A Chatbot Case Study, Introducing The Squad, Or When Did Team Become A Bad Word?

Hot topics in Medical Affairs and Medical Information today? Operational aspects, including omnichannel, all things digital, how to delight customers, HCPs and patients alike and data analytics and how to deliver more with less, this last one is a constant topic.

Topics for today’s blog are all sparked by recent conversations.

– A lost hour with a chatbot
– Are your activities in line with your strategy?
– Introducing the squad, Or when did team become a bad word?
– Different, different but same? Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z

A Lost Hour With a Chatbot

Two days ago, I was locked out of an account by a service provider due to a change in their processes. The provider’s website informed me that I need to submit my email via chatbot. I duly typed “I need to talk to an agent” into the window. The response “Before I get you in touch with our team, try typing your question below. I may have an answer to your question.” I expressed the sentiment that this is not a customer friendly approach. The answer? “I’m sorry, I’m not trained on that topic yet. Would you mind rephrasing your message? I learn best with short sentences. Or you can choose a topic below to browse for an answer.” I try again, this time typing in the exact issue I am facing, however I get the same result, the chatbot tells me to rephrase. Finally, the algorithm allows me to submit a request to customer support. Instead of using a form I have to do it by chatbot. The fields are not word-count restricted, so at one point I get the message “It looks like you’ve entered too much text. Please summarise the issue in ten words or fewer, like you’re writing the subject line of an email. I’ll ask for more details next.”

In my last newsletter I shared my conviction that the types of digital channel you implement are, per se, less important than ensuring that you implement the channels you do implement well. I stand by this observation. I believe that the shortest path to resolution, is, from the perspective of most customers, the best path.

After my latest chatbot experience I’d like to add the exhortation that before you design and implement a new solution you are clear on what you are trying to achieve. Is your goal to make customers feel you are restricting access to customer service agents, by making them interact with a chatbot, or are you trying to improve the customer’s experience with your company?

Key takeaway: Remember, new is not always better. Before introducing a new solution, ensure that you are clear on how it will improve the status quo and think about how you will measure the improvements.

Are Your Activities in Line With Your Strategy?

It is easy to be so consumed with daily operations that you lose sight of the bigger picture.

Why not take a break with your team sometime towards the end of this year and do a workshop. Ask yourselves the following questions:

-1- What are the three most important topics we should be focusing on right now?
-2- What should we be doing to support these topics?
-3- What are we actually doing to support these topics?
-4- How does what we are doing relate back to what we should be doing?

Often, teams discover that there is a discrepancy between what they are doing and what they should be doing. If that is the case, then discuss in your team:

-5- What is preventing us from doing what we should be doing?
-6- Are the obstacles we perceive real, or imagined?

Frequently, there are different opinions about what the priorities are, or individuals with divergent backgrounds assess priorities differently. This type of session is easier with a moderator, an individual, who can function as a mediator and synthesiser of team output. However, even absent a moderator, the discussion can bring some interesting insights.

Introducing the Squad. Or When did Team Become a bad Word?

Last week, I was in Paris discussing with a group of fellow coaches and consultants what defines a team. One colleague proposed the following definition: “A team is an entity in which people have a common goal and a common task.” He added “But how do we make people understand?” Thinking about this I realised that it seems as though many companies have done away with the word altogether.

Instead, there are now pods, squads and squad leaders or, in some truly innovative environments you may simply be cast adrift in an untethered structure, in which you identify the projects you want to work on and engage in ever changing groups of individuals with flexible leadership. This leads me to three observations.

The first is that you can change the names of things as frequently as you like, but unless you change the fundamental nature of something, it will not change, it will simply be named something else, because real change takes time and work.

The second is that in nature, in society, in organisms, the list is endless, there are always smaller entities that perform a certain function, to support the whole. There are good reasons for this.

The third is that in times of uncertainty, when business is moving fast, resources are scarce and change is all pervasive, adding in more complexity in the form of an unstructured environment, seems a risky strategy, because beyond delivering complex projects, individuals will also need to identify the resources they need to help them succeed as well as navigate working effectively in ever changing constellations.

Different, Different but Same? Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z

On a trip to China many years ago, whenever I was in a market, looking at something, and they didn’t have exactly what I wanted the salesperson would invariably say “Same, same but different.” Whenever, I read about millennials, Gen X, Gen Y – especially as relates to their unique needs in the workplace, the writers stress the differences, to the generations that came before, I cannot recall ever reading about the similarities. This crossed my mind after a recent conversation with an adolescent, where we had a difference of opinion.

I told him I would need to do some more research in order to reflect more on his views. When I let him know that I had done so and that I found his position both interesting and valid. He said, “You know, you are quite mature for an adult.” He explained that most adults discount his opinion because he is a teenager. In a later conversation, on a different topic, the same teenager said to me “I know what you are going to say, people of your age group all have a similar opinion.”

Curious to see whether he would link my questions back to our previous conversation I asked him if he felt putting people into categories served him well. His reply: “Well we all do it, it makes the world easier to manage, and anyhow usually I find out that I was right.”

While it is important to understand what makes us different, and what that might mean, it also helps to understand where we are similar across age groups, countries, cultures etc., just by dint of being human.

Key takeaways: We are sometimes more similar than we might imagine and the fundamental desire to simplify the world is probably universal.

I hope my blog provides you with some useful insights and, as ever, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Naturally, if you have a challenging project or would like to discuss coaching to help you achieve that next level, please reach out for an informal chat.

Very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer