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I have been in IT, or at an even lower level…Customer Service, since I first entered the work force.   My part time positions were all Customer Service centric, and when I graduated from University and went into IT, that tend continued.   The titles were varied depending on where I worked…Customer Service Engineer, Customer Service Representative, Customer Service Manager, etc.    It has only been over the last 4-5 years where I have seen the loss of focus on Customer Service due to the increased focus on costs and finances.   Indeed, the term Customer Service now is even missing from a lot of titles……we now favor IT Consultant or IT Technology Consultant.   It is in this recent mindset that I think we are beginning to miss out and lose ourselves as to what it means to be Customer Centric and truly serve their needs.

The machines and pieces of equipment have become tremendously powerful compared to what we had 5-10 years ago….not to mention 20-25 years ago when I started my full time career in IT.    We have continued to improve and introduce new technologies and methodologies in order to bring about what we hope would be considered better Customer Service….give our users what they want and need in order for them to do their jobs or functions.    For the most part this has worked out well……where I see it failing is in the realm of communications.    Every year we get word coming out on upcoming improvements and enhancements to our communication devices…..faster speeds, better quality, less costs.   With these improvements comes the word….use the technology now, there is no need to travel, no need to meet with employees or users on a face to face basis.    This is where I see the major breakdown happening.

The technology we have put in place today is fantastic…it DOES allow us to get in touch with people quicker, allows us to do more things remotely with counterparts, but it can NEVER replace the need for individuals to meet face to face.    We have Telepresence, where you can almost see the individual pores on a person sitting across from you…..the look and feel is there as if you were at the same table.  You are not though….you do not have the same presence, get the same feelings, body language, interactions as you do meeting a person face to face.   How better to understand, feel, see what a person is saying and going through than a direct meeting.

I believe that this is intuitively recognized by senior management, as the meetings that take place are always face to face where travel is needed.   The lower echelons get the word coming down that travel budgets are cut or reduced, travel freezes are in effect, use Technology rather than travel.   Regardless of a Customer facing issue, or when managers meet their employees face to face…..we need to rethink our position on Technology and its affect on Customer Service and what it is doing to our ability to manage the relationships that need to be built in order for us to succeed.

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  1. Jelena Perfiljeva

    Interesting blog, Mike, and appreciate posting this in the “point-less” personal blog.

    I would agree with you that no technology can possibly replace the actual human contact. But at the same time I rather chose to appreciate the many opportunities that technology has given us vs. mourning lack of the physical contact. Not so long ago (in my life time) to get a message to a distant relative we had to write a letter (or send a telegram if it was urgent) – not everyone even had a phone. But today my family and friends are spread all over several countries yet I can easily open Skype and have a conversation with them (video and all). To me this is just nothing short of amazing. Surely I’d prefer to see them in person but, considering the amount of hassle and travel time it’d involve, I’ll take this “the next best” option.

    In the business setting technology allows our team to support SAP systems for many remote locations as well as a local one. And, interestingly, sometimes we have better relationship with the people whom we’ve never seen than with someone next door. Also sometimes people travel to our office, meet our team and then they leave the company (these events are not connected, I hope), so what’s the point?

    Perhaps it’s not the matter of technology lacking but of the different personal preferences. I’d guess that those who work with other people (e.g. sales or management) would feel more disadvantaged. But for those who are “not the people person” anyway this is actually a blessing. 🙂

    Also considering the effect that travel reduction would have on the environment and freeing up space for those who do need to travel for reasons other than to schmooze with some honcho over lunch, it’s one of the few things you won’t find me complaining about.

    I believe that we need to evolve and adjust and embrace the advantages that technology provides and think how we can use it better based on the different preferences and situations. It’s definitely not going anywhere, so resistance is futile. 🙂

    Although this blog touches on the rather philosophical issue of the modern relationships in general, so this could be a really long discussion. But thanks for posting this, I really enjoyed reading your point of view.

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