Seduced by Information: Repelled by How It Is Managed

Article excerpt

"Logic can convince but only emotion can motivate"

--Jonathan Alter

OUR LOVE AFFAIR WITH INFORMATION IS KILLING OUR RELATIONSHIPS. Over the past two decades the implicit assumption has been that more information would strengthen our relationships. The reality is that our methods for collecting and using information are stifling the formation and development of our connections with employees and customers. Our quest for copious, efficient, low-cost and ever-accessible information is getting very expensive. It is time for chief marketing officers to reexamine how information--which can be so valuable and positive for relationship building--is being managed in a way that undermines the most sacred resource we have: our relationships with our customers and employees.

An example: I recently made an appointment to visit my allergy doctor whom I had not seen in several years. A couple of days prior to the appointment I received an auto-call reminding me of the date. When I arrived at his office, the receptionist gave me the usual fact sheet to update my personal information along with two pages of detailed medical questions which I dutifully filled out. Then his assistant took me to an examination room where she asked a series of detailed questions about allergies, pets in the house, pillows, filters and the like. She took copious notes, and I was impressed by just how much time she invested and how thorough she was even though some of the questions duplicated those I answered on the two-page medical questionnaire.

As she left the room she said the doctor would be with me shortly. In a few minutes the doctor came in accompanied by a nurse. He greeted me warmly with a handshake, and he seemed to remember me from my last visit. He then began to read the notes collected by the assistant. As he studied the notes intently, he would from time to time ask additional questions or clarify the information. In the process the greeting that had felt warm and relational begin to morph into more of a Sergeant Friday routine that was more cold and mechanical. It now occurred to me that I was providing some information for the third time. And it was apparent from his questions that some of the nuances 1 had given were not captured in the assistant's notes. Everyone was so intent on the information, facts and forms that some of the meaning had been lost and some of the relational glue had melted and was draining out. My touch points with the doctor and his team now totaled six--appointment clerk, auto-call, receptionist, assistant, doctor and nurse--each had efficiently collected, recorded or distributed information, yet in the quest, meaning and relationship had been sacrificed.

It reminded me of a TV show I heard about where Oprah was interviewing women who had participated in online dating services. The women lamented that they had exchanged so much information prior to meeting their dates that there was little left to talk about and discover when they met, and more pressure to just have sex instead of develop the relationship. …