Bot Syndrome

The Bot Syndrome: 5 Symptoms Which Indicate Your Employee Feels Like a Bot

“The other day, a customer tweeted at me, ‘Are you a bot?’ At first I was really offended and wanted to tweet back ‘I AM NOT A BOT!’ But when I thought about it some more, I got kind-of sad. I realized that by following the scripts and all the rules, I sounded very robotic. That’s not what our customers want or need. They come to social media because they want some upbeat and friendly interaction. I could provide better service if they gave us a bit more freedom to do what we know is right.’”

– Customer Service Social Media Rep

It’s not just social media reps who feel that way. It happens across industries at all levels. I’ve met VPs whose fear has caused a dangerous bot-like trance. Bots leading bots is no way to change the game.

Sadly, it starts with good intentions: an effort to get everyone on the same page; a PR team who wants to ensure all employees share the same story; or efficiency studies that show the “right way” to do things saves much more time. I once had a boss tell me, “Karin, the truth is in that role, I want to take all the thinking out of it, make it as simple as possible so they can just execute efficiently.”

Sometimes your employees will tell you. But often, they just subtly lose their passion for your work and find meaning elsewhere.

5 Signs Your Employee Feels Like a Bot

1. They stop asking important questions.

The “Why?” “What’s next?” and “What if?” questions disappear.

2. But… they don’t make a move without asking obvious questions.

They need approval for everything, even if it means keeping a customer waiting. Most of your answers are “of course.”

3. They “follow the rules” even when they don’t make sense.

Of course they should have made an exception for the customer whose son just died. But the guidebook didn’t say, so they stuck by the rules. It’s impossible to predict and script every scenario. If an employee can’t function outside the playbook, check for bot-building policies.

4. Meetings are lifeless.

Your meetings look like a scene from an old zombie movie. It’s like pulling teeth to get everyone to talk. You feel like a cheerleader in an empty stadium.

5. Even well-thought out recognition, compensation, and employee engagement programs don’t make a dent.

If employees could double their hourly wage if they just “embraced the program” you first need a shift from bot gear, before any incentive overlay will work.

The guy I worked for was wrong. Because I’m not a bot, I ignored that advice, and results improved. You can’t grow a bot. You can’t motivate a bot. Bots will never deliver a best in class customer experience.

Bonus

After publishing this article, I was asked to share it in Malaysia for Leaderonomics. The fun part about that is they created an amazing PDF with other great thoughts on building your social media strategy.