It’s a common objective of businesses, or even individuals, to strive to adopt the latest and greatest technology. Everything from phone call automation and auto-reply email, to robotic assembly plant and auto coffee making. However, not many can see (or choose to see) that disadvantages of going high-tech.
Human Beings Are Social Creatures
Whether you choose to believe it or not, all human beings long for social interactions. Of course there’ll be exceptions, like hermits who choose to impose self exile from the rest of civilisation. But generally speaking, we all strive to do anything and everything to keep us in constant contact with our fellow human beings. It doesn’t matter whether it’s with people whom we’re familiar with, or even with total strangers. That’s why we’ll feel comfortable, sipping an over-priced caffè latte, while being surrounded with a roomful of total strangers. Of course, given a chance, you’d probably prefer to be cheering your favourite football team in the same room with your mates. But given the situation, being surrounded with strangers is still better than drinking exotic home-brewed coffee all alone at home.
Henceforth, it’s expected that many modern tools were developed to help us communicate with our fellow human beings. Let’s take a look at a few examples :-
(1) Postal Service
It’s not entirely certain when, or who created the postal system. But by the mid-19th century, the modern postal service was established, and being run by the governments of the day. And the core of its service was to deliver a handwritten note from the sender to the intended recipient. Strip it down to its core, it’s to enable a human being to communicate with another fellow human being. It doesn’t really matter that it’ll probably take a whole week for your recipient to receive your handwritten note. Better late than never.
(2) Telegraph Service
Development of Morse code coupled with a comprehensive network of wires across the land gave birth to the telegraph service. Lauded to be much faster than the postal service, it became the preferred choice to send urgent messages over long distances. Either way you look at it, it’s purpose it still for a sender to communicate with a recipient.
(3) Telephone Service
The telephone service was invented when the technology was available to convert audio signals into electrical signals at the source, and then reverse it at the destination. We’re not gonna discuss the complicated history behind it, you can read all about it here. Suffice to say, the invention of the telephone made communication instant and personal. You can literally talk to, and hear your contact’s voice. Communications has now matured into its most personal shape.
(4) Email Service
The email was developed as a byproduct of the World-Wide-Web development. You can read all about its history and development here. Communications via email enabled messages to be spelt out clearly. It avoided lousy audio from interfering with the quality of the message. It also revolutionised the business communication, by enabling properly formatted business correspondence to be sent out in situ. An additional advantage of communicating via email is privacy via encryption, so unintended recipients won’t be able to eavesdrop.
(5) Instant Messaging
This is the hallmark of the information age’s communication. Private messages, meant for the eyes of your recipient only, is sent directly to their smartphone. As long as both of you have access to wireless internet service, you can communicate via instant messaging. No intermediaries and no risk of being lost in transit. This is the most personal way of communicating with our fellow human beings.
So you see, human beings are indeed social beings. We long to communicate with fellow human beings. It doesn’t matter whether it’s with somebody we know, or total strangers.
Pitfalls Of High-Tech Communications
Gone are the days when businesses hire a human receptionist to receive and transfer business phone calls. Gone too, are the personal touch of actually tending to callers or emails, regardless whether product complaints or enquiries. It’s simply too inefficient to be personally tending to all of the incoming contacts.
Hence, the high-tech solution would be to automate the handling of all of the incoming communications. Pre-recorded messages to guide incoming telephone calls have replaced the warm and friendly voice of a human receptionist. Incoming emails has been replied with a generic response, without alerting the recipient. Heck, even with instant messaging chat service, the human link has been replaced with “intelligent” chat bots.
No doubt, the high-tech algorithm can decipher the enquiries it receives from the enquirers. It’s probably also able to reply those enquires with logical and predetermined messages too. Yeah, it’s all really efficient, and enables you to spend more time and effort on important matters… Except, tending to fellow human beings should be the most important matter…
“I Don’t Like To Talk To Machines!…”
If I were to get a penny for each time I hear that phrase, I’d be a millionaire by now… That’s right, we’re all humans, and we all hunger for interaction with our fellow human beings. I don’t know about you guys, but every time my call is answered by a machine with a pre-recorded voice, I eagerly look forward to hearing “… press 9 to speak to a customer service representative…“
Unfortunately, not all pre-recorded messages come with that option. Or worse, that option, when pressed, is followed by countless minutes of being “Please hold while your call is being transferred”, only to have the call cut off due to time out.
