Monday, December 29, 2008

Age of Robot

Age of Robot is upon us.

The high technology is all powerful. Bow your heads.

ATM machines are robots. Very convenient sometimes.

Telephone answering machines are robots. Not that convenient when you have to spend five minutes getting from A to E trying to pay a bill or get your credit card balance.

Computers are robots - electronic brains that mimic humanity and in need of very specific programs to function.

The Internet with its visual cover blinds us to how we do things now as opposed to how we did things ten or twenty or thirty years ago.

I am cursed. I have a memory. I know what a typewriter is.

In the future, robots may aid sick people in need of medical care.

In the meantime, I am human and everyday I come up against a wall of robots or robotic functions and sometimes I come out ahead and other times I feel like a loser especially when I forget a password.

The corporations that have squeezed more and more profit out of our everyday life are partially responsible for this age of robots. We in our present myopic state of bliss and in need of chronic luxury fed by the by-products or the collateral damage of this new age of robots are also responsible for what we have.

Is this all a complaint? In a way yes. The human touch is gone. The human voice answering the telephone was part of the social equation for close to one hundred years. I got used to it.

I have put up with the bullshit mantra of “change is good” all my life. Maybe change isn’t always good.

I harken back to two jobs I had in Arizona and over a decade ago. Those jobs touched people directly. It was a transition period whereby not everybody was texting or even e-mailing.

One was in a mortgage company and they were putting the telephone answering machine on at lunchtime at the reception/switchboard desk. “No Go” said the regional management which ran into this local matter one day. You got a live customer on the line, you keep them there and make sure you put them through or take an accurate detailed message for the sales force to follow through on. Sales were a crucial part of mortgage business before they threw away the rule book. You don’t let potential customers get turned off and walk away because you turned on the robot answering machine at the reception desk.

The other job I had was in enrollment in an HMO which practiced Japanese style, Covey type management. In that situation, everyone who got a phone call from a customer from the president of the company down to the lowest clerk, which was me, would help a customer and if I could not help, they got put on hold, and I called around until I found a live body, explained what the customer wanted and asked my fellow employee to take charge of the phone call with the customer. That was pro-active. Pro-active in New York City style management I have found is just a word.

In Arizona, it is a thin economic situation. The saying was that if you pissed off one customer, they turned around in their social network and told ten other people about lousy customer service. Those ten in theory might tell another ten. Pass it along.

I, we, can’t change a whole lot of things. We can’t bring back all those outsourced jobs to Asia.

But maybe out of the tens of millions of dollars the CEO gets for being lucky enough to have frat house connections to get the job in the first place, maybe the CEO could give up a lousy few tens of thousands of dollars to put a live person on the phone up front of their marvelously and probably mismanaged robotic organization/corporation.

It’s just a thought.

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