Series 1 Episode 1
First Broadcast: 8PM Mon 16 January 2012

Everywhere you turn humans are being replaced by machines. Whether you are shopping, banking, parking the car or booking an evening out, the chances are it's computers or an automated phone system and not real people that you'll be dealing with.

Actor Richard Wilson investigates the rise of automated services across Britain and put the machines to the test, to reveal who's really benefiting from the switch to DIY technology.

Richard struggles with a supermarket self-service till, takes 15 minutes to pay for parking by phone and totally fails to get voice-activated cinema booking lines to understand him.

In a bid to put automated phone systems of some of the country's largest services providers to the test, Richard creates his own call centre and reveals the best and worst for on-hold waiting time.

More and more companies are using voice recognition systems. Richard speaks to customers who complain that this type of technology is frustrating to use and often doesn't recognise national and regional accents.

Retailers claim all this self-service technology offers customers more choice and faster, better service. Yet a survey for the programme suggests which of these services gives us the biggest headache.

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    1. Hanging on the Telephone This video is a clip Hanging on the Telephone Video duration: 3:59 minutes

      Richard's team make 400 calls to eight leading companies to test how long it takes to speak to a human Watch Richard Wilson on Hold Richard Wilson on Hold

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From telephone car parking payment systems to supermarket self-service tills, Richard Wilson investigates the rise of automated services across Britain and puts the machines to the test