• September 22, 2010
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Has Our Technology Exceeded Our Humanity?

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After returning from a very successful CRM Evolution conference in August, I’m happy to say that participation and buzz were each at an all-time high. There were more than 850 registrants, nearly double last year’s count. And I’ve heard many glowing comments about the value of the content that our keynote speakers, panelists, and dream team of presenters delivered. 

The keynote, by Emily Yellin, based on the research in her book Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us, was consistent with some of the findings in this month’s issue, and epitomized one of the most salient messages of the entire conference. (Keynote coverage can be found at http://sn.im/dcrm080210b, with coverage of the full conference at http://sn.im/dcrm081010b.) 

To illustrate her main point, Yellin recounted a telephone interaction with Pablo, a contact center supervisor in Argentina, who helped resolve her issue. Six months later, while conducting research for her book, she met Pablo at his contact center in Buenos Aires. In his excitement upon meeting her he exclaimed, “I’ve never met a customer before!” And therein lies the problem, according to Yellin: “Pablo had been working in customer service for nearly two-and-a-half years and yet he had never met a customer.” 

Yellin lamented to the crowd, “Your challenge, in a lot of ways, is to infuse what you do with humanity.”

It’s an incredibly important point that often gets lost when companies turn to automation such as interactive voice response systems or when firms incentivize service agents based on average handle time with customers. And it doesn’t apply only to the telephone channel. As customer service initiatives spill over to social media channels, organizations must insert humanity there as well. 

Associate Editor Lauren McKay underscores this in her feature, “The Hospitality Suite,” with her tale of a fantastic personal experience with Gaylord National Resort via Twitter. This is similar to the experiences that many Comcast or Zappos.com customers have had on Twitter with @comcastcares or @Zappos_Service, which Yellin covers in her book (and which Zappos.com Chief Executive Officer Tony Hsieh writes about in the book excerpt we ran in our June 2010 issue). Lauren’s experience was a firsthand look at this kind of customer care on social networks. 

The effort makes sense for companies. If your organization prides itself on delighting customers, why not extend that experience to all of your customer engagement channels? Infusing humanity into social media works, and if you read Lauren’s story, you’ll see how and why it does. 

This approach to customer communication and interactions is not limited only to customer service initiatives; it applies across the enterprise. In marketing, for instance, ad campaigns must factor in not only the people on the receiving end of their messages, but also the contextual reaction to those messages. If an ad gets in the way of a television- or movie-watching experience, it can negatively affect the viewer’s experience and the company’s brand. We cover this in our feature story “Putting the Pieces in All the Right Places,” by Editorial Assistant Juan Martinez. 

These examples should illustrate Yellin’s point: The concept of running your company like a well-oiled machine is fine when it comes to streamlining processes and technologies, but don’t lose sight of the importance of the human element.

David Myron is editorial director of CRM magazine. He can be reached at dmyron@DestinationCRM.com.

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