Human Experience in A Technological World

My momma used to say, “If you can’t say something nice – don’t say anything at all.” That guidance has typically proven to be invaluable.

Today, however, I am going to skate on the edge of mom’s wisdom. I will not name the villains in the story I am about to share, but I also will not keep my less than nice comments to myself. I’m justifying my actions in the name of helping you elevate your customer experience. Here goes…

After having had a repeated, but recent-onset software problem, I did what you’d probably do – I consulted the Internet for a solution. Having exhausted all viable do-it-myself solutions, I called my smartest techy family member and ran through his options.

As a last resort, I went online and jumped through all the technology hurdles to get human service. It started with me having to answer questions posed by a chatbot and being directed to the same solutions I had already attempted through my Internet search. After the bot determined its efforts were unsuccessful, I was allowed to access an actual human (either through chat or a phone call). I elected to have the company call me and a computer-generated call was received swiftly. After responding to a few automated prompts on the phone, I was connected to a “live” contact center professional who determined that I was in the wrong department (he serviced personal customers, not business customers).

Prior to transferring me to a colleague in the business department, my service agent advised that he could hold with me for a short time while awaiting the business contact agent to come on the line, but that he would need to drop off if the delay was extended and I would “need to provide context” to the business help desk provider.

You guessed it…the wait exceeded the availability of the first rep – so I told my tale of woe to yet another stranger. Sadly, the business client representative told me that he could not help me unless he was contacted by an intermediary company that apparently sold me the software.

As bad as my experience was to that point, I had only scratched the surface on this train wreck. I sought out the company that sold me the software and they processed service needs via chat. After answering a few more chatbot questions, I was routed to a person who made a very minimal attempt to address the problem before explaining he couldn’t do anything further. When asked if he could reach out to the other company on my behalf he said “no.“ When I asked if anyone else in his company could make that referral, he said: “If there were anyone else I would have sent you to them.” This was followed by his priceless phrase, “You need to understand this from my perspective. I can’t do anything for you.”

I was so flabbergasted by this statement that I decided to honor his request. I said, “Please help me understand your perspective.” Mark Twain is credited with saying, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” I have saved the chat history so that when enough time has elapsed, I might find it to be comedic.

This experience was painful; particularly since I had recently written sections in my soon to be released book, The Airbnb Way (you can get a special pre-order offer by using the code THANKS here) about the optimal blend of technology and human care.

My recent encounters demonstrate the compounding problems that occur when technology products and services are not backed by well-trained human service providers. Sadly, someone at the intermediary company failed to train my contact center representative in how to deliver empathy and left him with the errant belief that customers should empathize with his plight. My story would have been a more pleasant one if only leaders at either of the companies had developed customer-centric processes, made transitions easier, and coordinated with one another to foster customer success.

Let’s look at my experience from the lens of your business. Where are you failing to help your customers navigate through your organization? Where are your people falling short in customer empathy? How effective are you when customers need human support?

Ok, enough time has passed. I guess the experience was kind of funny, but the fact that I invested two hours and have no solution is not.

I would love to talk to you about your human/technology balance and the emotional intelligence and empathy of your people. Simply reach out to me through our technology here and we will respond personally and promptly.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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