Can technology replace the human touch?

Technology is becoming increasingly essential to our professional lives. What does this mean for the international assignee and how can technology and human service be balanced in global mobility?

Technology replacing the human touch for international assignments
Worldwide ERC organisers were taken by surprise by the number of attendees at the session titled Has technology replaced service. More chairs were required for this crowd-puller, Jennifer Manis, manager – International HR Centre for Excellence at Halliburton, Chris Chalk, country delegation manager, Siemens CorporationGlobal Shared Services, and Ben Cross, vice president Business Development, University of Moving and Storage, got to grips with the issues. After all, global mobility professionals are usually drawn to the job because they like working with people.

Technology is essential to many aspects of our lives

A quick poll revealed that the most popular uses of technology include using a smart phone, taking photos, calling an Uber, social media and texting. The general opinion was that self-service technologies allowed for greater efficiency and were ideal for routine and transactional tasks and information gathering, but would never fully replace the customer service element.Technology was also considered essential for relaying information to employees and their families in emergency situations, to support duty of care and due diligence. However, there was a balance to be made between the high-tech approach and high-touch customer service for expatriates, reminiscent of an era that is long gone. Very high customer service ratings were an indication that too much time and money was being spent on customer satisfaction. But a consistent global mobility experience in all of the geographical regions was most important.
Technology for the international assignee:

Balancing technology and human interaction

Jennifer Manis explained that their organisation had got it wrong at times and had paired down human interaction too much. There is a harsh environment of price-cutting, but it is important to get the balance right and you do need to pick up the telephone and call sometimes. People, who get in trouble, or into difficult and confusing situations on assignment, need human interaction. That is part of the global mobility role.Chris Chalk described a diverse workforce, one where some assignees wanted to communicate by text, which they were happy to accommodate. Mr Chalk pointed out there is technology, such as webcams for video briefings, which boosts customer satisfaction.However, this form of communication is not popular with all relocation consultants. Some expats still do want to talk on the telephone, he explained. “We don’t always know we’ve gone too far with technology until we cross the line. We need to look at different ways to use technology, not to replace the human customer service interaction, but to make ourselves more efficient so we can have more meaningful customer interactions,” Mr Chalk explained.

Using videos for international assignment

Jennifer Manis agreed video was the most popular form of communication, assignees felt they had been helped more if they had a video chat. It offers an extra comfort level across all age groups and feels like customer service. But Ben Cross remarked that many people initially don’t like the thought of video because they need to look presentable, you can see the state of the room in the house, nevertheless once people get over that they feel well serviced.Chris Chalk said they have a bank of videos on their global mobility website, ranging in topics from understanding your first pay cheque to inbound location briefings and tax issues.
Related articles from the Winter 2017 issue of Relocate Magazine:
They had secured buy-in for the initiative by positioning it as a way to make the consultants’ time more effective. Time was then freed up for more strategic work with the business units. This approach had received good feedback from the leadership team and was being adopted in other country service centres.In the Halliburton Halliburton = 2 x ll experience, some young people felt you were wasting their time by asking them to watch a briefing video, but the mobility team would push back and only then answer questions if there were any.When answering a question on shared services, Ms Manis encouraged the audience to do some service development while technology does the other work, such as global mobility service development. Chris Chalk agreed that by raising awareness for global mobility you made yourself more valuable to the business.The session closed with a valuable reminder that with investment in technology comes high expectation, and it is important to monitor and act quickly when problems arise. 
Relocate Magazine Winter 2017 front cover
Read more about working within the mobility industry in the Winter issue of our magazine

For related news and features, visit our International Assignments section. Look out for the launch of 2018's Relocate Awards, entries open in January. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  ©2017. This article first appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of Relocate magazine, published by Profile Locations, Spray Hill, Hastings Road, Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8JB. All rights reserved. This publication (or any part thereof) may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of Profile Locations. Profile Locations accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein. 

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