Monday, May 25, 2009

Even as a tech advocate, I still hate automated phones and grocery checkouts

Without sounding like a retake of Andy Rooney, doncha hate those automated telephone switchboards?

I do. Many would think that as a technology advocate that I would embrace the use of automated phones or grocery checkout lanes.

Nope. I hate 'em.

When I call USAA for service, I typically punch "zero" to speak to a human being. It doesn't always work properly, and it takes me two or three times before I find someone that can understand me.

I recently had someone break into my car, smashing my window and stealing a laptop. Because of the angry tones in my voice, the computer couldn't understand me. It was 85 degrees out and there wasn't a place for me to get to the right person to start my claims process. After two efforts to get to the telephone switch operator to connect me to a claims adjustor failed, I finally got the right person to help me with my two claims.

And, if you listen to USAA phone operators, they always remind you that you could save time by using their web site for assistance. My response is that when they make their web site uncomplicated and easy to use then I will use it more often.

I am not picking on USAA in this blog. Call Time-Warner Cable and you get the same drill of waiting five minutes when you can't watch the latest episode of HBO "the Wire" on that cable channel's "On demand service."

Then, there's HEB. I despise their automated checkout service. I know it saves my grocer money, but it isn't a time saver because you have to wait for each prompt as you pay for your items.

And when you get someone on the phone, especially if they are in the 16 to 24 age demographic, most really demonstrate terrible listening skills. Most will push you right back in some form of electronic queue to punch through other numbers.

Smart businesses owners who want to improve their personal, customer service should look to successful restaurants as the way to listen to people. The best servers are the ones who listen and ask questions to make sure their customers get what they want.

If a business has a young person who is a terrible listener, I would suggest they take them to lunch or high tea at Indigo Joes Restaurant. There, they can observe Daniella or Brandy, two of their 20-something
contemporaries listening and taking orders. More importantly, they can observe how the art of human contact works for a business.

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