I was riding the subway home one evening when "Sean," our conductor, came over the communication system and introduced himself and his team in an animated voice. It was a surprise to hear a live voice on the train as the local transit operator introduced a programmed announcement system a number of years ago to automate the process, ensuring information on upcoming stops were consistently and clearly communicated.  Automating this process made sense, as there had been inconsistencies – sometimes you could not hear the announcement, or it could not be understood. However, automation also took away the human connection.  It's easy to forget there is a person controlling the train that is responsible for your safe transport.  Sean's voice kept passengers engaged and greeted them as they entered the train at each stop. As we approached one popular stop, Sean's friendly voice came over the PA system and announced that he was reducing the train's speed because of ongoing maintenance. Hearing Sean explain the reasons for the delay gave context and set my expectations, which led to more understanding and empathy, and in my mind, enhanced my overall experience as a customer.

Sean's impact on me made me think of connectivity in a broader sense – in this digital world and in our quest to become ever more efficient through process automation, we risk losing those connections with our clients and customers. Don't get me wrong; automation and digital communication are important and effective tools, but perhaps it is necessary to more thoughtfully consider their use and the impressions they leave in the minds of customers. Does automation enhance your customer's experience because it improves service reliability, or does it make the interaction with your customer robotic and impersonal?

Creating meaningful connections with clients and customers is achieved when you go outside of the ordinary. It happens when you speak with a customer directly and explain why their order is delayed and provide them with a plan to mitigate their frustration, or by simply helping them solve their problem quickly. This connectivity enhances the customer experience and can only be achieved when you hire great people. Each member of your team represents an opportunity for increasing connectivity with your customer.  Train them well and ensure they understand your company's mission and values, and the importance of delivering on those attributes through each interaction they have with your customers.  It may not lead to immediate returns, but the value proposition over the long-term is powerful... and more profitable.

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