Spirit of the Law vs. Letter of the Law

Do Your People Follow the Letter of the Law?

Saving the baby and the bath water

Last week, I attended a Dan Pink event in DC (hosted by Michelle James). Somehow the conversation turned to call centers and Dan made an interesting and funny observation… Imagine dealing with a company via their call center, getting great service and expressing how you felt about it, only to receive a standardized (robotic) response from the person on the other end. It might go something like this:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
You: “Thank you for helping me, Mary. You did such a great job of solving my problem and I’m really impressed with how you went above and beyond.
“Mary” (in an unnatural/scripted tone): “Is there anything else I can help you with today? Was I able to answer all of your concerns to your satisfaction?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Knock, knock! Anybody home?!? With one or two little sentences, Mary could have possibly taken your “10” experience down to about an “8.” Bummer.
This observation had me think of just how often we deal with people who are following the letter of the law, rather than the spirit. I’m certain that a call center with these types of scripts as in the above example intend to create a satisfactory (or better, hopefully) experience for their clients. Trouble is, too often we teach our teams how to handle situations in an if/then manner. We’ve dumbed it down to an algorithm and algorithms can be performed by computers (which many call centers have gone to, unfortunately).
But here’s the thing. I feel that, by and large, we’re looking for — even craving — a human experience.
What are you looking for, when dealing with a company either in person or via phone, e-mail, social media, or otherwise? I’m looking for a friendly human being who will empathize with my concerns and who’s got the smarts — and authority — to solve my challenge in the shortest amount of time possible. Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear what you think…
As we come out of this recession, I’m noticing that the companies who have done little or no complaining (and who will seemingly be just fine, financially), are often the same ones who’ve discovered how to create a client experience that sets them apart from the rest. Often, they employ — and then empower — friendly human beings to take care of their clients and customers while adhering to the spirit of their internal “laws” … not necessarily the letter of them.

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  1. Eric Abramson says

    Excellent as always! Thanks for the head-check!

  2. I don’t know if anyone in the history of phones has ever said or thought, “Thank God….I reached an automated line! Real people are soooo over-rated!”

    LOL – kinda funny to think about.

    I am so much more loyal to companies that promote human over automated service. That said, if they can’t get customer phone service right & know it, I’d much rather an autobot over an idiot any day! The company, in my opinion, should at some point get it right to gain the trust of consumers like myself.

  3. Ron Mason says

    Wow, blown away. Great stuff…. Identifiable. Everybody knows it’s happening and people will clamor to get a real experience with a real person. We’re loosing our essence and people crave real interaction. Apple is a great example of this concept. Nail on the head.

  4. Yeah, it’s so true, Steve. At companies where I am a frequent and return customer, I know their training so well that I often play with the staff. For example, at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, they train their wait staff to greet you by writing their own name upside-down on the paper-covered tablecloth with crayons. It’s amusing to watch the newbies, because they are concentrating so hard on forming their upside-down letters that they can’t respond as humans to the normal nice-to-meet-you chatter. Likewise, at Cheesecake Factory, I try to skip over their training and circumvent the questions they have to ask me when ordering iced tea. It goes like this, “What can I get you to drink?” to which I reply, “I’d like an iced tea and yes, I’ve had your iced tea before, and yes I know it’s flavored and actually I’d prefer a lemon to the orange you usually put in”. When did iced tea get so complicated? You go to a place often enough, you know the if/then algorithm they’ve been trained to perform. Seriously, I just want an iced tea, not a conversation about my tea.


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