Great Question!

By: Curtis Roe, Director of Finance, Purcell Murray Company, croe@purcellmurray.com

Someone recently commented that when they were buying some tickets on line, they had to check a box stating they were not a robot. The web site robot won’t work with other robots. That’s not racism. Is it machine-ism? There is so much momentum to make everything faster and cheaper and more efficient. It is getting to me. We have lost so much of the quality of day to day life. The process of communicating with others keeps moving off to a list of frequently asked questions. We either get to read through or listen to a list of answers to questions that probably don’t answer our questions or submit our questions to be answered by someone at a later time.
We recently subscribed to a couple of different services. During the implementation, the customer support was excessively friendly. To most questions they would start with a response of, “that’s a great question” even when the question really wasn’t that great. I recently ran into an issue where I couldn’t run a basic report. At first, I felt like I missed something in the implementation. After I submitted my question, I received a detailed response that referred me to a separate web site that listed questions and answers from other users. After reading through them, I did not find my answer and set the task aside. Later, I tried again. I got a very similar answer to the one I received before. Both made sure to try to make me feel good about my interaction, but still did not answer my question. It appeared that a machine may have been reading my questions, looking for particular words in my message, then referred me to the answers site. After further pursuit, I was able to get a different answer that actually did answer my question. Given the basic nature of my question, my efforts felt excessive and frustrating.
We have corporate credit cards for some of our key employees. I recently had to make some changes to our cards. The web site did not offer this service, so I called the customer service line. After being heavily screened by the automated phone system, I reached a live body. I was again screened but only to find out that I did not have the authority to make the necessary changes. I didn’t recall any changes being made to my authorization, so I was a little frustrated. Granted, it might have been my fault. It still didn’t change my frustration. I was referred to our account manager, who is a live person. They referred me to one of the card managers. To my surprise, the card manager was someone I had worked with years ago at the bank. She came on the line and walked me through a thorough set up on the web site and she handled the changes I requested. She did it all in less than 15 minutes. She didn’t pander to me by telling me my how good my questions were. My task was complete and I felt genuinely supported.
Life has not been reduced to a list of frequent questions. Keeping in mind that we are dealing with people in real life situations goes a long way to providing good business relationships. I feel very glad that our bank has not gone the way excessive automation.