Technology: Friend or Foe?

I’m a big believer in using technology to be more efficient, cost effective and deliver an improved customer experience.  I was a beta site for industry specific software in my business and continually used available technology to expedite and streamline costly areas of my business.

As a consumer, I prefer to order on line versus the phone and do a lot of business on line.  Yet as business people, I think we have to continually ask and analyze if the technology we are using is serving us – and our customers well.

Tomorrow we are getting furniture delivered from Macy’s.  It occurred to me that other than in the showroom making a selection and placing an order, I have had NO other interactions with my sales person.  Knowing that people do business with people they know and like; does it serve a professional sales person well to not develop some sort of relationship with customers?  Does the lack of a relationship hurt referrals? In my case, I have nothing bad to say about my sales person; but I don’t have much of a positive impression either – in fact, without looking up his name on the paperwork, I’d be hard pressed to recall any part of his name.

On the plus side, I liked the fact that there was a toll-free number I could call and enter my sales order number to get updated arrival information regarding my purchase.  The 24/7 availability of this information was definitely an enhancement to the customer experience.

Deliveries are scheduled and a recorded message delivers the information providing customers with a toll-free number to call to reschedule if this was not acceptable.  The system though does not seem to know to wait for the beep and part of the message was not recorded forcing me to call the toll-free number, press a series of numbers, enter my sales order number (which of course I did not have handy and didn’t realize I would need when I first called so I had to hang up – look it up and call back) and then get connected to a human who was wonderful, warm and helpful.  The human balanced out the irritation at the machine so I guess that’s a draw.

Rather than wait for the machine to call me and perhaps not have the delivery time window be the part of the message which gets recorded, I opted to call this morning and, after entering the same sales order data get my 2 hour delivery window.  I can also track the delivery process on line tomorrow.  All of this is convenient and a welcome use of technology.

So why the question; friend or foe? Because I know I feel ambivalent about the business where I did business.  The purchase was made there because they had something specific we were looking for – not because we loved the store or because they were our “go to” store for big ticket purchases.    We’ll see if the delivery tomorrow wows us enough to make us raving fans…

Is technology preventing you from forming a relationship with your customer or is it enhancing that relationship?  Is ambivalent the word you want big ticket customers – or any customer – to use when describing their feelings towards your business?  Is that a formula for long term success?

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