Spilled Salt: Contact

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By Adam Van Dop

Recently I saw this commercial for Shaw — a telecommunications company, where you can get your internet, your phone, and your cable. In this commercial, a competitor’s customer phones up their service centre for help, and an automated message prompts him for a verbal response. He replies with his needs, and the automated service sends him the completely wrong direction, causing frustration and aggression. I think we have all experienced this.

The commercial continues, the same customer is calling the Shaw service line, and you hear the answer, “Hello, welcome to Shaw’s helpline, my name is Bob, how may I assist you?” The commercial concludes with asking if you would rather talk to a real person when you need help, rather than some machine.

Technology is wonderful, but voice recognition over the phone, I just don’t think is quite there yet. And really — who wants to talk to a machine anyways? When you’re phoning a service line, or a helpline, there is a good chance that something isn’t working, and if you’re anything like me, you will already be a little miffed, and talking to a frustrating machine, isn’t going to get you anywhere, except more aggravated.

Is this where we have gone? That our service lines and help centres have lost human contact? When we need help the most — all we have is a machine to talk to? (Perhaps it is miffed people like me that have driven this industry to use automation???)

I doubt that the design behind creation had anything to do with machines being our resources for help.

I think Shaw might have figured something out.

Humans long for human contact. That’s why when being trained for call-centre style work; you are trained to have a compassionate tone. The Shaw customer in the commercial clearly was satisfied that he was talking to an actual person.

After the Lord created Adam, and before surveying his creation looking for a suitable helper, God said, “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18, read Genesis 2)

So God created Eve.
He created human relationship.
He created human contact.

And God told them to go make more relationships, filling the earth with them. And they did that … humans are good at that … there is some speculation that the world’s population could have topped 1 billion before the flood.

But do you find it funny at all that Shaw is advertising this as a new concept? When really it’s been around very quite some time? I guess they have just rediscovered it, and are experiencing the benefits of having actual people talk to actual people. Yes, it might cost more, the bottom line might be a bit thinner — but a happier customer equals more customers which equals a thicker bottom line.

So then I ask (as I always do), what are we doing in our Christian walk to thicken our own bottom line? I’m talking about what are we doing to expand the kingdom of God? Through what relationship is God doing this in your life?

God’s design is quite specific, and my guess it does not include automated call service centers, or the ubiquitous online networking phenomenon.

Yup, I mentioned it, I was going to stay away from it, I was trying … but this discussion and thought process can only lead down the online networking road — where many questions arise —

Is this phenomenon healthy?
Is it bringing people closer together — while keeping them ever so separate?
Is it building into people a difficulty to develop interpersonal relationship skills?

This is why places like Starbucks, Tim Horton’s and other glorious caffeine dispensing establishments are always packed. Because people still crave and seek face to face conversation, and perhaps because people really like caffeine.

So may you, in your life, in your ministry (yes — your life can be/is a ministry in and of itself), be a blessing to those around you, may you reflect the love of Christ in personal ways, through face to face conversation taking advantage of living rooms and coffee shops.

(I am still an advocate of Facebook, [my choice of online networking] just in moderation.)

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I worked for Telus for 35 years.... when you call for help you need to say: "operator" to get a live person.

Rogers' commercial indicates Roger has a live person all the time rather than a machine.

Communications companies tries to save $$ to use machines.

When Telus was on strike in 2005 I was at '611' and I loved to talk to Customers to help them!
- it really helped me to get more $$ for my pension.

- August Guillaume

Thanks August for your comment, and thanks for the advice about saying "operator." Little tricks like that make all the difference. I admit that in these types of phone calls I would press random numbers and say random things, and eventually throw the 'machine' off, forcing it to direct me to a person.

I realized after I published this article that the commercial was for Rogers, not Shaw ... my mistake, but out here, most people recognize that there is little difference.

As for your '611' work - thank-you for that!