Customer Service – automation hell

Customer Service – the art of helping out a customer while he is trying out your organization’s product (it can be buying an off-the-shelf product in your supermarket, flying out in your airline, staying in your hotel, anything literally). How do you improve your experience of your customer so that he is happy with your organization and returns back to increase your sales.

In the drive towards automation and decreasing costs, I noticed that the hotel I was staying this weekend in London has virtually removed the receptionist from the scene. When one does a late check-in (after 6PM), they can go to the kiosk at the reception which will throw out the room number and the access card. Wonderful concept but it felt a bit eerie for me (even though I consider myself to be a new-age traveler). Where is the wonderful, smiling face behind the till who will assure you that in case something goes wrong, I have a face to go back to. Not a kiosk that probably has been implemented by a project managed by someone like myself!!!

Earlier this week, I was staying in a hotel in the relatively remote areas of UK – Altrincham – where the old-style of receptionist being present for 24 hours is followed. How much I miss that hotel now! I would love to go back there anytime. Of course, one can argue about the costs of manning a desk for 24 hours but come on – have you done a customer survey and found out what your customers want?

What do you think about this? Do you think we should drive more automation just to decrease our costs? Is there no longer a need to have human interaction?


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4 Responses to “Customer Service – automation hell”

  1. prateekkhare Says:

    Wow ! Thank you for sharing your first hand experience. This is completely new to me.

    The following is from one of my old blogs :

    – Who gets held responsible for computers/”intelligent” machines that malfunction and cause harm due to faulty or malicious programming?
    – Does High technology dull our sensitivity to the real world?
    – Are computers and parallel technologies changing the way we think for the better?
    – What “Human Being” skills (like conversation) are being lost because of computer technologies?
    – What prevents artificial intelligence from becoming artificial stupidity?

    These questions may seem offensive to individuals who categorize robustly with automation but they do need to be asked and the answers need to be thoroughly introspective. Can all the technologies in all of history steal our humanity? There comes a point when one needs to apprehend the alliance of being human and the vital significance of using the on/off lever. The control creature exercise is and always has been an issue of self-control/ethical behavior. Artificial Intelligence and computing in general should stay in their places as (alternate) tools for humans.

    More :

  2. 24-Hour Service – Your Funny, Clean Joke of the Day Says:

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  3. SMANDI Says:

    Interesting write-up! Thanks for sharing. I am pursued to share my experience – however from the flip side on a similar subject – Human interaction and customer service!

    After quite a few years, I travelled back home to India and have been shopping in many major cities such as Delhi, B’lore and other places in the South since 2 weeks. Noticed that there are store employees who collect our personal bags if any, to be held safe near the entrance, then there are employees who hand over numbered tokens(to retrieve bags later) and there are salesmen ready to assist and help with the shopping. It took sometime getting used to so many of them and all the attention or service I got!

    Eventually, after the purchase, there is a designated billing counter to collect the bill, a designated payment counter for payment and to get the stamp affixed on the receipt which when shown at another counter, I got my purchase – in cool looking bags! (not plastic but either paper or cloth bags – I was impressed to see the GO GREEN concept, awareness that is predominantly practiced). Now after this you may think I was done – but no! as soon I took 4-5 steps towards the exit door, to retrieve my belongings, I had another person who asked for the reciept of the purchases and did a thorough check of the bag’s contents! In some places they even have scanners or X-Ray machines for the bags!

    Certainly made me think – wow! there are so many folks that interact or service a customer. One way it is a sign of good economy and progressive conditions for the country that employers afford to pay and sustain these many people who are the main bread winners of there families and are kept away from the streets, however on the otherhand it seemed that TRUST is a far reaching word and the customer is put to the test!

    • Madhusudan Rao Says:

      Thanks for the great insight SMANDI.

      It is a cycle, isnt it? Improve automation in everyday life to the extent that it creates an imbalance (Carbon footprint in this case) and then revert back to good ol’ customer service 🙂

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