Never Use Technology When a Human Touch is Required

Posted on by in Branding/Differentiation, Business, Customer Service, Leadership, Remarkability

Do you get a warm fuzzy when your car dealer sends you an automated birthday card with an imprinted signature? Or when your internet connection goes down, are you thrilled when you’re greeted by an the automated voice diagnostic system?  Or when you call a company or organization, do you experience a WOW when you’re greeted by an automated voice mail system? "No. No. And No."

So why do companies and organizations (including "people oriented organizations" like churches) continually do this? Because in the rush to cut costs, optimize their supply chain, automate systems, be on the forefront of technology, deliver short term gains, etc. they forget to think like a customer (i.e. the person actually buying their product or using their service).  Instead, they allow macroeconomics to drive their decision making processes rather than human-economics.

Here’s a classic example of this from my world.  On Monday evening, while I was working on my computer, my daughters called and asked me to pick them up from high school.  No problem.  I picked them up, ran an errand and then came home.  My eldest daughter went over to the computer to go on line and couldn’t. No biggie.  I’ll just call Verizon. Note: I’ve been using Verizon FiOS service for a year and have had minor problems compared to the years I had used Comcast High Speed Cable–and had problems all of the time.

So, I called Verizon.  At this point, I wasn’t all that peeved, until I got their automated diagnostic system.  Here’s the initial dialogue in shortened form.  "Your home number please?" "301-916-1707." "Okay, your number is 975-342-6385, correct?" "No." "Just a moment, while I check your number . . . I’m sorry, we do not have an account associated with that number.  Thanks for calling."

Okay, so now I’m peeved.  I call back.  This time I punch the number in.  Account located.  Good.  But then it gets worse. The automated system doesn’t connect me to a human being, it tries to diagnose the problem.  Even worse, when I give answers like "Yes," or "No," I often get back, "I’m sorry, I didn’t understand your answer." Now, think about that.  I’m a professional speaker with both great projection and pronunciation whose voice print was developed in the Midwest.  If a machine can’t understand my voice print, it should be scrapped.

Then, after the machine and I completed 40 or 50 inane questions (I knew what it would tell me to do and had already done all of those actions), I was finally connected to a human being named Otis.  So I said to Otis, "Otis, I know this isn’t your issue, but you might want to feed back to your management, that when a customer is frustrated, the last thing they want to get is an automated diagnostic service."  Otis, who was very polite and did work with me to solve the problem, said, ""Oh but the system has been very beneficial for us technicians."

Bingo.  Otis wasn’t, or isn’t, the problem.  He’s just doing his job.  It’s the people, up the food chain, who are the problem.  They’re thinking, "We can control costs by automating the diagnostic process."  But what they weren’t thinking was, "How will our customers feel about this system?"

Think about it.  When you want to talk with someone, do you like not being able to do so?  When you want an answer, do you like leaving voice mail messages or emails, which may or may be answered for days (or weeks)?  Of course not.  When you want a human touch (which is often related to a problem), you don’t want an automated system or response–you want a human touch.

So where does your company or organization make this mistake? Where are you using technology when a human touch should be part of the system?  Where are you having a machine sign your cards? Or a digital assistant answering a phone? Or diagnosing a problem? If you want to create a remarkable customer experience, make sure human touch is where human touch is needed–and then add in some more.  High-tech, high-touch has been spoken of for years. Unfortunately, common sense is rarely common practice.

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