THE BLOG

Are Robots About To Put Secretaries Out Of Work?

When incompetent secretaries lose you potential new clients, then the robot uprising might be coming sooner than you think.

07/12/2016 04:54 SAST
Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
BB-8, R2-D2 and C-3PO (L-R) perform at the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 28, 2016.

There are three common types of annoying secretaries out there and one in particular tops the charts.

The first one is the inexperienced, the second one is the arrogant and the third one is the secretary that's related to or in a relationship with the boss.

It only takes one interaction to identify which is which and that interaction is setting up an appointment.

The problem with all three, that's if the appointment happens at all, is that first impressions last and it lingers at the back of the mind. That lingering negative seed has the ability to sabotage any potential business opportunities going forward and in the event of nothing transpiring it becomes a potential PR nightmare, with so many people publishing or sharing their bad business experiences. Although my experience is true, I won't be divulging anyone's identity.

Dealing with these sorts of secretaries and I use myself as a reference here, I go through an internal battle whether to move on or bite the bullet. I have done both the moving on and the biting of the bullet.

I was doing my usual browsing on Facebook and noticed that a friend was doing something in my field, something new and doing it well. Their service requires me to pay a monthly fee and in return they take care of my data requirements. I decided to research a bit more about it, checked out the website, articles and vlogs. Some time passed and I noticed a few new posts that caught my eye so I finally decided to reach out and give this person a call.

The call was quick and straight forward, lets meet. She asked me to send her a follow-up email so that her secretary could set up an appointment. I normally don't mind doing this but when it's a young tech savvy person, in the infancy part of a business, I tend to think that they are trying to act too smart or too important and I get a sense of someone being egocentric however, I complied as I always do and I did so within a few minutes.

Six days later I received an email from her around 5:45pm noting that her secretary was going to be in contact with me shortly. 20 minutes later I received another email, this time from her secretary which read; "I will be scheduling a meeting for you and (her). I would just like to find out your location as well as a suitable time and I will check the calendar. Please include your contact details should I need any further information."

I supplied everything needed and provided extra info such as I needed 30minutes for the meeting. I suggest a specific place, time and date (4 days in advance) and also an additional day, further in the future, when I was free for a three-hour period.

I then got another messages saying, "Thank you for getting back to me. May I kindly ask that we schedule for next week Wednesday rather if you are available, unfortunately (her) will be away on conference from Monday-Tuesday next week?"

I then sent another email saying I can do a time before 1pm on Wednesday.

I receive another email moments later.

"Apologies

(her) can do from 2pm on the day."

Herein lies a telling sign of the lack of skills that this secretary has. Requesting a 2pm meeting, when I have specifically stated in a previous emailed that I need to meet before 1pm.

I then replied "this back and forth is not working."

I received another email some time later for a meeting now over 3 weeks away with a single time option again and over lunch.

"Apologies Judd. I can schedule a meeting between 13:00-15:00 on Monday the 12th may I forward the invite?"

My reply was: "I won't be able to make that time slot. No worries, I will make contact in the New Year."

All that effort to get noticed and something as mundane as setting up an appointment just lost a sale. To the inexperienced eye, that conversation might seem relatively satisfactory; the average appointment via email takes 8 communications, according to a leading Bot Appointment Company and she was polite but too many things were left up in the air. Where are we meeting? How long is this meeting, 30minutes or 2 hours? I can't make that time slot and so we are back to square one and now with something almost 1 month away from my first contact and this meeting will land up being rescheduled. I assume this because in terms of a numbers game, I have had over 10 000 appointments so although I am not an expert, I have the experience of what is best practice and predicting what normally happens.

My suggestion is to anyone that is reading this, that uses a secretary to set up meetings, is to check your appointment system and anyone that wasn't closed, to personally call them up, with your diary open.

I have no idea where the money of this woman's business came from or how deep the well goes but every person that I know, that has skin in the game in their own business, doesn't push a meeting over to someone else, doesn't take a week to get back to someone and doesn't not call when they find out the meeting has been lost. I suppose she is like me and assumed correctly that once the damage is done, it's done and there would be a 1% chance that I would reconsider. Having now been in business for close to 20 years and a history of hindsight that I might change my mind, I would say that number is closer to 0%. So maybe she knows me more than most people and decided not to waste both of our time.

Instead of giving best practice suggestions to improve the appointment process and there is always room for improvement and training, I think it's just best to use an appointment bot. The days of investing capital into creating highly skilled secretaries are over. Check out this bot at www.x.ai and let me know what you think in the comments below.