Is Screen Time Improving Your Relationships?

In our click, tweet, screen culture, it’s easy to say that we’ve become dehumanized. For many organizations, customers and people are treated like a number in the virtual queue. The problem is not the technology. One need look no further than Facebook to see how the right technology can make people feel more connected. (Putting the political rants aside). For example, I recently met with an old friend from high school. I hadn’t seen him in 25 years. But, because I had kept up with him on Facebook, I knew about his family, his home, his jobs, and his vacations. Our human interaction was more meaningful because the technology fast-tracked our connection.

So how do we, in business, utilize technology to drive more personal relationships with our customers and each other? And how can we measure it?

If your company is like most, you probably have a dashboard of critical numbers.

Recently, I was working with a financial services firm who wanted to create more emotional engagement between the bankers and their clients. In this bank, like most organizations, the focus is on numbers. The leaders suggested we measure customer feedback scores. Feedback scores tell us something, but they are an after the fact, backward looking metric. We didn’t want to simply evaluate whether the interaction was good or bad. Our true goal was to improve the interaction live time.

Telling people to be more emotionally engaging wasn’t enough. In the case of the bank, I recommended we provide reminders and tools during the very moments employees were interacting with clients. In banking, as in most service jobs, when someone is servicing a customer, they typically have a screen in front of them prompting them to collect the right information, make the right recommendation, etc.

I recommended we should use the screen to drive behavior. We added questions, like, what is this client trying to accomplish in their financial life? And how are you making this client feel right now? We wanted the bankers to be conscious of the emotional climate they are creating with their clients. By being intentional, we were able to align the technology to forge better emotional connection, rather than detract from it.

Not surprisingly, we got some initial pushback. In myexperience, people often resist measuring emotions for two key reasons:

  1. People don’t believe they have any control over the other person’s emotional response. Service reps will say, “I can’t help it if the customer’s surly.” Managers will say, “It’s not fair to rate me on my employees’ attitudes.”
  2. Measuring emotions is nuanced and subjective. People don’t want to be held accountable for the way other people experience them. But guess what? The market is already doing attitudinal assessment every single day, by the millions, and it’s well documented. They’re called Yelp and Glassdoor. Read either one and you’ll see people rating the way they experience companies, service reps, and managers. Their emotional response, logical or not, drives the evaluation.

The emotional wake that a manager or serviceperson leaves behind is already being measured externally. The question for leaders is, do you want to start measuring it internally? And, more importantly, how are you going to drive the right behaviors?  Technology can forge and foster human connection, or it can turn your people into auto-bots. The choice is yours.