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Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Where is the human touch?

The human touch is diminishing in our lives as digital “systems” using algorithms [and possibly AI] take over and do the work for the humans who make up organisations. I’m not a fan.

Yes, some businesses do let you speak to actual people, but those people are often located in Mumbai or Manila, and you might have to wait over an hour to talk with them.

My latest example involved a business sending me a survey to fill in after my most recent dealings with them. I’ll change the specific details so the nature of the business is not identified and actual people in the business don’t become embarrassed.

Let’s pretend it was a dental service. The email came:

“Kia ora WYN. Dubious Dentistry [not its real name, of course] would like to invite you to complete this 10–15 minute survey about your recent experience. Your valuable feedback will help us understand what went well and if there is anything that we could have done better. This survey is voluntary and will not impact your access to dental care in New Zealand. Responses are confidential and completely anonymous [unless you choose to identify yourself].”

It then gave me a log-in code. Modern life needs log-in codes!

Rather than taking the survey, I responded with an email. Of course, I have changed the details of the actual service involved but have kept it at exactly the same level of triviality.

Hello,

I have just received an email asking me to fill in a survey about my recent experience.

a) my recent experience was picking up a toothbrush I had ordered.

b) no survey should take 15 minutes of my already shortened life expectancy.

c) no real human wants to know how picking up my toothbrush went. This is just a digital system at work. Please leave me alone.

Wyn Drabble

Yes, you are entitled to call me a curmudgeonly old prat, but I say we mustn’t give up. We must continue to rally against this sort of impersonal intrusion.

It’s only fair to mention that the business did respond and pointed out that the missive came not from them but from a greater umbrella organization. They used the phrase “randomly sent out”.

Fair enough, I accept that but they are still part of an impersonal system that intrudes into my life. And their own logo headed the letter/email. About a week later a “reminder” arrived. At another outlet I recently bought three pairs of underpants. As the payment proceeded, the following dialogue occurred:

Salesperson: And what is your phone number?

Me: What for?

Salesperson: It’s just something we do.

Me: Not with this customer, you don’t.

Again, I accept that is a tad curmudgeonly but, as I said, we must continue to rally. Did the shop staff want to get to know me better on a personal level or did they want to bombard me with unwanted sales material and possibly a survey about how my underwear purchase went?

Would you recommend this method of underwear purchase to others?

What is your reason for your answer above? How could we have improved the transaction?

To finish reading this column, please enter your unique log-in code which we have texted to you. If that doesn’t work, phone Manila and ask for Pedro. You will then receive a survey to complete – it will only take 15 minutes – and then you will be directed to the final sentence of the column.

Thank you. Your patronage is important to us. And, while you’re there, would you mind sharing your phone number?

Thank you. So, here it is. Expect it to be closely followed by another survey.

This is the final sentence.

    Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.

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