Sunday, November 8, 2009

Technology works best when it factor in the change it brings

Have you ever called a business or a school, bypass their electronic receptionist by dialing "zero," and get someone who wants to put you back into the voice mail system?
And, have your irritated that person by asking them to take a message?
About a week ago, while in the car, I called Madison, my wife's school, got the famed voice prompts and finally got a student. I asked her to see if she could get someone to take a message to my wife to call me. Her response was "I can only put you into voicemail."
When I first married my wife 12 years ago, her school had a receptionist named Edna. I knew that if I reached Edna by phone that she would get a student to take a message so my wife would get it.
However, someone in NEISD took a look at human resources and eliminated Edna's position by embracing voice mail technology. Yet, Madison High School is not the only organization or business I know that has eliminated the business receptionist or operator.
Thanks to our economy, a lot of businesses have cut back on having an administrative assistant answer the phones for them.
Scott Kaeppel, the president of Kaeppel Consulting, said companies are often faced with making strategic cuts in their organization to make them leaner. To some managers, cutting the salary for the receptionist makes economic sense, but it may impact the business more with lost business or bad impressions.
Businesses spend millions on advertising and marketing, but when they drop their receptionists, they create a negative impression with their customers. Instead of dropping the position, Kaeppel would argue that a manager could look at alternatives such as dropping something like ads in the Yellow Page as an alternative to cutting a receptionist.
In time, receptionists like Edna will become as extinct as the dinosaur. As someone who usually embraces the Internet and texting, I understand the change in thinking. However, technology has to work and align itself with those who use it.
In my wife's case, her access to voice mail moved about three school wings over at Madison when the school added its new science facilities. Before the addition, the science faculty lounge was a short walk away. Now, she has to go to either the main faculty lounge or to the science building to check a phone message.
The problem with technology is that people think it's a solution and a way to save money. Yet, a complete technology integration needs to factor in the changes involved. Technology changes work when the executives in charge of it completely think through the processes involved.
(Note: I work as the publicist for Kaeppel Consulting.)

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