News : The Telemarketing Robot That Will Deny It's a Machine
Dec 16, 2013 -- A health insurance company is using a high-tech robot telemarketer to harass potential customers, and attempting to pass the charming female voice off a real person.
'Samantha West' from Premier Health Plans Inc. called TIME magazine reporter Michael Scherer on his cell recently and doggedly refused to deviate from her script, even when he asked point blank if she was a robot.
Her goal was to ask a series of questions about health coverage such as 'Are you on Medicare?' and then transfer the call to an actual person to close the sale.
But, while insisting multiple times that she herself was 'a real person,' something wasn't quite convincing about her bright, engaging voice, and scores of comments have cropped up on internet chatrooms, complaining of the persistent lady who keeps calling them.
The reporter called back the number, which has since been disconnected, and repeatedly asked: 'Hey are you a robot,' requesting she say the words 'I'm not a robot.'
Samantha responded indignantly, with a coy laugh, saying 'What? No. I am a real person,' but as much as he pushed she never said the words 'I'm not a robot.'
Her replies to other simple questions are clear giveaways, for example like, when asked 'what vegetable is found in tomato soup?' she said she didn't understand the question and when quizzed as to what day of the week it was yesterday, she complained of a bad connection.
Finally, the TIME reporter was able to find the name of the company but, when they called for a comment, the spokesperson denied the use of robots.
'We don't use robot calls, sir,' they said, before promptly hanging up the phone.
In the chatroom, people complain about the incessant calls from the agency, which apparently sells life, health and dental insurance.
'A friendly sounded (sic) woman on the other end claimed I requested health insurance information,' writes one person. 'She doggedly refused to deviate from her script.Twice I hung up on her after trying to engage her in conversation.'
After TIME's story, the website was taken down and the phone number was no longer being answered.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Tuesday, December 17, 2013