The Limits To The Way In Which Technology Is Beneficial - Interview With Jeff Havens

7 min read
Vlad Kovalskiy
September 15, 2015
Last updated: March 25, 2020
The Limits To The Way In Which Technology Is Beneficial - Interview With Jeff Havens
Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, visit


What is the biggest mistake that online companies make when it comes to customer service?

JH: I think the biggest mistake they make is thinking that customer service doesn't matter. Some companies have gotten convinced that price is the only thing anyone cares about, and it's an easy mistake to make because it's true for almost all of us - at first. When everything is going great, then price is a huge factor. That's why discount auto insurance companies do well, for example. But when there's a problem and suddenly you need help and can't get it, people no longer care that you were inexpensive. More importantly, the Internet can't solve every issue. Some things require a human touch, and most of us still enjoy feeling like we're not part of a machine. It is still true that if you make me feel important, I will repay you with more brand loyalty than I would otherwise.

A lot of large internet companies (Amazon, PayPal, etc.) make emphasis on self-help. You can’t simply pick the phone up or send an email to support@ before browsing through knowledge base and FAQs. Sometimes you can’t even call at all. What’s your view on this approach?

JH: Personally I hate it. I have scrolled through dozens of FAQs and sat on hundreds of automated voice menus "whose options have recently changed" (a total lie, by the way - THEY NEVER CHANGE!!!) and I have yet to find the answer to my problem that way. If I am calling my credit card company, I have an issue the automated menu can't solve; that is a guarantee. And when I call Delta for an issue with my flights, I absolutely need to speak to a person who can help me. In certain cases, that human contact is the difference between success and failure for me and my company. The relentless approach to automate everything is ultimately making things cheaper for companies and worse for their customers. There are limits to the way in which our technology is beneficial, and we need to recognize that.

You wrote a book about multigenerational companies. Are there any generational differences between Gen X, Y, baby boomers when it comes to customer service? Do you have any rules of thumb, like “never hire Gen … for …”.

JH: People usually argue that there are massive difference between older and younger people when it comes to technology, but those differences are shrinking every year, to the point where they barely exist anymore. So the main differences now are the same differences that have always existed. Young people are impatient and want to move forward faster than is reasonable. Older people have a tendency to get complacent with their current level of success and become incrementally less willing to change because they have experienced more failure than 20-year-olds. None of this is new, but we pretend like it is sometimes. However, if you want something fun for customer service, here you go - be very, very afraid of hiring Millennials for any job that requires human interaction. They've grown up their whole lives with a computer screen as their best friend, and real people frighten them. And just don't hire Gen Xers at all. That's my people, and we're very whiny. Nobody understands us, you know.

You use a lot of humor in your presentations, on you blog and even have a comic strip. Can you give a few pointers how to use humor properly when dealing with customers?

JH: I consider humor to be kind of a 'level up' moment in a relationship. If I make a joke and you laugh at it, we're now closer than we were beforehand. You're more likely to like me, and therefore more likely to want to do business with me. But humor is subjective, and it's also risky - you can get away with a bad joke if I know you really well, but not right out of the gate. Which is why effective humor requires careful attention to the person or audience you're trying to entertain. This is something I do for a living, so it's become second nature to me - but even so I still make a fool out of myself sometimes. So if you want to be more humorous but aren't sure how to start, begin with small things. The easiest kind of humor to begin with is things that aren't really going to make people laugh but will certainly make them smile: funny or quirky pictures, a sassy tagline, a throwaway sentence on your website copy. Once you have some success there, you can continue to build if you wish to.

Which blogs, books and other resources can you recommend to Bitrix24 users who are want to improve customer service in their organizations?

JH: I'm personally a big fan of Horst Schulze, former CEO of the Ritz Carlton hotels. His attention to customer service was legendary, and from what I understand his employees lined up for hundreds of yards the day he left Ritz Carlton to wish him well and because they were going to miss him so much. That's an incredible legacy.

Thank you for the interview.
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