As with most of you, a major portion of my career and life in general revolves around technology. Whether it be my iPhone apps, iPad Apps, Microsoft Lync or self-service applications provided by my bank, broker or other companies I do business with. With the explosion of mobile devices we have all seen this trend toward self-service exploding and along with it a precipitous decline in opportunities to truly touch in a human way those that are providing you the service. While technology is a wondrous tool it does not hold all the answers, sometimes old-school touchy feely is exactly what is needed.
Two weeks ago my sister and her husband began to learn this first hand when a 100+ year old oak tree came crashing down into their house. Luckily everyone was OK but the tree was so large it put a 31 foot hole in their roof. Yes, I did mean feet not inches. Having never had a tree fall thru their house they of course had no clue what to do. As the rain poured in and the firefighters departed they were both left wondering what the next step should be. As they dialed their insurance company who without a doubt has the slickest ‘self-service’ technology platform in the business the stark realization that the company they were dealing with had completely depersonalized the business of home insurance began to set in. After being on the phone for what felt like hours they were connected to a person who had no personal interest in their plight, who did not know them from Adam and frankly seemed more interested in getting off the phone since it was 2 AM than helping. Call after call since that time has gone in this manner and although the Insurance Company has every technology made from every technology vendor out there they seem to have forgotten the most important thing that matters. Their people. To this day, my sister and brother-in-law are stuck dealing with perpetual technology driven rather than human driven touches with all the associated problems like full voicemail boxes for the adjuster, long wait times and constant questions unresolved by random calls into the contact center on what is reimbursable etc.
During this same period I too had some issues that I need to discuss with my insurance company (although nowhere near as important as a tree in the house). This is where our stories diverge. While my brother-in-law sits on the phone explaining to another random agent what happened to their house and trying to convince them that a tree can in fact make a giant hole, I pick up the phone and called Tom Sweeney not an 800 number. Tom has been the face of my insurance company for over 10 years now and never ceases to work on my behalf to make sure a bad experience doesn’t turn into a horrible one. For those of you lucky enough to live in Ohio or Indiana I’ll put a shameless plug to Tom’s website here since there is no doubt in my mind him and his team would treat you just as well (CMS Insurance). Does Tom and his team have technology? Of course! He has everything you would expect from IVR’s to Voicemail to web payment. The difference? Tom and his team realize that a computer can never replace a human in understanding the significance of an event or the importance of a critical situation. Needless to say Tom and his team earn their living thru their sheer force of presence in critical situations.
I’m heading down to meet with another client to discuss implementing the pretty remarkable technology we offer. With a little luck and some good steering I’m confident we can help them deploy not just the cheapest touch or the slickest tools customers want in good times but also what they have no clue they will need in bad. After that I’m going to call Tom to check on his golf game and finish the discussion we started last week.