Automate Global, Humanize Local

Last night, as my family reached the end of the Thursday of an overly long week, we all knew that we really needed to meet up at our dining room table around piles of delicious comfort food. We didn’t want to cook or do dishes. We didn’t want to think. We wanted food from our local Mexican place.

I had all of our particular favorites memorized, so I called in the order and prepared to relax before driving to the store to pick up the food. A few minutes later, my phone rang. It was a local number, so I answered.

The voice on the other end belonged to someone from the restaurant. He asked me about one of my orders — mine, it turns out — and wanted to know if I really wanted sauce A instead of sauce B.

“I want sauce A,” I said. “Did I order sauce B?”

“Yes,” he said, “I’ll fix that for you.”

When I arrived at the restaurant, I ended up talking to the man who had called my house. I told him I was really glad he had reached out to me, because sauce B would have ruined my meal. Sauce A is the main reason why I order the meal in the first place.

He then said, “yeah, that mix-up has been happening a lot lately with our new ordering system. When our receptionists answer the phone and take orders, they tap through a menu, and the item you ordered automatically generates a choice. So they ask a question they never used to ask, and lots of customers end up making the wrong choice.”

The new system is automated in ways that improve a lot of back end details, but it’s wreaking havoc on those of us who only order chicken enmoladas because we crave the mole sauce. Luckily, at this restaurant, there’s a caring human watching over the transactions, allowing the system to serve both the restaurant and the customers.

Automate global; humanize local.

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