Monday, April 28, 2008

You Want Convenience or Service?

We live in an age when we're encouraged to do everything online - pay our bills, book our travel, buy our holidays gifts, you name it. Of course in certain situations, we may be inclined to pick up the phone to access whatever product or service we require. When that happens, the friendly automated attendant is there to greet us, or should I say warn us.

Call any airline, rental car company, hotel, etc. and you'll hear the automated attendant tell you directly, "You realize you could be completing this transaction at, don't you?" This is code for, "Get off the phone and fire up your computer. Words can't describe the excruciating experience we're about to put you through unless you hang up the phone NOW!"

Automated attendants aren't designed to replace human phone interaction; their sole purpose is to discourage telephone use - period. Only by embracing this fact will you find the mental strength to survive the automated attendant experience. It's a case study in the power of indifference. The more angry you get, the more even-tempered the automated attendant remains - it's totally infuriating.

So is this better client service? Well, it's hard to argue with the convenience of being able to access records and buy anything you need 24-hours a day. But convenience isn't service; for that, it usually requires the human touch.

So imagine Chris Brogan's surprise when he received a call from a live person - yes, an actual human being from Continental Airlines. Despite the fact that he was called just to be told he left a bag behind, it's nice to know there's an actual person out there still using the phone to service the customer.

We shouldn't have to choose between convenience and service. We deserve both.

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