Copyright ©MMXXIV Patrick's Place LLC. All rights reserved.


Why You Still Need Human Workers Even with Computers

The exterior of a bank123RF

I’m sick of businesses that can’t see the value of human workers from their customers’ perspective. I’d usually prefer a human to a machine.

I walked into my bank — the one with whom I’ve banked with for 30 years — to speak to a customer service representative. I immediately see 12 offices that surround the bank’s lobby. Two of the offices have employees inside. The other 10 are vacant. That immediately reinforced what I already knew: There are far too few human workers here to be able to handle problems.

I managed to drive that point home during my visit.

It started with a letter from the bank

When you buy a home, the lender will make you carry certain types of insurance. It’s mostly the types of insurance you’d want anyway. But the lender wants to make sure their investment is protected. When you live in a condominium, the condominium owners association takes care of certain types of insurance. In my case, they take care of flood insurance and they cover the buildings themselves.

My bank notified me that according to their records, the flood insurance policy expired in mid-July.

Of course, the COA renewed that coverage. They always do, and they do so without the bank reminding them. But for some reason, the COA is sluggish about updating documents. They’re so sluggish that they now refer homeowners to a third-party company that provides all of the renewal documentation for lenders who send this kind of letter.

I had to create an account with the third-party to request this documentation to send to the bank to get them off my back.

The third-party company sent me a 12-page PDF file showing all of the policies they have, all of the declaration pages and the renewal confirmations.


Or so I thought.

The bank’s letter gave me three options: I could upload the documentation, I could email it, or I could snail-mail it.

Well, since this is the 21st century, snail mail seemed a bit outdated. So I chose option one. I uploaded the PDF file.

I thought that would satisfy everyone

You see, I made the mistake of assuming that when you upload documents the bank requests, there are human workers who look at the uploads.

I received an email confirming they received my upload. It would take three to five days before I should expect a confirmation, the email stated.

Three days later, I received six emails — all identical — saying the same thing: The information wasn’t processed. It didn’t tell me why it wasn’t processed. It just advised that I should verify what I send is what they ask for and send the requested information again.

So I called to find out what they thought was missing. I got trapped in automated voice menu hell. When I finally got to a human, which took several minutes just to hear that as an option, they said they didn’t see 12 pages in what I uploaded. After going back and forth for several minutes with two different people, we concluded that the computer system scans the PDF and grabs the first few pages. It tosses the rest.

The human workers never saw the full PDF. The specific declaration page they’re asking for, as far as I can tell, is the last page.

The humans suggested I email the PDF with a note in the email to check page 12 to make sure that’s what they want.

So I sent the email

I put in the header to check page 12. Then I mentioned page 12 in the body of the email not once but twice.

Five days later, I received six more emails saying the information wasn’t processed. So I called again. This time, I got a human who was less than helpful. She indicated that the email system works the same way the upload does: it takes the first couple of pages. It can’t handle a 12-page PDF.

Of course, nowhere on the website does it state a page limit or a size limit for the documents you upload or email. That would be too easy.

She asked if I could just upload a single page. I told her that I was looking at the PDF through Adobe Acrobat and that this version — for whatever reason — doesn’t give me the option to save a single page as a separate file. I tried it at work on a PC and at home on a Mac. It wouldn’t allow me to “break out” a single page.

She then had the audacity to tell me that I was making it more difficult than it needed to be. That’s when I went a little Judge Judy on her.

“No, madam, I’m not the one making this difficult. This bank is making this difficult. I’ve submitted two different times the documents you requested that I send. Your computer system is dropping the part you claim you need because there’s no person actually looking at it. You’re relying on a computer to do all the work and clearly the computer is asleep on the job. Don’t you dare tell me that I’m making this difficult. I’m bending over backwards trying to get you what you claim you need and at every turn, this bank doesn’t seem willing to accept it.”

She then suggested I print the full PDF, scan the one page, and upload that.

A reasonable idea, finally…but it ended with the same result

After another five days, I received one email. Well, let’s face it: One email is better than six.

Except for the fact that the one email was the same form letter saying the information wasn’t processed without specifying the reason it wasn’t processed.

This time, I went to a branch. That’s where I sat in the lobby waiting for the one customer service representative taking customers while wondering why there were 10 other vacant offices surrounding the lobby.

My bank seems to need an efficiency expert.

At the very least, they’re wasting money in rent for a lot of office space they don’t seem to be able to fill.

It took a visit to Columbia

Believe it or not, visiting the branch in person didn’t work either. I received the same response. Again.

A former colleague of mine passed away and I ended up in Columbia to attend the funeral. While I was there, I went to the office tower in downtown Columbia that my bank now occupies. I walked in with my paperwork in a folder, dressed in a suit.

I explained that I needed to speak with someone who could actually solve a problem. When the banking representative introduced himself, I prefaced my story with this: “I appreciate anything you can do. But understand this: I’m angry and I’m fed up with this bank. I’m sorry you’re now in the middle of this, but I need you to be the one who finally fixes this mess.”

He actually thanked me for my candor and listened. He took the documents and made copies and assured me he’d take care of it.

I took one of his business cards. Then I asked for the name and contact information of his boss. I made it clear that while I appreciated his help, I would be reaching out to his superiors if the same thing happened again.

Magically, the bank notified me that they’d accepted the documents I’d been trying to send them all this time and apologized for the “inconvenience.”

They also refunded the exorbitant insurance fees they’d charged me by purchasing insurance on my behalf since they thought I didn’t have any!

There are times I don’t mind computers over human workers

If I’m in a grocery store, I don’t mind using the self-checkout. Honestly, the grocery store closest to my home has cashiers that don’t half pay attention to what they’re doing anyway. If you hear any conversation out of them, they’re talking to each other, not you. You quickly feel that your presence is a major inconvenience to their social time.

That’s not customer service. It’s disrespectful. It’s rude.

I can “scan and bag” groceries faster than they can, anyway. On top of that, I pay attention to the prices the computers come up with when I scan as if it’s my money. Because it is.

If I’m going to get ignored by human workers, I’d just as soon rely on a machine to take care of things.

But grocery stores that have self-checkout options also have humans. Someone — some person — still has to be there when something goes wrong. Something will always go wrong, after all. You might double-scan something and you need one of the scans voided. You might see that the item that’s supposed to be on sale didn’t ring up that way. There are plenty of reasons you’d need human intervention.

Grocery stores always have a human standing by to jump in.

Maybe banks should operate more like grocery stores.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

1 Comment

  • For 33 years I worked in a factory that made things, you can’t work at home in a factory. Even the front office workers can’t work from home, they are constantly out on the floor checking things and you can’t do it from home. You can’t call from home and ask the stockroom clerk if a part has one hole or two because that will take the stockroom clerk away from his job.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.