I am yet to meet someone that enjoys the prospect of calling an automated customer support number to complete a transaction. Fortunately many such tasks can now be completed on the web and that mode of interaction, while not always perfect, is generally a lot more efficient. There's much more bandwidth in the form of a screen to share information and the interaction model is much richer with keyboard/mouse over touchtone keys.
However, every once in a while a support website dead-ends with 'for more information call 1-866-555-1322' and there's nowhere else to go. What follows puzzles me without fail. Never have I wanted to call to get a reprint of my last statement or change my mailing address. My tasks seem to end up under the menu 8, submenu 6, choice 9 section, deep down in the tree.
Who is the tree structure being optimized for? I'd like to believe the answer is 'the majority of callers but not me' such that the average caller is faced with the least hassle in navigation. That would be aiming towards optimal which is good. But I wonder if they're really measured and arranged in that way at all. I suspect most trees are built via construction - either by primary tasks, or by departments (these boundaries shouldn't show to customers) or by the time the capability was added to the phone tree (yikes!). Perhaps an ideal phone tree would actually constantly adjust based on tasks and demand so that the 'please listen carefully because our options have recently changed' message actually meant something.
Alas, the best predictor of a good customer support phone call still seems to be an immediate answer by a real person who can relate to service they're representing.