In a Robo world, let's not forget personal service

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As a co-businesss owner whose cornerstone is built on personalized service I often find a lack of human personal service in other areas of my life hard to swallow.   Are we watching human interaction slowly go by the wayside in favour of increasing technology?  Don’t get me wrong; I think technology has its place.  In fact, I embrace the many wonderful things technology has to offer, but I don’t believe it can replace personal service.

For the past few weeks I have been trying to deal with our business cell phone contract renewal.  This morning I was told via email by my business service representative that my dealings are now to be strictly online and was provided the website and codes.  I inquired about a phone contact in case I needed some support along the way.  He emailed me saying his assistant could not help me via phone as she has no line to call out on.  What?

I send back an email saying, “OK, I’m trying to get my head around this.  Your assistant for a wireless cell phone company has no line to call out on?”  I promptly received a phone call from him (hooray for human contact) only to explain to me why everything was automated; due to privacy, fraud prevention, and risk of passing personal data via phone etc.  Gosh, how did we ever manage before? 

So here’s the thing.  I am in my 40’s and I really do try to embrace technology in all that I do and I will surely figure this out, but what about the senior citizen, or someone less comfortable with technology than me?  What about the service you need that doesn’t quite fit into the pre-populated boxes provided on websites?   Sometimes you just need to be able to speak to someone.

I love the notion where we can offer technology options to enhance personal service; not replace it.

I consider our own business and how these technology advancements affect our world of financial and tax planning, and wealth management.  We are an advice-driven business so personalized service is at the core for our clients. 

Mind you, some companies are currently trying their hand at replacing investment planners (which is one of the multiple things we do) with technology.  Nope, this isn’t from an episode of the Jetsons, it’s real.  Enter Robo-Advisors.  It’s technology to provide financial recommendations for basic scenarios.  Instead of dealing with an advisor you have a type of Robo investment account.

I suspect this may work for very basic accounts but for us, in wealth management, each person’s situation is quite unique.  In areas of tax, financial, wealth and estate planning, there is no replacing personal advice.  There is no cookie cutter approach to what we do.  And our business is just one example, in one industry.  Although each type of business is very different, I suspect many will have some aspect where personal service is still ideal.

Again; we love technology, we really do.  In fact, we are very proactive and continually improving our technology options for our clients but these will never replace personal service where needed. 

As someone who has always been forward thinking I am reluctant to consider the aspect of personal service old school.  I love the notion where we can offer technology options to enhance personal service; not replace it.  I would implore businesses large and small to embrace technology where they can but please don’t forget about the need for personal service.  There is no reason in my mind why technology and personal service can’t complement each other and walk hand in hand.  It’s a matter of balance.

Now to figure out our cell phone contracts...

Link to column as it appeared in Elgin This Month, August 2016 Edition (page 17)

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Stephanie Farrow, B.A., CFP., Stephanie has over 20 years experience in the financial services industry, a diploma in Financial Planning from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning and Certified Financial Planner designation.  Stephanie has been writing a financial column for local business magazine Elgin This Month since 2010.  Stephanie and her husband Ken Farrow own Farrow Financial Services Inc.  About our Farrow Financial Services Team.


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