While hanging out in an airport terminal in Minnesota with a bunch of other modern-day gypsies, traveling snake oil salesmen and family bands, I got a call from Southwest Airlines. It was a very “the call is coming from inside the house”-type of moment. Someone from Southwest could have paged me or walked over and found me to tell me that my flight would be delayed but instead Southwest called me to tell me my flight had been delayed.
Nevertheless, I loved getting this call because my tech-dependent laziness had prevented me from walking 10 feet to check the flight arrivals and departure screen in my terminal. In this world of digital brand engagement and endless thank-you-for-your-order emails, our version of customer service is often computer-generated, originating from a robo-caller. This got me wondering, though: Has automated, tech-created customer service replaced the real thing? Or can the two peacefully coexist?
Coming from a visit to the uber-friendly Midwest, I witnessed firsthand that smiling hotel clerks and retail employees are not a mythical thing of the past. Many have speculated that the return of the friendly employee is the byproduct of challenging economic times, while others believe good customer service has always been around even though it’s been dormant or difficult to find. With the assistance of technology, however, customer service has taken a new route. Is it impersonal to get a call from a mega computer or to have a robot announce what time it is? Perhaps, but businesses of all sizes can use social media, email marketing or electronic newsletters to keep in touch with customers when the human touch is impossible.
Other marketer and PR friends of mine have often jokingly complained about the annoyance of actually taking phone calls or meeting clients face-to-face. The prospect sounds exhausting as we have come to rely on the ability to shoot a quick email or fire off a text message instead of actually having to talk to another person. Like anything else, a good balance is most likely needed — equal parts personal touch and heavenly robotic assistance.
But you tell us: Does an electronic response leave you cold or do you appreciate robot reliability?