I’m moving this week: lifting, packing, organizing, lifting, setting up, placing, lifting. Did I mention lifting? In addition, since I’m the family tech guy, I get to deal with the phones, cable, Internet, computers, Wi-Fi – everything that involves wires and screens.
In the midst of all this, I had two contrasting experiences with robo-content – you know, machine-mediated content, interactions with Mr. or Ms. Roboto, communication that involves a human (you) on one side and a computer (or someone trained to respond like a computer) on the other. Both experiences reminded me how powerful automated interactions can be. Robo-content has the power to create a quality customer experience.
Or to destroy it.
My first robo-content experience was a happy one. We use DirecTV for our television services. To set up the appointment, I made a phone call. I quickly got through to a person. He talked us through how to take our boxes to the new address. He had all our info right in front of him, even reminding us that an upgrade to our DVRs was coming in a couple of months.
Here’s where the robo-content came in. The day before that appointment, the phone rang. I had a conversation with a computer.
“Hi, this is DirecTV,” said the robo-voice, basically. “Your appointment is scheduled for X date and time. Does this still work for you?”
“Great. Call if anything changes.”
Boom. Done. Robo-content heaven.
The morning of the DirecTV appointment, Mr. Roboto phoned me back. “We’ve narrowed down your appointment. The technician will arrive between 8:50 and 9:20. Does this still work for you?” It did. The technician arrived as promised and got everything working. TV’s a go.
Now comes experience #2.
I called AT&T to set up our new land line. (Yeah. Don’t go there. It’s my wife’s call. She’s old school. Whatever she wants…) I made an appointment. So far so good.
The time arrived. The technician AT&T sent (I grant you that I’m guessing here) had never seen a doorbell before. Otherwise, I can’t fathom how he wouldn’t have tried to ring it. When I went outside an hour into the time window, I discovered a hand-printed note (on a form clearly designed for the no-show customer) saying, basically, “I was here. You weren’t. Call for another appointment.”
I call. A machine answers. You can guess where this is going. See, this time I don’t have a standard need. I don’t need a new appointment. Nor do I want to cancel or modify an existing one. I don’t have a billing issue, and I don’t have a technical problem. I have a human problem.
The machine can’t help me. It sends me in circles. How many circles are there in robo-content hell?
After 30 minutes of pushing buttons and saying “operator,” I finally get a person. She is clearly reading from a script and trying to keep her average call-time to a minimum. It becomes ridiculous.
“Okay, sir. We still show the ticket as open, so the technician will be coming back.”
“Can you add a note to your ticket asking the technician to call me or ring the doorbell?”
“No sir. But I can have the technician call you at XXX-XXX-XXXX.”
“That’s my new number.” Silence. “The one you’re installing.” Silence. “The one that doesn’t work yet.” I can almost see her scouring the script for the answer.
“Is there a better number to reach you?”
I resist the urge to reply that any working phone number on the planet would be better for reaching me than one that doesn’t work.
As I waited for the technician to return, I contemplated my two experiences. With DirecTV, I appreciated the robo-call and the scaled, intelligent use of content delivered to me in an efficient, relevant way. My chat with the DirecTV representative had gone smoothly, too. On the other hand, with AT&T, both the robo-call and the scripted call had wasted my time and created frustration.
Here’s the point. There are lots of paths to communication heaven or hell. Machines can take you either direction. So can people. When you talk with someone reading a script, you might as well be talking to a machine – one that’s taking you in the direction you don’t want to go.
Instead of thinking how technology-driven content creates more efficient humans. Let’s think about how to use technology-driven content to help scale our humanity.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.