Here’s a striking article title from Inc.: “The Verdict Is In: Customer Service Isn’t Human Enough.” The subtitle: “Does your organization’s customer service strategy sacrifice humanity for the sake of efficiency?” For too many of us, I think the answer would be yes—and I’d take it one step farther. I think we have a tendency to sacrifice human connection for the sake of efficiency in almost every level and system of business these days.

Our growing company recently made the decision to implement a new billing system, outsourcing its management to a small but capable accounting firm. As you’ve probably experienced yourself, with system changes like these there can be “bumps in the road”—in our case, these bumps arose because all the process and structure in the world could not seamlessly replace the flexible, infallible, multi-faceted and personalized system we’d previously used. (That incredible system was a human being named Jenny, who we loved, and who’d moved on to raise her young family.)  

When a client fell victim to one of these natural “bumps,” I went looking for someone to help me fix the problem. What I found, when I reached out to our new accounting firm, was an email signature block that simply said “Accounting.” There was no person’s name, and there was no phone number. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Smoke poured out of my ears.

When my blood pressure dropped and I returned to my rational self, I wondered why I had reacted so venomously. I quickly realized that I was missing the human being I was accustomed to contacting with my accounting questions. I was angry to instead be confronted by a faceless entity called “Accounting,” yet there was more than likely a capable, friendly person hard at work behind that impersonal corporate moniker.

I needed to find this real person, with their real voice and their human ability to have compassion for my challenge.

My mind drifted to an experience I had years ago.

I went flying with my friend Tony, who had recently received his pilot’s license. As we glided over the land of Oz (Kansas) in his Cessna 180, I complimented Tony on how relaxed he was in communicating with the tower. “I could never do that!” I said. He told me about a technique his flying instructor used to alleviate that anxiety. “He took me up to the tower to meet the flight controllers. They were only people, just like me. From then on, I was just talking to my friends Ray and Judy, and not to The Dreaded Tower!”

When I shared the story of my disproportionate rage over the Accounting email signature with Acumen CEO Dan Cooper, he immediately understood what I was getting at. At our next staff meeting we met some smart and friendly people named Meghan, Jake and Frank, the artists previously known as Accounting. And now I have their mobile numbers…

In this world of chatbots and automated, AI-generated support systems, consider the importance of the personal touch. Process and efficiency are important, but executing with love and compassion will create happy customers that stay loyal to their friends at your company. We certainly can't escape technology in this day and age, but as a 2020 Forbes article puts it, “We must understand that technology should be used to grow and enhance relationships, not replace them.

When it comes to problem-solving, human connection is the magic bullet.

A one-on-one personal meeting drives trust and empathy, and it builds rapport. A simple conversation provides clearer and more concise communication and fosters real-time decision-making. If it’s important, pick up the phone, or walk across the office. You’ll be glad you did.

And how can human connection sharpen, challenge, and inspire you in your leadership? Learn about the benefits of the Acumen community here.