The connection between a good Customer Experience when people come directly into contact with a brand and business performance is now a given.
In the age of the smartphone, people have become used to fast, fluid access to information and services. Our tech-driven culture has pushed expectations of brands way beyond what heritage, siloed customer service systems were designed to deliver.
When it comes to brand perception, customer service has become an intrinsic and critical part of the overall brand experience and reputation picture. Huge investment in clever brand building or social media engagement will be instantly undermined by a frustrating service experience on the phone, or through digital channels that seem disconnected from people’s needs and expectations.
More than ever, brand reputation, differentiation, loyalty, and choice, are connected with brand performance and its ability to serve and communicate effectively. This is especially so as new generations of direct-to-consumer brands emerge, putting Customer Experience at the heart of the operational business and brand models.
Inevitably, brands in every sector are racing to answer the challenge through investment in technology tasked with speeding up CX processes, making both the management and delivery more efficient.
New digital platforms and avenues for customer engagement have completely changed the way brands interact with their audiences. Moreover, there are an increasing number of tools now that allow for broad spectrum analytics and automation that enable customer experience departments to increase efficiency at a scale that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.
But getting this investment right in a discipline that has for years been geared towards doing more with less, and partitioned from the brand marketing teams charged with out-reach and brand offering, has been a big challenge. Indeed there is a real risk that many brands will make strategic mistakes.
Most of the tools available to customer service teams sell themselves on increasing the speed of clearing actions first, and on guaranteeing a positive Customer Experience a distant second…if at all!
The ticketing system at the heart of most customer service platforms reduces people and their problems down to numbers, to the detriment of customer service teams’ abilities to empathise with customers – worsening the interaction for all involved. It’s an obvious fact that well-motivated CX teams that enjoy their roles provide better customer service than those that don’t.
So perhaps we should not be surprised that even though the choice and efficiency of digital service platforms and channels has expanded hugely and the concept of customer service has morphed into a much more holistic “customer experience”, a staggering 59 percent of consumers think that brands have lost touch with the human element of Customer Experience.
It seems that while many businesses have quite rightly aimed to enhance efficiency through automation, the other vital part of the equation – empathy and the all-important human touch – has been neglected.
The challenge and the opportunity for customer-centric brands is to balance their strategic path to first-class CX with humanity and a far closer connection between brand marketing and service.
The key to the humanity part is understanding how your people can be enabled to enhance your customer interactions. To shamelessly quote Richard Branson: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
If you ask any customer service agent what the best part of their role is, it will usually be when they get to solve a problem and actually help somebody – doubly so if the customer is grateful and walks away with a smile on their face. To put it simply, people like to help people, and tools that put anything in the way of this are stifling a natural instinct which should instead be encouraged.
It also means connecting digital efficiency with human interaction so the two become seamless and fluid. We all know in the right circumstances, CX will be enhanced with pure automation – a fast, efficient, digital interface. For example, when was the last time you called to order a pizza when you could do it via a couple of clicks through an app?
Nonetheless, 75 percent of consumers have said that they would like more human interaction and this is especially true of more complex interactions or those relating to sensitive or higher value products and services.
So, the next part of our journey as an industry will be framed by growing recognition that business performance can and will be achieved by a balanced or holistic approach that blends human, personal, friendly interactions with the huge advantages in terms of efficiency that automation is giving to brands.