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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

If a service fails in the forest…

My power was out in my neighborhood from about 1:30 to 2:15 AM today. (I have a 4 month-old, so I’m up at odd hours every now and then. There may be a forthcoming post about what happens on your cable channels between the hours of 1:00 and 5:00 AM)

I made my call to the power company and settled back in to sleep.

Nothing was damaged as a result of the outage.

No one was adversely impacted, no morning alarms missed.

I’m willing to bet that I’m one of the few people that even noticed until they saw the microwave flashing 12:00 AM this morning.

So why was I upset?

My call to the power company. Like most service organizations, they have implemented an intelligent front-end interactive voice response (IVR). It took in some critical details (essentially, “Is your power out? If so, who are you & where do you live?”), let me know that the call had been registered and automatically ended the interaction. At first, I thought that it made sense. There really isn’t much they can do to respond to an individual customer when there is a neighborhood-level outage. Still, I felt unsatisfied with the whole experience.

The format of the IVR technically did everything it could to take in the information needed to address the problem. From a clinical standpoint, technology enabled the service compliant to be recorded and addressed.

What the IVR didn’t effectively do was acknowledge that there was an issue and explain what they were doing to fix the problem. Given the one-sided nature of the exchange, it made me feel like the power company was as asleep as its customers at a time when their service was failing.

It wouldn’t have required an empathetic human to give me comfort that the problem was being worked on to restore full service. Even a quick comment generically stating how “crews work around the clock to ensure continuity of service in the event of an interruption” would have given the comfort I needed.

Technology is used to enable service performance and make interactions more efficient, often concurrently. When considering where to implement it, empathetically consider the state of the customer, and provide that extra assurance that you’re addressing their root concern.

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