Tom Vander Well, executive vice president of c wenger group, is a recognized customer service authority in the contact center industry.
For the past year or two I have been on a self-imposed hiatus from the business blogging world. I took the hiatus for a number of reasons, but chief among them was a desire to step back, look around, and get some perspective on a rapidly changing marketplace.
One of the largest trends I've seen in recent years is what I like to call techno-data-lust.
For over twenty years I've been involved in the contact center industry, and I have attended my share of mega-global-exposition-conferences. I've even been asked to speak at a few of them. Even in conferences and workshops that are about serving customers, I began to notice a trend. Big technology firms drive the conference. They pay for the conference with their sponsorship and effectively purchase the keynote sessions to hawk their latest suite of bolted-together software telephony package which they promise will increase productivity, improve customer satisfaction, tell you anything you ever wanted to know about your customers, and provide enough big data to make Edward Snowden blush in his Russian dacha.
Then, each week I step into a client's office and watch the trickle down effect of techno-data-lust:
- IT departments become the tail that wags the corporate dog as they have the power to procure, install, configure, and roll-out the technology.
- Operations find that the really cool technology creates as many obstacles as it does solutions in serving customers in moments of truth when the customer reaches out for help.
- Customers wait 14 minutes while it takes two agents to locate a tracking number in the cool, new, state-of-the-art system (I actually analyzed that call).
- The voice-analysis software that was going to replace the QA department and provide much better results than actually listening to calls becomes a quagmire. Instead of listening to calls and coaching agents the FTEs spend their days programming searches, key words, and inquiries and then weed through a plethora of false positives. When I talked to my client a year after implementation they were still trying to make it work. "It cost so much money," the mantra went, "we have to use it."
- Managers often get a ton of data out of the system. They just don't have time to sort through the gigabytes of it and find anything useful. I love it when I ask for a simple list of customers who called the previous day with their contact information, and receive blank looks and the scratching of heads.
- You know that really cool feature the salesman told you about in the presentation? That's actually not part of the basic suite you purchased, but for an additional $10,000 they can turn that feature on.
- Oh, and by the way, the state-of-the-art software you just implemented is already obsolete. You should see the new technology they introduced at last week's expo in Las Vegas!
Please don't read what I'm not typing. My hiatus has given me fresh perspective, but I'm no David Thoreau (though I find sitting, unplugged, by the lake a good thing). I'm not advocating abandoning the world and all that technology can do for us.
I am, however, advocating that we admit that technology can't do everything for us. Technology is a tool, not an answer. Sometimes we spend so much time chasing after the latest technology that we miss the bus.
At the end of the day, I find that our greatest need is a human one. We need people to communicate, work together, and utilize our human gifts, intelligence, and creativity to connect vision with implementation, problems with solutions, and customers with exceptional products/services. I'm finding that clients who learn to moderate their techno-data-lust are healthier that the ones who try to satiate it.