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Have we lost the art of communication?

When I was younger, I was taught to respect my elders and yet in 2018, we don’t appear to respect anyone.  We’re expected to converse with machines and not get frustrated when the machine doesn’t understand our response.  When enquiring personally at my bank, I’m told to go online and solve the problem, rather than the enquiry just being handled there and then.

Is the 4th Industrial Revolution really a better World to live in?

This morning I noticed a post on a social platform regarding an elderly woman struggling with the customer experience her bank offers:

“86 Year Old Woman Sends This Angry Letter To The Bank After They Bounced Her Cheque”

Despite not being 86, I couldn’t help but relate to the letter she wrote.  Mentioning that she now deals with a “faceless entity” and is forced to press multiple numbers before she can get anywhere with them.  Tongue in cheek she writes:

Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows: IMMEDIATELY AFTER DIALING, PRESS THE STAR (*) BUTTON FOR ENGLISH

#1. To make an appointment to see me
#2. To query a missing payment.
#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
#4 To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
#6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier.
#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through
#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.
#10. This is a second reminder to press* for English.

While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call. Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year? Your Humble Client And remember: Don’t make old people mad. We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to **** us off.

Whilst the link is clearly an American incident, it happens everywhere and isn’t purely related to the US.  In a recent study conducted by Sussex Innovation Centre on behalf of Natterbox, 95% of customers felt it can take too long to get through to the right person on the phone, with 31% of callers stating they would hang up within 1 minute of waiting on hold. Additionally, 63% would consider switching providers after a single instance of poor customer service. Wherever we live, we’re all experiencing this poor level of service when contacting the companies we deal with.

It’s no wonder that Phone Anxiety has become a real thing.  Numerous websites offer help in overcoming phone anxiety – we’d rather send a quick text than make a call.

Headspace offers advice on getting over the fear of a phone call, with Dr. Selena Snow stating that the phone is devoid of a lot of (nonverbal) methods of communication that encourage people to move forward and feel safe.

How can we communicate with someone and “feel safe” if we’re not speaking to a human being who wants to interact with us? And if we do finally get to speak to someone, how long does it take (and how many numbers do we have to press) before we get to the person we need? According to the study results, 54% of callers would prefer to be greeted personally when calling in – a small change that could have a huge impact for end users.

Whilst the 4th Industrial Revolution offers exponential changes to the way we live, work and relate to one another, should communication be lost as we implement more smart technologies?  When going out to dinner, take a look at how many people are sat in company, on their phone.  How many families sit together in the living room, each on their phone?  How are our children supposed to learn communication skills when they only converse over text?

There is no simple answer, but we can certainly make it easier on ourselves to communicate.  My suggestion would be that if you agree to have dinner with someone, leave your phone at home and if you’re in the workplace, use the benefits of the 4th Industrial Revolution to implement technology that can actually assist your customers with a personal touch. Know who they are and how you can help them without frustrating them to the point of an angry letter or the switch to a different supplier.

The 4th Industrial Revolution is set to disrupt almost every industry in every country and create massive change in a non-linear way, at unprecedented speed – but it can’t affect our voices and shouldn’t affect the beautiful art of conversation.

Go and find someone and have a chat – it’s good to talk!

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