The bot syndrome
The other day, a customer tweeted at me, “Are you a bot?” At first I was really offended and wanted to tweet back “I am NOT a bot!” But when I thought about it some more, I got kind of sad. I realised that by following the scripts and all the rules, I sounded very robotic. That’s not what our customers want or need. They come to social media because they want some upbeat and friendly interaction. I could provide better service if they gave us a bit more freedom to do what we know is right. – Customer service social media rep
It’s not just social media reps who feel that way. It happens across industries at all levels.
I’ve met vice presidents whose fear has caused a dangerous bot-like trance. Bots leading bots is no way to change the game.
Sadly, it starts with good intentions: an effort to get everyone on the same page; a public relations team who wants to ensure all employees share the same story; or efficiency studies that show the “right way” to do things to save much more time.
I once had a boss tell me, “Karin, the truth is in that role, I want to take all the thinking out of it, make it as simple as possible so they can just execute efficiently.”
Sometimes your employees will tell you. But often, they just subtly lose their passion for your work and find meaning elsewhere.
Here are five “bot” symptoms your employees may be feeling:
- They stop asking important questions.
The “Why?”, “What’s next?” and “What if?” questions disappear.
- But… they don’t make a move without asking obvious questions.
They need approval for everything, even if it means keeping a customer waiting. Most of your answers are “of course”.
- They “follow the rules” even when they don’t make sense.
Of course they should have made an exception for the customer whose son just died. But the guidebook didn’t say, so they stuck by the rules.
It’s impossible to predict and script every scenario. If an employee can’t function outside the playbook, check for bot-building policies.
- Meetings are lifeless.
Your meetings look like a scene from an old zombie movie. It’s like pulling teeth to get everyone to talk. You feel like a cheerleader in an empty stadium.
- Even well-thought-out recognition, compensation, and employee engagement programmes don’t make a dent.
If employees could double their hourly wage if they just “embraced the programme”, you first need a shift from bot gear, before any incentive overlay will work.
The guy I worked for was wrong. Because I’m not a bot, I ignored that advice, and results improved.
You can’t grow a bot. You can’t motivate a bot. Bots will never deliver a “best in class” customer experience.
Your turn. What are other symptoms that show your employees feel like “bots”?
Karin Hurt is a keynote speaker, leadership consultant, and MBA professor. She has decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR which she uses to help clients turn around results through deeper engagement. She knows the stillness of a yogi, the reflection of a marathoner, and the joy of being a mom raising emerging leaders. To engage with Karin, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment in the box provided. For more Hard Talk articles, click here.
Reposted with permission on Leaderonomics.com and published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 4 July 2015