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Ubi Nihil Est Facil October 7, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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Back in the day, I was a software developer in a research group, fiddling with Unix and workstations and this new thing called ArpaNet.  Being young and too clever by half, I decided to create a logo for our department.  No logo is complete without a motto, and I settled on “Where Nothing Is Simple,” a testimony to the bureaucracy of my company.  Good mottos are in Latin, of course, and I needed to get this translated.

Back then, there were no online translation services.  To be honest, there was no “online” at this point in time, translation services or otherwise.  I did use a “phone book” (it’s like Google, but all printed out) to look up the number of the local high school.  I called the school (it’s like texting, but converted to voice) and spoke to the Latin teacher, and she gave me the translation: “Ubi Nihil Est Facil.”

But she offered more.  Why did I need this translated?  Would I like her to find a more colloquial translation, or a reference from Latin literature?  No need, I assured her, and went on to create my logo.

That teacher provided what is sorely lacking in so many of our automated, online services: a human touch.  We revel in our online world, where everything is a click away, but we have lost something in this shiny new place.  The results of our clicking are fairly sterile, and only the most mundane queries are truly resolved by some online search engine or database.

The “why” part of the answer, that only humans can contribute, is where the real value resides.  That Latin teacher knew she could provide a better answer if she knew why I was asking. She was so pleased that someone wanted to use Latin, she was excited to reach out and help.

We seek to automate more and more these days, migrating previously human interactions to web- and phone-based activities.  The brevity of text messaging, Twitter, and Facebook strip away the soft edges of our conversations and leave little room for the discerning moments that allow us to serve each other more effectively.  Our customers may be taken care of, but have they been cared for?

Don’t forget that all of this starts with people trying to do things with other people.  Although we in IT often drive the technology that creates these faceless systems, we should try to retain the human touch as much as possible.  Our customers will be happier, I think, and our systems will be better received.

And what of my logo?  Well, back then, bosses had a more classical education, and some even knew Latin.  My snarky motto raised a few eyebrows and generated some… conversations between myself and the management team.  A different kind of human touch, perhaps, but one that I have not forgotten.  Ubi nihil est facil, indeed.

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Comments»

1. Lynn M - October 7, 2009

I agree with you, Chuck. I think Twitter and Facebook show our great desire to be heard by others even though it isn’t done voice-to-voice or face-to-face. There’s clearly a need for people to feel acknowledged. One lesson here is, even if you ARE communicating via email, try your best to make it personal (one-to-one), so that the customer or coworker knows they aren’t getting a “form” response. I believe a personal response automatically doubles (if not triples or more!) the person in need’s patience level if the problem is being handled and communicated on this type of personal level.

2. elliotross - October 7, 2009

You think **that raised eyebrows

mine was Semper In Excretium

🙂

3. Steve Santana - October 7, 2009

In a world of auto-responders, forums, text chat, and knowledge base spelunking, “service” has been replaced by “self-service.” So at what point will companies start building business cases for un-automating customer touch points to provide a “new” differentiated offering…people? It will only happen if the consumer is willing to foot the cost. For high transaction companies Click-to-Chat is a step in right direction, but even with that, the agent is on with 5 to 10 other people and the wait times can be terrible. I find I’d rather wait in a queue and speak with someone. I guess I am paying, with my time! Great post Chuck.

4. Aaron - October 7, 2009

My Latin motto: Nunc est bibendum.

5. Alex @CIOsConnect - October 8, 2009

Ave Caesar, Windows 7 te salutent!


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