The human touch, missing from modern business

The beauty of capitalism has brought us many things in its tenure. Anyone who wishes, for instance, can go to the mall, buy exactly what they wanted, some things that they didn’t know they wanted, fill up their tank for the 30-mile drive home and grab a bite to eat from their long day of shopping.

The market also has its bad side. Beneath the pleasant scent of perfumed capitalism, there are also numerous examples of horror stories. These fouler aromas are often masked by the sweeter scents of the market’s successes. Who, for instance, wants to complain when everything your heart desires can be bought in the next town over and for cheap? In exchange for the cheaper prices that we see in front of our faces, there lies an eternally raging sea of market forces hidden below. Competition and efficiency are what keep prices cheap, and a desire for profit is what keeps business owners at work.

The intricacies of efficiency were made very real to me a few weeks ago when I had to place a call to my Internet service provider. Very similar to most companies today, my ISP insisted on running me through the gauntlet of automated voice recordings.

One recording led me to another tier of recordings, to another and another. Finally, when I reached the end of this chain of questions and automation, I reached a live representative who kindly assured me that the number in the phone book was wrong and that their particular branch of the corporation only serviced up to the Dayton area.

Keeping my temper in check, I allowed the representative to forward my call to the Bowling Green-area branch, where I again had to face the daunting telephone game.

I don’t pretend that this method of handling customers is without benefit, but at the very least it seems irritating.

To break it down, companies opt for automated services to cut down on the number of employees they have to hire. The immediate benefits are that the fewer employees who have to be paid, the lesser the charge for the product. However, in the realm of service work – especially customer service – the fewer employees hired, the bigger the customer headache.

The consumers, which are supposed to be the ones running the show in capitalism, seem to be asking for this poor treatment because they are still paying for the service. But how do you really feel? I have yet to talk to someone who actually enjoys using these automated services.

In fact, the demand for the human customer service representative is so large that a number of companies are starting to spring up to fill this niche. For instance, traveling from the center of Ohio the other week, I heard a radio advertisement of such a company.

The company’s purpose was to do exactly what an automated telephone system would, but with human operators.

Thus, whenever you called a customer service number, your call would be forwarded to one of these operators who could direct your call to the appropriate people.

For all of you who, like me, cannot distinguish between the option one and two, a little human touch may save a half hour of telephone time.

This particular company is not the only one to secure the niche of human aided customer support. The search engine industry has come up with a number of human-induced solutions to counter Google’s algorithm monopoly, according to a recent New York Times article.

The search engine uses human editors to sift through the web and find content according to user preferences and rankings. In addition, the search engine allows users to have the opportunity to chat live with a “Guide” who will help them find the content they’re looking for.

The coming of such human-focused business may mark the end of the mechanized era of the service industry. Now that consumers have options – provided that they know about these options – whether the ease of human interaction will trump its costs will soon be market history.