IT IS amazing how, as we progress in the field of technology, we sometimes go backwards when it comes to human engagement.

As organisations get bigger, they tend to lose their personal touch. There is an intense focus on the processes in all transactions and the human element seems to be compromised or in some cases, forgotten.

The customer leaves feeling "processed" and disengaged. The organisation, very frequently, allows the processes or the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to take precedence over the human engagement that leads to repeat business.

Have you ever encountered a situation where you made what you thought was a perfectly logical request and the service staff turn it down after clicking on the computer?

It happened to my wife when she tried to apply for a corporate bank account for her new company. The customer service officer at the bank was processing her application when she said she could not help my wife open the account because the name of the company ended with an exclamation mark.

The computer would not accept it. To her credit, the customer service officer tried several times but the computer refused.

"Who made this monster?" I thought. There was a happy ending at another bank though. Its computer said "Yes". The customer service officer also said that the bank would accept cheques with and without the exclamation marks. Well done!

Why?

Why do companies constantly focus on getting the processes "right" - down to the last exclamation mark - and losing the bigger picture as to why they exist, which should be to give their customers the best experience possible.

What if?

What if a similar transaction that got a negative response from the computer was manually processed by a customer service officer? The company which allows its staff the option to exercise more flexibility by using their judgment will be able to engage them better. Research has shown that engaged employees bring in more business for their companies.

While technology makes things simpler and faster, it has a downside when it is allowed to cripple the thought processes of logical people who end up saying: "I wish I could help you but the computer says, 'no'."

All companies should revisit their customer service processes regularly to ensure that they meet the basics of human engagement. Although the computer says, "No", the human being can always say "Yes" or at least make an effort to look for a suitable alternative.