I was driving along the road minding my own business when a Big Rig flew past me. He wasn't speeding but I wasn't going very fast at the time so the impression of speed was actually an illusion. In that moment however I could tell that he had been interrupted during his Pre-Trip. I presume the interruption because I tend to miss things if I am distracted. To prevent a poor inspection I will start again or at least a few steps previous to the interruption.
The item on the inspection list he had missed was something which most of us would consider important and I tried to raise him on the radio to help him out. He didn't have ears apparently so feeling that doing something was necessary I called his company so they could message him and let him know his landing gear was only an inch or two off the ground.
My call was answered by a machine, "For a 5 minute wait - Press One. For a 10 minute wait - Press Two. To hear a personal message about how little we care about your call - Press Three ...." We have all heard the jokes. By the time I was done I didn't actually speak to anyone but I did have the opportunity to leave messages all over the place and to form an opinion of the company. That opinion was very low and because I have not had any interaction with them since, remains low today.
According to Time Magazine It’s easy to understand why companies use such automated phone systems: They’re cheaper and more efficient than hiring people to handle all the callers. It’s also easy to understand why some companies don’t use such systems: Customers hate them, and, generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to agitate your customers. Additionally StellaService who objectively measures and rates the customer service performance of online retailers, the average hold time for a customer dealing with an automated system is 1 minute, 51 seconds. Customers calling a company that employs live agents to answer the phones, on the other hand, are on hold for an average of just 51 seconds.
Had I been a manufacturer looking for a Transportation Company to move my product when I called that company, my goods would now be on another carrier.
One part of Con-way Truckload (and Contract Freighters, Inc. before that) I enjoyed (notice the use of "enjoyed" - past tense) was being able to call in and speak to a real person, an intelligent, pleasant, knowledgeable, understanding and professional human being. That, I am sorry to say, is going to go the way of the Dodo Bird. Con-way Truckload is going Automated!!
I became aware of this while talking to, of all people, a Mechanic and from what I have been able to learn there will be one Operator who is there to help people who, like me, are not able to understand the automated functions. We will have to wait and see how saving money in this Customer Service related area will cost in Sales. As I said before, the company mentioned earlier would have lost the sale of my product on their trucks.
I seriously believe there will be a loss in Sales but I don't know how to measure such an effect. Surely someone does and I would love to see the results.
Hopefully I am not an old guy who is resistant to change, I don't think I am but there is that possibility. Ellen claims that I was a childhood friend of Methuselah but if phones were around in those days would we have already learned that speaking to a real person is far better and far more professional than talking to a cold, impersonal machine.
The change to automation is expected to occur in January and I am going to miss the Ladies on the Switchboard, Sharon, Elizabeth, Jesse, Danna and Lisa. I should point out two things here, one is that Con-way Truckload didn't just drop this on the girls at a moments notice which most companies would have done and two, despite knowing when the Sword of Damocles is going to fall, our Friends on the switchboard are continuing to provide their customary level of Professional service and should be applauded for it.
For those concerned for the Ladies future, all have been invited to apply for positions within the company. Next time you call through the switchboard, let them know how much you have appreciated them through the years.
Just a thought.
Here we are a few months into the future and the Automated Phone System at Con-way Truckload is up and running. Now we find that there is more than one level to the Automated System. Let's try calling the Maintenance Department in Joplin.
- First we meet the automation front line and let them know who we are, since I am a Driver I select number 3, then I am invited to select number 3 again which is the maintenance department. Of course I have to wait through number 1 and 2 which don't concern this call but that is okay.
- We have selected number 1 for road service. Now you would expect the sound of a ringing phone right, nope. We have to select another button, are you a driver? A vendor .... etc. No doubt this information is useful in directing our call.
- Now we listen to some music until someone answers the phone and if we listen long enough, a minute or so, we get to listen to a message about how since November our Drivers can use their Comdata cards to buy additives. That message also contains loads of information about not getting stuck in the snow, carrying blankets, additives, food and so on, just in case we are shut down in the snow. Hello? It's May and I think we are about done with winter, maybe not.
This is one example of Automation. Previously we had the ladies, and I think one Guy, answering the phones, it was quick, personal and professional. Now we have a system which has to be supervised and updated which apparently it is not.
As I have said, I don't have access to the numbers but I wonder if we are showing a downturn in sales and I wonder if Automation is beginning to show its bad side at Con-way Truckload.
Just a thought.