Technology is more likely to provoke paranoia than good feelings.
MY CELL PHONE RANG…a rare occurrence since people usually ping me by email or SMS or Facebook or Tweet.
Anyway, it rang, so I checked the callerID (assuming it was my wife or one of the other handful of people who have that number). But it was some random 800-number, and I let it go to voicemail. The majority of calls I get from numbers like that are from alternative utility billing companies looking to hijack my account by getting me to reveal the customer number on my statement.
A few minutes later, the same 800-number called my home phone.
“OK. This might be something important,” I thought.
I picked it up and the air went dead (you know, that robo-dialing pause during which some machine detects that the call has, indeed, been answered = by a real human being). It assigned an operator to my case, and she greeted me by name.
She identified herself as the representative of a very large U.S. bank. She wanted to know about my last experience with one of her company’s tellers. Suspicious. She went on to tell me the location, date and time of my recent in-person interaction with a bank employee. Was the teller helpful? Appropriately attired? Knowledgeable?
She asked questions and I evaded, as I googled the phone number. Was this legit? Had others received such calls? Yup. There were pages filled with complaints about spooky calls from this bank, in which the caller shares knowledge of recent live transactions and whereabouts.
I eventually told her I was busy and hung up.
A couple of days later, I had to go to the bank again.
The ATM’s new check scanner always spits mine out as “unreadable,” and now that the upgraded machines don’t accept deposits in envelopes, I have to go inside the bank (when it’s open) fill out a deposit slip and hand it to a teller.
When I got back to my office, the cell phone rang: the bank representative, telling me she knows where I was and asking about my experience.
I offered to tell her exactly why I needed to interact with a teller, but she didn’t care. That wasn’t on her checklist. She needed to know about social interaction, courtesy and politeness. The bank wasn’t interested in the one thing it actually needed to know about my experience.
So why is this financial institution tracking down and calling people who use their tellers…to discourage people from going into the bank? If I (the customer) know that speaking with a teller means answering some employee performance survey call, I’m going to be even less likely to go in the bank. So, the bank saves money—or even adds to its revenue stream by charging for debit cards and ATMs (as some banks have been attempting).
The actual effect, of course, is scaring people out of the bank altogether, making them wonder if their account information is secure, and leading customers (as it has me) away from banking with a firm that already felt like part of the “Big Brother” network.
The bank is leveraging its tremendous networked database and capability in exactly the wrong direction, punishing customers for making contact with their consumers, and believing that the best way to gain information about the customer experience is through telephone calls rather than speaking with frontline employees - whose judgement the bank obviously doesn’t trust. If this is the way the bank tracks and interrogates its customers, imagine what it’s like to work there.
Of course this bank isn’t the only company using technology in this ass-backwards way, but their example is illustrative for us all, on many levels:
1. Technology is more likely to provoke paranoia than good feelings. The normal human reaction to being told “I know what you did last summer” is not one of being understood, but being spied on. Don’t use the information you have on people to prove that you know who they are. It really just proves you have no idea.
2. Don’t chase people through their technologies. Who calls someone on multiple phone lines, and then leaves emails and SMS’s when he can’t find you? A stalker, that’s who. It smacks of Fatal Attraction. Just because a person has multiple points of contact doesn’t mean you should utilize them all simultaneously except in a true emergency. Anything else is an abuse of the network, and the nervous system.
3. Most importantly, follow the example legendary Disney Parks CEO Judson Green’s example, and get your feedback about your human interaction from human interactions, not from random, disembodied questionnaires over a network. If you have a real world point of sale or customer service, then everything you need to know is already happening right there. If you’re using a customer satisfaction technology to gauge customer response after the fact, that’s because you have disconnected yourself from the living intelligence that is your front line staff.
Instead of using technologies to alienate your customers and compensate for your lack of communication, learn how to speak to your employees who, in turn, will be able to tell you what’s going on with your customers. Save the calls and emails for the folks who are already interacting with you through those channels. Tell your technologies to leave the rest of us humans alone. One+
One+ March 2012,