The Human Touch

Janice was frustrated and angry.  She called the nursing home where her mother was living.  After navigating through five messages to check on her mother’s status, all she found out was that there was no one available to talk about her mother.

Next, she called her youngest son to see if he had talked to his advisor.  Jed had an issue with another student who was harassing him.  He needed advice on how to handle the situation.  When Janice asked Jed about what his advisor said, he was told he needed an appointment to talk to her.  When Jed went to the online appointment website, he was asked the reason for the appointment.  The menu options didn’t include anything that resembled the issue he needed help on.  At the bottom of the menu there was this message:  If your issue isn’t one of the above, contact the appropriate university office.  What had started out as a bad day became even worse as Janice thought about how much she had spent on her son’s education.

Seeking out some good news, she called her daughter who had been excited about an interview she had that morning.  “Mom, it was terrible,” Judy told her.  “When I called the number, I was told to log on to a website and turn on the camera on my computer.  The interview consisted of a series of questions flashed on my computer with a countdown clock showing the time I had to respond.  My responses were terrible.”  Janice thought about how she would have handled an interview like this and realized she would never have been hired.

The more Janice thought about her frustrations, the more convinced she was that she needed to change the approach on how her own business handled its customers and others who contacted the business.  She decided to take on a personal project.  Over the next two weeks, she posed as individuals contacting her business.  She took meticulous records on the time it took, how often she was bounced to someone else, and the quality of the help she received.  The results were terrible.

Janice wrote up her experience and presented it to her leadership team.  She concluded:  “We are blowing up our current systems and establishing the human touch in everything we do.  I’ve established these goals:

  • A live voice response to every call
  • A no bounce rule for every contact
  • A successful resolution for every call
  • No more ‘We can’t.’ Instead, ‘Here’s some possibilities’

We are going to value the human touch over efficiency from now on.”

All of us have been frustrated with the lack of a human touch when we are looking for help.  The allure of efficiency and cost savings from automated technology are based upon false economic analysis.  What the analysis never shows is the cost of lost customers or negative referrals from bad experiences.

We need to rethink how we do business.  We should not be thinking of human contact as a process.  Rather, when people contact us, we need to think of those contacts as memories to be shared with others of who we are and what we value.  Those memories will more than make up on future business what we might have lost in efficiency.  The human touch will always have a better return on investment than efficient but inhuman technology.

* * *

“Touch has a memory.” – John Keats (Poet)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.