Even email messages are not spared too. How many times have you spent time and effort to compose a meaningful email message to a business, only to be replied with a standardised, auto responded email?… “Your message is very important to us, and will be tended to as soon as possible”… Yeah, right… If it’s so important to you, why don’t you take the same amount of effort, to compose a personalised reply to me?…
High-Tech Isn’t A Blanket Solution
High-tech is good if it can cut down on idle time, like in a factory assembly line. It’s good for the times when you have a finite number of standard enquiries. Like writing a code for all the possible incoming enquiries, it’s easy, and highly predictable if there’re only three or four possibilities. But you can’t apply the same technique when communicating with human beings. There’s no such thing as “standard” enquiries. And when a random enquiry comes in that’s not specified by the programme, what then?…
Human beings are random, and more importantly, emotional. There’s nothing logical about emotions. Hence, there’s no way to predict an emotionally charged enquiry. It takes another human being to be able to “read between the lines” of an emotionally charged enquiry. And times like these aren’t as uncommon as we’re led to believe.
Replacing High-Tech With Human-Tech
In areas of direct communications with fellow human beings, it’s always better to replace high-tech with human-tech. Aside from the example of having a human receptionist, the other important and strategic placement is in sales. No where in the whole service chain of a business, any business for that matter, is as important as the sales department.
Sales isn’t just about fulfilling the logical needs of a customer. It’s also about fulfilling their emotional needs too. Especially in a highly competitive market, where customers have a choice of suppliers to buy from. It’s not always about the price either. Selling at a lower price than your competitors is no guarantee of closing the sale. Instead, fulfilling your customer’s logical and emotional needs will increase your probability of closing the sale.
A Practical Solution
It’s no surprise that many businesses today are investing in branding services. A favourable reputation and business goodwill is worth more than its weight in gold. Automated communications with visitors… not so much.
Improve your interaction with your fellow human beings. Make it clear that their enquiries are really important to you. Don’t just play a standardised pre-recorded message to everybody. Tend to every enquiries with the same enthusiasm. Embrace the human randomness, not fear it. And if you can’t handle the volume of calls, then congratulations to you… You’ve achieved a reasonably successful brand identity. Nobody will bother to call you if they don’t even know you exist in the first place. Anyway, when (not if) that “problem” arises, it’s time for you to expand your frontline department. All you need to do is to hire more PR staff to handle the increased volume of interactions.
Understand that not every interaction will result in closing a sale. Nevertheless, treat all of them with the same enthusiasm. You’ll never know when a satisfied enquiry will being in more sales in the future. A favourable comment from a third-party is more effective than an expensive advertising campaign.
And Finally… Smile!…
It’s true, people can actually “hear” you smiling over the phone line. Besides, you’ll actually perform much better if you commit yourself to smile before any interactions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interacting with your audience face-to-face, over the phone, or even when composing an email. A smile can actually raise your mood, regardless how stressed you’re feeling at that point in time. A lightened mood is infectious. An angry caller will actually lighten up if they sense a lightened mood on your side.
Also don’t forget your personal grooming and attire while you’re at it. You can be slouching over your sofa, dressed in your comfy pyjamas, when talking over the phone. But getting too comfortable is actually counter-productive. You’ll naturally want to cut short any interactions if you’re too comfortable. And that’s really obvious on the other end of the line.
Human beings naturally seek interactions with low-tech, fellow human beings, not high-tech machines. Show your personal commitment. It’s way more effective than the multi-million dollars (replace with your own currency where necessary) high-tech, artificially intelligent machine. It’s called a personal touch for a reason…
Need help to develop your personal touch?… Get in touch with us, and we’ll share with you just how to do it.