Back in 2004 when I was MD of Promoseven Jordan (an advertising agency), I visited the regional head office in Dubai. While waiting to be lead to the CEO’s office, I noticed how the phones were ringing off the hook, and how about five receptionists were struggling to keep up with the flood of calls as if their lives depended on it.
It was a totally crazy scene. I have never in my life seen phones ringing as frantic. Yet, watching the operators chat away with customers (with smiles all over their faces) was mesmerizing. You could sense how business is being conducted right there and then.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems were the hot thing these days. You know, those painful machines that make you punch through a ton of menus and options, only to eventually make you dial that zero for an operator because the machines were ultimately too tedious, inconvenient, and ineffective.
So I asked the CEO about why they haven’t installed one of those IVRs so the receptionists won’t have a near heart-attack experience each day. He said “why on earth would I want to risk loosing a client’s or prospect’s call, only because they can’t talk to a real human who can actually help (or sell) them – and that as fast and efficient as possible.
His answer gave me a lot to think of. We spend tons of money on marketing to get people to pick up the phone to call us, or send us an inquiry email. We hire consultants to fine-tune our websites so they generate leads. And then we have an unintelligent and super-annoying machine (i.e. IVR and Chatbot) push them away and into the arms of our competitors.
If you’re a tech fanatic, you’re going to disagree with me now. But think about it. People do business with people, not machines. There’s no way on earth any machine can ever replace a friendly, knowledgeable, and courteous customer service representative. Did you really think the people who need to communicate with you will be happy talking some dumb Chatbot through a bunch of questions and confirmations, only to realize that the machine isn’t able to answer anything beyond the basics?
Personally, I can name several brands who’ve lost my business. Intuit’s QuickBooks Online is just one of those many examples. Funny enough though, if you bash them on Twitter and mention them in a negative post, you suddenly have their attention and someone with a real brain wants you to DM them with your problem. Now, does it really have to be that hard?
But even if you had the best IVR or chatbot ever – one that can actually help your customers, what you’re basically telling them is that they are not worth your time and effort to serve them. This is definitely not to best approach to build long-lasting and profitable relations with your customers, and certainly not the way to convert leads and prospects to real clients.
Don’t get me wrong, I love technology as much as the next guy. But some things in life are just meant to be the way they are. And that includes machines not replacing humans in several aspects in business and life. So don’t save money in the wrong places, hire the best customer service reps you can find, train them well, and watch them cross and up-sell – and out-perform the best machine you could possible get your hands on!
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