EDITORIAL He had a cold, machine-like voice

EDITORIAL He had a cold, machine-like voice

Some people like going to the doctor, but most of us would rather stay away. A problem we don't know about is almost as good as a problem we don't have. Men, especially, will ignore life-threatening symptoms until long after body parts start falling off.

However, experiments in computerised health screening have revealed that most people will tell things to a machine that they'd be unlikely to volunteer to a human doctor. These experiments also found the computer will ask ALL the questions that have to be asked, instead of glossing over them as an overweight, smoking male doctor might do when faced with a patient of similar lifestyle.

But as good as the machine is, it can't hear the frustration in the patient's voice as he or she is asked questions that are of absolutely no relevance, nor can it detect the nervous edge in the patient's voice when the questions start to get close to what's really worrying them.

The danger, perhaps, is that in the future, many doctors will come to rely too much on this automated pre-consultation screening, and lose their listening and questioning skills.

This topic isn't as far removed from your situation as you might think. Many distributors are keen to reduce their telesales force, replacing it with automated, online ordering systems. After all, a computer will work 24 hours a day, can handle multiple queries simultaneously, is scrupulously fair, is eternally patient and never forgets to ask the essential questions.

For many resellers, these factors will make the automated system very convenient and productive. But some will miss the very thing that makes them such good business people Ñ human interaction. When was the last time an online ordering system said to you: "Yes that printer is cheaper at the moment, but there's no point building up your customers as we won't be getting any more in, and the new model is nowhere near as good value."

Warm, friendly machines?

Or, if you're in the habit of wheedling out those extra couple of points of discount from your friendly telesales person, how are you going to do that with a machine? Sure, eventually these systems will become much more sophisticated and will incorporate artificial intelligence to allow a sort of "personality", but when will that be?

Later in the year we'll be polling Australian Reseller News readers to see how you like to order, and what improvements distributors can make in both telesales and online ordering systems.

"Go on Briony, you can knock another 2 per cent off that for a good customer like me!"

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