Back in the early/mid 1980’s I bought my first computer.  I was amazed at what it could do.  The technology allowed me to do a better job of keeping in touch with clients, managing information, producing superior graphics and more.  I remember having a debate with someone about how computers and technology will make business better.  He argued that it would just make things faster, not better.  I said that faster was better.  His concern was that it would “dehumanize” business.  I said it wouldn’t and shouldn’t.  It should just help.  I still believe that today, more than twenty years later.  The following is an excellent lesson in how to marry technology and customer service.

 

Not long ago I ordered my son a special piece of musical equipment from Sweetwater Music.  I had heard about them, searched them out on the Internet and placed my order on-line.  It was a simple and easy transaction.  At one point I received an email from Ted Hunter, my Sweetwater representative, confirming my order.  While I never talked to him, my account was assigned to him.  This was probably an automated response email – so I thought.

 

A couple of months later I went to Sweetwater’s website and ordered something that goes with the equipment that I bought for my son.  Once again I received an email from Ted, confirming my order.  Then, I received another email saying that I may have ordered the wrong equipment.  Ted assumed that my latest purchase was to go with the original equipment I bought just two months earlier.  If that was the case, I ordered the wrong thing.  He was right, the order was corrected, and I was thankful for Ted’s attention to my order.  Sweetwater now has me as a loyal customer.

 

I share this story because it is obvious that even when a company is doing Internet business, there is no substitute for the personal touch.  It is so important to realize that technology can enhance service, but it is not a substitute. 

 

Another example:  I buy some of my airline tickets on-line.  Recently one of my flights canceled several hours before departure.  An American Airlines representative called me (my phone number was on record) to tell me about the problem and rebooked me on a different flight.  By calling me, she saved me the unpleasant surprise of finding out about the cancellation on my own, after I arrived at the airport.  The woman explained that when they know about flight delays or cancellations far enough in advance, they try to contact their customers.  They practice a great way to blend the technology of booking on-line with some personalized service. 

 

Jim Coyte of UPAC Premium Finance has a great tagline on his emails:  Old Fashioned Service / Leading-Edge Technology.  Technology enables us to automate processes, make transactions smoother, give us more information – and more.  But, it is no substitute for good old fashion customer service.  Jim gets it and even brags about it.

 

So, never forget that technology can enhance service, but it can never replace it!

 

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.  As a professional speaker and author, Shep helps companies develop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  For more information on Shep’s speaking programs and books, please contact (314) 692-2200. Email: shep@hyken.com  Web: www.hyken.com. For information on customer service training, go to www.TheCustomerFocus.com.

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