Regardless of size or category, consumer-facing businesses must invest in their customer experience as a competitive advantage. In an increasingly online world, this means striking the balance between automation and the human touch, writes Renae Smith.
Customer experience (CX) is the culmination of all the ways that customers can communicate with a business. This means things like email, SMS, online chat, telephone conversations and face-to-face interactions.
As multinationals such as Amazon and Google deliver more and more digital support channels through their use of CX technology, customers now expect 24-hour connection and support, even from startups and local businesses.
At the same time, KPMG’s Customer Experience Excellence Report 2018 reveals that Australian consumers actually rate personalisation as the key driver for customer service excellence. This means that even with cutting-edge tech, the human factor remains vitally important in providing a customer-centric experience.
The challenge businesses seeking to position their organisations to compete in a disruptive CX space face, is to find the right balance between the human and the digital touch. There are three core steps to doing this well.
With each new technology, leaders should consider how its introduction will impact and drive the customer experience, but also where its limitations lie, both inherently and with respect to the target consumer.
Chatbots are an increasingly common tool in the CX space. Most bots are not AI, but branched, piecemeal logic presented in a conversational interface. The benefit of bot tech is that it is another interaction method that utilises an existing knowledge base. This means it is capable of responding to upwards of 90 percent of the queries that service representatives face daily.
The limitation of bots, from a CX perspective, is that they’re sometimes viewed as an impediment by inserting another step between the customer and a resolution.
Another example of CX tech is the use of ‘omnichannel’ services. It’s now common among leading brands to bundle CX channels together to form one unified customer experience through the implementation of customer relationship management (CRM) systems. These services provide real-time customer data synchronisation that creates opportunities to offer services that are tailored to each customer’s particular needs.
The inherent risk of omnichannel services lies in their relevance. A business cannot be successful if they are offering their products or services through a channel that isn’t relevant to their customers.
According to a survey by National Public Radio and Edison Research in 2018, the percentage of consumers who owned smart speakers rose to 30 per cent from 17 per cent in 2017.
The advantage with smart speakers is that they can be personalised, allowing them to interact with the consumer to create proactive customer experiences.
Of course, though, there are privacy concerns when it comes to emerging voice assistants and active listening technologies. Furthermore, voice assistant tech runs the risk of being considered intrusive by the customer.
Evaluating the tech is only step one. It’s also essential that in all cases, the customer’s tolerance for the technology is understood.
While it might seem self-evident, CX tech must be helpful to the consumer, allowing them to achieve customer success easier and with less stress than the typical call centre experience. Consumers want more self-service options than ever, but they do not want to feel manipulated by tech. It needs to work for them, not be viewed as an impediment to achieving a desired result.
Business leaders will need to evaluate this line to ensure they understand their target customer’s tolerance. Perhaps they are happy to engage with real-time messaging and social media, but find chatbots unwieldy? Perhaps they prefer to utilise mobile apps with face-to-face video communication?
Successful CX strategies should also avoid the error of chasing ubiquity. Leaders should be implementing CX tech and solutions that are relevant and lead to differentiation for their customers.
Well thought out and implemented CX tech can bring immense benefits to the customer experience. But data indicates that customers still want human interactions too.
An award-winning Australian company recognised for their outstanding customer service and managing the human connection well is MATE. MATE differentiates their customer service experience through the implementation of a CX strategy that focuses on local, human interaction.
In fact, unlike most of their competitors in the Telco space, every customer service employee at MATE is based out of their headquarters in Sydney. To avoid the common complaint of being endlessly transferred, MATE have even removed the phone transfer functionality on CX phones ensuring the person you speak to is the person who resolves your concern.
This unwavering focus on CX has seen the company grow at a rate of 3,703 percent in the past three years.
The growing expectation of ubiquitous customer support means that companies must learn how to offer customer services anytime, anywhere and in a multitude of different ways. Cutting-edge CX tech can take a company a great way. Yet, at the end of the customer service journey, there also needs to be an excellent customer service team, who are willing and able to take the customer from a journey to a success.
The balance of this digital and human touch will be the competitive differentiator in the customer service space.