different. Is the new voicemail lady just slightly bitchier, enough that people perceive her as brusque rather than neutral? And what does that imply about how subtle perceptions are about our own words and tone?

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