Five Little Words

By Sherry Gouel

In this age of the Internet, websites, and social media, our process of gathering information has drastically changed over the past decade. Any information we need is at our fingertips – just a few clicks away. While technology is great and certainly has its benefits, I remember a time where, without hesitation, I could pick up the phone and speak with someone in customer service. Yes, I’m dating myself, but there was something nice about hearing a human voice at the other end of the phone, and it was especially nice to hear the words, “How can I help you?” These five words would produce a sigh of relief in the anticipation of finally connecting with another human being who would understand my dilemma and make it all better.

I’m not underestimating the convenience of today’s technology. Most often I go to websites and search for information; usually the answers are there. I have often used Web chat to ask a question or confirm an answer, but sometimes the answers are not so obvious. Some websites encourage you to email your questions, promising a reply within twenty-four hours.

But there are times where I just want to speak to someone instead of typing on a keyboard, and I always appreciate the companies who provide a customer service telephone number on their website. Even so, if I do call the chances are I will be placed on hold for several minutes, listen to the company’s promotional ads, and be reminded that I can visit their website for faster service. I appreciate the convenience of the Web, but websites will never replace the reassurance of the human voice. No matter how much technology evolves, the Internet will never match the human connection, emotion, and empathy that go along with the words, “How can I help you?”

So how can the call center industry compete with technology? The purpose of call centers is providing services that outperform machines. Agents in the call center industry take calls all day to answer client questions and help with an endless list of predicaments. The voices that answer these calls are important. Their voices convey the comfort of the human connection, and this is a valuable element.

In this day of everything digital, call centers remain in the business of people talking to people. Regardless of its stated purpose, calling into a call center has a customer-service component. The voice on the other end of the phone should communicate to the caller, “How can I help you?”

Every call that comes in is different in nature; therefore, agents provide a truly personalized service to each caller. Their tasks go beyond just taking a message or answering a question. They provide a human touch to an ever-expanding digital world.

I sometimes watch kids who text as fast as I can speak, and I’m not sure whether to feel awe or sadness. This new generation is constantly trying to find ways to access instant information. We are prompted to type a question or submit a request electronically rather than ask another person for answers or assistance. And we’re all becoming more comfortable doing so.

It’s important for the call center industry to continue to provide the human touch to our clients. As the scale tips more toward everything digital, hearing someone say, “How can I help you?” is more than just five little words. It’s a small reminder that there is still some human left in humanity.

Since 1993 Sherry Gouel has been in charge of marketing and sales support at Szeto Technologies, a company that has provided telephony solutions since 1986. She can be reached at 888-421-3737 or sherry@szeto.ca.

[From Connection Magazine – January/February 2016]

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