The Human Touch

January 15, 2011

It’s a digital world.

Everything is going digital.

Every time I get to speak to bankers all over the country I would chide them and poke them with this provoking thought.

Straight into their eyes this is what I say: “You guys boast of your excellent service. Your TV ads show your tellers transacting with a smile. But every time I call up your bank I never get a chance to talk to a human being. I get to talk to an answering machine.”

Why? Because everything is digital these days.

My friends have installed answering machines in their homes.

I used to have one but I removed it.

Somebody says, this is the recorded message in one of the answering machines he heard:

Hi! This is John. If you are the telephone company I already sent the money. If you are my parents please send me more money. If you are my friends you owe me money but if you are a female… don’t worry… I’ve got lots of money!!!”

Don’t you hate those answering machines?

Call up your service provider and you have an urgent need yet what do you hear?

“*ring* ….. *ring* ….. *click* Thank you for calling so and so….your call is important to us…but our operators are currently busy now…so please stay on the line and listen repeatedly to our awful company jingle and we’ll be with you with a few hours because we care for you!”

It’s like their company slogan goes this way: “We’re not satisfied until YOU ARE NOT SATISFIED!”

I got this material from the Internet and I could not remember who made this up but it’s crazy:

*ring* ….. *ring* ….. *click*

Hello! Welcome to the Psychiatric Hotline.

If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly.

If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2.

If you have multiple personalities, please press 3, 4, 5, and 6.

If you are paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want. Just stay on the line so we can trace the call.

If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you what number to press.

If you are manic-depressive, it doesn’t matter which number you press. No one will answer.

Technology may have made us more efficient yet it has isolated us from human interaction as well.

Sally Toh is my friend residing in Kuala Lumpur and she who handles my speaking schedule and invitations there. I will never forget what she said one day. Sally said: “I am so busy that can only use the email to communicate with my daughter who is in the next room…!”

Now before we become judgmental and condemning how many among us use the SMS as the main means of communicating with our children?

I guess we are not very different from Sally are we?

Here’s the key.

In an era of high tech we need high touch.

My children need it and so do the people in the organization and more so with our customers.

In his leadership newsletter, Stan Toler wrote:

“There she stood in the line at the post office, a line that wound its way almost out the front door. A fellow customer spoke to the elderly lady waiting to buy some stamps. “Ma’am, you must be very tired. Did you know there’s a stamp machine over there in the corner?” He pointed to the machine built into the wall.

“Why yes, thank you,” the lady replied, “but I’ll just wait here a little while longer. I’m getting close to the window.”

The customer became insistent. “But it would be so much easier for you to avoid this long line and buy your stamps from the machine.”

The woman patted him on the arm and answered, “Oh, I know. But that old machine would never ask me how my grandchildren are doing.”

Stan says, “Leaders would be well advised to spend less time on the organizational machinery and more time on the people within the organization. Remember, people will not sweat, invest or risk for an organization. But they will stretch beyond themselves for human connections.”

In other words, it’s “People first!”

Now you know why I removed my answering machine and now you understand why there are no answering machines in my own companies.

We take each call personally.

Just an idea. What if we run our business and boldly advertise: “We don’t use answering machines… we take each call personally because you are important to us.” Now that’s a lot more credible wouldn’t you say so? Put your money where your mouth is.

Just a thought. I’m glad that God does not use an answering machine. Because He takes each call (prayer) personally… the line is high speed… the earthquake in Taiwan or anywhere in the world will never disrupt it… you don’t need gadgets, all you need is a pair of bended knees and guess what? The line is never busy. Because HE really cares!

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. dan

    It’s really hard not to get “high-tech” these days. Technologies offer so much convenience. 2 years ago I tried not to use a mobile phone for almost 10 months. I realized things were simpler. Of course at first it was not that easy. But there were less distractions and I accomplished more things.

    One day when I become the boss of my own company I don’t want any computer in my office. =)

  2. Badz

    I got so hit by this article that immediately, I posted it to facebook and shared this article to all my team mates in the organization that I work with for them to internalize and digest the message that you are trying to convey.

    Thank you Sir Francis for writing this item. I have loved your writings eversince and now that I have started sharing your articles too, they are also loving all that you have written (at least those that they have read so far). Please keep it up and more power!

  3. Lan Tait

    Brother Francis, I too got rid or our answering machines. Really just unplugged them and piled them up! I think our complaints dropped when we answered personally. I know I have heard things like, “Oh, a human!” being reported from our customers.

    Like Dan I started realizing my cell phone was taking over my life when I got a bill than included 4,500 text messages! And that was only one of my five cell phones! OMG! It really snapped when I realized I hadn’t talked to my adult daughter in a month… Text Lang!

    Because HE really cares!

    The last line sums it up. I don’t know if you remember Pastor Chito M. Morales from from the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International. He was a dear friend and a true servant of God and passed a few days ago. You can read about him here.

    Virtually every time I would see Pastor Chito, he would hug me and say, “How are you my brother?” And he really wanted to know! He really understood the value of the human touch. I think that is why thousands of inmates in prisons in Davao and Cebu responded to this man of God. He fully understood the Human Touch was the best form of communication we have.

    Thanks for this wonderful post. And thanks for reminding me. It is time to shut off my computer and go hug my kids!

    1. Francis Kong

      Thanks Lan. Happy to know you find this post helpful.

  4. karren

    an eye-opener for all of us.

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