Technology Gone Mad?

November 14, 2013

This article was inspired by the news that Tesco is installing face-scanning technology at its 450 petrol stations to target advertisements to individual customers at the till. The technology will use a camera to identify a customer’s gender and approximate age. It will then show an advertisement tailored to that demographic.

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “This is not new technology.” And that “No data or images are collected or stored and the system does not use eyeball scanners or facial-recognition technology”, she added.

When I read this story I was somewhat horrified that technology is being used in such a way. Tesco argue that it is no different from cookies on the internet that can then tailor adverts based on the browsing history of the user. I disagree, if I am on a computer then I can choose whether to disable ‘cookies’. Will I be able to opt out of the Tesco experiment? No!

The retail industry has for a long while used CCTV to spy on both customers (shoplifters) AND staff members. Many of the large clients that I work with have call centres where ALL calls are recorded. Can you imagine the backlash if a company decided to record all telephone calls, even internal calls and at all levels of management.

It does seem ironic that we spend a fortune on technology to monitor junior members of staff when in reality (and history has shown) business are more likely to suffer devastating losses at the hands of senior executives.

I do a lot of work with telesales teams and nearly all have their calls monitored. They also have large plasma screens that display the number of calls each person has made as well as the total call duration. Set targets dictate the number of calls and the total duration to be achieved each day and across the week. In my experience when you target activity, you get activity but what we really want is financial results.

I have experienced a few maverick companies that have done away with the screens and call recording software completely. The results they have achieved since are considerably better! Why?

  • The screens or “lazy managers” as I like to call them have been replaced by proactive managers that coach and motivate.
  • The staff feel less like caged hens and more like humans so ‘engagement’ improves.
  • The staff feel trusted and valued and therefore put in more discretionary effort.
  • The teams focus on just the most important target ‘revenue’.

We know that employee engagement is vital if we are to get maximum return on our human capital. If we replace our staff with cameras and robots we may cut costs BUT if our customers don’t want to deal with cameras and robots then they will leave and we will have no business anyway.

Take heed!

Many thanks

Scott Rumsey

Trainer & Consultant at MTD Training

(Image by Boians Cho Joo Young at

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