Where Have all the People Gone?

by : John Sheridan

When companies advertise their services or goods, they arelooking for just one end result - sales. It's a simplestraightforward concept - it's business. However, as companiesexpand and conduct more and more trade online, the personaltouches can all but disappear.

It seems these days that every inanimate object can speak to us.Robotic voices are everywhere, from talking elevatorsinstructing passengers to stand clear of the doors, to carswarning occupants that seat belts should be fastened. On top ofall this, there are automated telephone systems that offer usmultiple number choices and infuriating recorded options.

"If you have been holding for more than 4 hours and feel youneed to go to the bathroom, please press 2"

Obviously, this is an exaggeration, but it makes the point thatas companies grow, far from employing more people to talk andinteract with their customers, they head off in the oppositedirection and put an answer machine on the end of the phone;most of which tend to make callers hang up before the recordinghas offered them the first set of numbers to choose from.

A talking machine will not sell a product to a potentialcustomer. Not only is it completely lacking a personality, itcan't interact with people, it can't share a joke; it's totallyincapable of making a caller feel welcome, yet many companiesinflict this type of system on the people they want to selltheir products to.

It is unfortunate, but all this change is simply the world ofcommerce evolving and getting ever faster, and although noteveryone agrees with it, most of us accept it as being here tostay. So where has the personal touch gone? Thankfully, insmaller businesses, it is usually very much alive and kicking.

The most effective communication tools between companies andcustomers are people, and increasingly, a growing number ofsmall business owners are realising this and reintroducing thehuman factor by employing somebody simply to answer the phone.

Customers want to talk to a 'person,' someone who will answerthe telephone without instructing them to press 3 if they prefercream in their coffee or 4 if they take it black! Someone whotakes the time to ask the right questions instead of tellingthem to "press 6 for all other enquiries." People generally liketo spend a few minutes in idle conversation or banter beforegoing on to more important issues, it makes them feel betterknowing that someone, and not a machine is listening to whatthey have to say.

Having a business website is a must for anybody who wants totrade in today's markets, but there also has be a 'human'presence to compliment it. Larger companies above all shouldstart realising this and not hide behind the Internet or theircommunication systems. It is human nature to want to talk, thatis what language is for, and a website or telephone should notbe an obstacle to that.