Technology Calling: Business and the Lost Art of Communication

I was taken aback the other day when, on calling a customer helpline, I actually spoke to a real person. I was even more taken aback when this person, who had been very helpful in fixing my problems in a short time, was surprised that I thanked him so profusely for “just doing his job”. To him, I was another customer needing a job done. But to me, he was the hero of my week and had taken a huge burden from me. That got me thinking about the (lost?) art of communication.

In this day and age, with so many automated computer systems and robotic telephone recordings, it’s easy to lose touch with the personal side of service provision. With busy lives, higher workloads and constant emails intruding through mobile phones, we tend to take a lot for granted. We want everything done now and we don’t want to pay a premium for it. But at what cost are we replacing the benefits of human interaction with supposedly cheaper, more efficient, technology?

Customer satisfaction is one of the most important drivers of business. It keeps customers coming back and can be a far more effective (or dangerous!) marketing tool than advertisements alone. Keeping the customer satisfied is the key goal for any successful business. Sometimes, the most effective feedback comes from a casual conversation, rather than a formal survey. Taking the time to talk to a client one-on- one at the beginning of the relationship can also help frame client expectations and provide a clearer understanding of what they want and how you can help them achieve it. From a service provision point of view, the common sense and practical thinking of a human being outweighs the rigid parameters set in a computer system in almost every situation.

So why are we relying more and more on inanimate technology to drive our business? With the costs of establishing the system, paying for anti-virus and other protections, and having IT consultants on-call to work out those infuriating gremlins and advise on the dreaded never-ending system updates, does technology really save us time and money and improve our business? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Perhaps.

Computers and automated services may help speed up processes. They may be able to perform some functions in a split second. But the benefits of human interaction and personal service should never be underestimated. In a technologically evolving world, hearing a voice at the other end of the telephone can be what brings us back to earth.