Hard as it may be to believe it’s being claimed that some time in the not too distant future whenever we telephone a major corporation, the phone will not be answered by an automated robot, but in fact the voice on the other end of the line will be a real human being!

It sounds like something straight out of some crazy sci-fi film and yet one Winchester communications company insists that it may be coming sooner than we think.

Phone Sense’s Barney Lingholm says: ‘Just imagine a scenario if you will. Your gas bill says that you have used £3,400,000 in one quarter, nearly double what you might expect, so you call up and a robot answers:  ‘For billing queries press-1, for… and so on. You press the relevant number, the robot puts you on hold and then you listen to a tone-deaf stylophone player murdering The Four Seasons for the next thirty minutes, before being inexplicably cut-off just as you get connected to the call centre in Mumbai.’

‘However, once a company installs this new technology, which we’re calling ‘Receptionist’, the number will either ring and be answered by a real person, or you’ll get an engaged tone in which case you can go and make a cup of tea and try again later. When you do get through the receptionist will ask what department you require and then transfer you to another human being who will deal promptly with your query.’

But big-business has been quick to pour cold water on the idea. Global Corp’s head of customer relations, Tristan O’Keefe commented: ‘That has to be the craziest idea I’ve ever heard in my life and it would never work in a million years. For decades folks have called premium-rate numbers and been put on hold for interminably long periods of time before being thwarted in their purpose at every turn. And anyway, we’d have to pay people. Robots cost nothing.’

Lingholm says there will be one high profile exception. ‘The Jobcentre Plus helpline is protected by a charter stating that at all times it must provide its callers with the most soul-destroying, unhelpful and life-sapping experience imaginable so it will not be employing real people.’