27March

Can we have less technology please?

This morning I had a series of forgettable interactions with service providers of differing sizes, stature and specialization. One was a marquee MNC courier, the other was an insurance JV (with a MNC partner) and the third was a high end local lock maker that has installed a post sales call center. At the end of it all, I ended up speaking with equally dumbed down people reading parrot like from a script with no cushion at all for a non standard query and still less so for a wronged customer.

These interactions took me back me to my days as a greenhorn banker when I would manually update frayed passbooks while balancing an unwieldy ledger that was sometimes moth eaten or cockroach infested. That was a time when the most advanced gadget that we had in the office was a calculator or perhaps the teleprinter. That was a time when a medium sized bank branch usually had two phone connections - one for the manager and the other to be shared by about 20 odd lesser mortals.

Yet we hardly ever had a raised voice on the phone or within the bank. A bank call center CEO recently admitted to me that more than 90% of incoming calls were downright abusive arising from abysmal levels of service denial. Most of the callers on a given day were repeat callers who were not able to have the most basic problems of theirs fixed after repeated emails, texts and phone calls.

Technology is supposed to empower front line service personnel but actually it has left average consumers marooned in a maze of faceless electronic and mobile communications which allow shirking and ineffective employees to hide behind generic email ids and phone numbers. And there are far too many of them these days in the context of the fourth rate educational and professional institutions that process ambitious but incapable youth for clerical jobs masked as managerial in the modern economy.

What good is a mobile number if the recipient keeps the phone switched off? How effective is an email id if the response that is generated is a staccato one? Why have an automated CRM package when the service provider asks for your identity every time you call? What use is an intranet or a LAN/WAN when employees are hardly in synch with each other on the status of a customer complaint?

There are too many questions that an educated and reasonably demanding consumer like me has for my service providers but too few answers are forthcoming. Cant we have the old fashioned bank branch where the security guard will flash a toothy grin on seeing you (rather than have outsourced guards who change every other week) and the branch manager share a cup of coffee or even embellish the offering with some delicious cookies depending on the value as well as the potential of your relationship? But such luxuries, I hear, are only reserved for the fattest of cats these days. For you and me, its technology that we have to put up with.

Posted in Technology

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