We Gain Nothing If We Lose Our Humanity By Utilizing Technology.

The Rise and Fall of a Company

The evolution from dependence on IT to an overflow of unemployed IT professionals (along with the rest of the company) is something I can relate to.  The company my husband used to work for grew at an astounding rate in the 90’s. In fact, they would hire 20-30 temps each week and as long as they worked out, by end of 30 days, they would be on the permanent payroll. Here is a picture of how fast this company grew: (numbers are estimated)

They needed an entire infrastructure to link the hundreds of employees that worked full time in house as well as programming to handle sales, service and manufacturing. The IT professional was GOD!

The company began their rise to fame, so to speak, with a modest 12 employees, and as you can see by the general timetable above, they were gobbled up and thrown to the wind with little effort.  Six months after this company was bought out, there were 100 scattered employees who were systematically absorbed or let go. The facility is now a ghost town. What used to be miles of corridors marked like streets of a small town is now a molding mess of stagnant air. Because this all occurred in a very small town, the implications for the residents were amazing.

This  company was a pioneer in a field that was very technical and highly in demand, their own need for technology was tremendous. During their hay day, there was an army of IT professionals, miles of coax cable which was then replaced by Cat5 cables connecting a network of computers. An intranet for the entire company with submissions by the departments and a large security force was in evidence.

That was then – This is now

So, why did this company sell out?  There are many thoughts on the subject, but one of them is that the owners were old-school and could not understand the value of the internet. After their rocket rise, they began to falter and lose ground in the industry. They felt that their level of technology should be enough and to spend more on IT functions was frivolous – they were very wrong.

What they were not wrong about is the time it takes to take good care of the customer.  When the new company took over, there was no question that the concern was for the bottom line.  Special programs were designed to track time on call or bring about data to analyze the total amount of cost per intervention on average.  The same technology that was supposed to make life easier for the employee and customer was now being used to squeeze every moment out of every day and pack as much profit into every second. 

As our reading “A Sea Change in Enterprise IT” illustrates (AIIM P. 5), there is a definite evolution of content and I am not sure it is totally for the good.

What I don’t get

I understand that our technology is changing so fast that it is difficult for the professionals to keep up, much less the business people who will be using it.  I also understand that profits, especially in these economic times, are a high concern for businesses.

What I do not understand is how companies can utilize more technology to cut out the personal touch that customer service used to provide, but then use our personal social networking interactions to get into our pockets.  This seems to be like burning a candle at both ends.

I do not agree with the AIIM white paper when it claims that B2C will “use social media to extend and IMPROVE customer service” (AIIM p. 8).  Customer service SUCKS in our country and further automization will only erode what little confidence we have in customer service centers. I do not understand how talking to a computer will be any better than talking to someone who hardly speaks English. 

We definitely need to foster advancements, but I fear that we are replacing humanity with technology all too much.

IMAGE CREDITS:

http://www.communication-type.com/technology-and-human-communication/

About Robyn Gotch

After many years of quilting, sewing and long-arm quilting for myself, I felt it was time to offer these same services to the public. You will find that because I am a quilter myself, your projects will be treated with the same care and respect that I do my own.

Posted on October 30, 2011, in Social Media, Society, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Great post, Robin! I really enjoyed reading the case study about your husband’s company – that’s just amazing how fast it grew and how unfortunate that it declined. I like that the company focused on customer service and taking care of the customer, instead of shoving them through some automated phone line.

    Like you said that the company was slow to embrace the internet just proves that it’s so important for companies to remain innovative and continue to evolve.

  2. “What I do not understand is how companies can utilize more technology to cut out the personal touch that customer service used to provide, but then use our personal social networking interactions to get into our pockets.” What an amazing point to consider. This could even be a final paper topic, or case study, that explores businesses that do the social media side well but perhaps have no person to person customer service. Do they make statements to defend this choice? How does outsourcing factor in? Lots to contemplate!

  3. Utilizing people or technology in customer service and utilizing social media to customize sales pitches are different things; the first point is not exactly relevant to the second point. Sixty years ago, if people had an issue with a company, they would show up in person to the store. Thirty years ago, the people would call. Today, people email and get a computer-automated response. The bottom line is that employees are a big expense. What is the cost of not having people render service to customers versus machines?

    Some companies will do a good job with customer service and some do not. It’s fun to read about who has good service and who does not.

    http://money.msn.com/investing/the-customer-service-hall-of-shame-2010.aspx

    Interesting insights, Robin!

    • While It is obvious that marketing and customer service are different elements of the customer experience, my comments were more directed at how equitable the relationship is between customer and company.

      I agree employees are a large expense, but at the end of the day, it is a person(s) who receives the money that consumers spend, not a computer. Therefore, I feel it should be a person who is responsible to that customer in the end, not an automated response.

      I also agree that people do not have the luxury of walking to the local store to ask a question or complain. This makes it even more important for the company to provide a real connection. Unfortunately, many companies *coughmicrosoftcough* continue to make customer service a much lower priority than profits.

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