Should customer service go retro?

In MetroNews.ca today, Charles Davies proposes a radical change to how organizations handle their customer service. He says they should ditch the automated phone technology and go back to having real people on the phones:

“The idea is simple: Get rid of automated telephone systems and bring back the switchboard.”

He makes a good point. Though technology can offer certain productivity gains, we all know how much frustration it can heap on customers trying to get things done. But then he goes on to make an even better suggestion:

“…invest in customer service by hiring and developing skilled people who are not only articulate and educated, but also possess the common sense to treat each customer call as unique rather than reverting to programmed responses.”

I love this! But my counter-point would be that such educated, articulate and able employees should be there regardless of the technology used.

And I believe that’s Davie’s point. Too many companies use technology as a management crutch. They invest in what they see as a tangible and valuable asset: technology. Then they dis-invest in their most valuable asset: people.

They justify this by assuming that technology and systems can replace talented, caring and knowledgeable people. But it can’t.

I wouldn’t argue that we should abandon all our technology in how we connect with our customers. We need both technology and people. But there needs to be a balance. And people need to be first. Because people are the company, machines are not.

What do you think? Should we go “retro” with customer service and get rid of the technology?

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz