Sometime during the middle of the blizzard of 2013 earlier this month, I called my electric company to report a power outage.  Customer service, I believe they call it.  After using the phone’s keypad to input the requisite account number and address, my call was forwarded to an automated representative.  You know who she is.  The clear and friendly automated voice that for years read telephone numbers to us for Directory Assistance has been re-purposed as someone (or something?) who can understand my issue if I explain it well enough to her/it.  I have never felt comfortable talking to machines.  And on this I don’t think I am alone.

“Don’t forget the importance of a personal touch with your customers” says Paul Shread in Take the Time to Get Customer Service Right.  He openly questions the overuse of automation in favor of the personal touch.  I couldn’t agree more.  It is a trend adopted predominantly by large companies and it doesn’t appear that it will be going away any time soon.

I really shouldn’t complain.  At Genesis, our mission has always been to partner only with smaller businesses based here in New England.  In support of this mission, it has always been our practice to have a team of dedicated professionals work directly with our clients and their employees.  For those business owners who don’t mind the automated customer service response then perhaps they would rather work with our large publicly-held competitors.  It may serve them well – or not.

Automated responses and service centers scattered throughout the country do not work well for many, and they certainly don’t work for those who have migrated to Genesis from the large national Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs).  For us, customer service tools do not involve the use of a phone keypad, except when making the call to our one and only office in Burlington, Massachusetts where no one has ever worked for Directory Assistance.