A Balancing Act: Why Technology Isn’t the Only Key to Retail Success
We’re all guilty of yelling at Alexa or Siri. From sharp commands to making our virtual assistant the brunt of our jokes, niceties fall by the wayside when we interact with technology. Why? Because giving technology a human name doesn’t make it human. It still lacks the ability to feel the sting of our annoyance or empathize with how we feel.
Gartner predicts that by 2020, artificial intelligence (AI) will create 2.3 million jobs while only eliminating 1.8 million, becoming a positive net job motivator. Companies are rapidly adopting AI and other technology, but while transformation is the intention, businesses may be focusing too squarely on the race to innovate.
As brick-and-mortar stores are again projected to close at record rates in 2018, retailers must constantly surprise and delight customers just to stay afloat. Yet the answer doesn’t always lie in technology adoption. Many businesses are so focused on innovation that they forget one very important thing: named or not, people don’t always want to talk to robots. They still want the option to talk to people.
While it’s clear that technology is important for companies to stay ahead, according to a new report, the real key to happy customers and brand loyalty lies in appealing to the emotional side of customers, and that requires a human touch.
People Drive Customer Loyalty
Every retailer dreams of decreased churn and increased customer loyalty, but accomplishing both goes far beyond offering an item at the most competitive price. While a quality product is a critical first step, when customers need help, people are the true competitive advantage. Seventy-four percent of customers are more loyal to a company if they can speak to a person rather than only having access to digital or self-service channels. Not only that, half of respondents said they don’t trust that their issue will be addressed if they're not given the option to speak to a person. At the core of customer loyalty is people, and retailers put their reputations on the line if people aren’t integral to customer experience strategies.
Technology is Valuable if There Are Clear Benefits
Technology such as AI and chatbots can be an efficient way for customers to quickly get the answers they need, and many customers embrace the convenience: 76 percent of survey respondents think technology helps create a good customer experience.
However, many don’t care about technology unless they directly see the benefit. In fact, nearly half (48 percent) think innovation is only important if it improves customer service. Therefore, retailers must be strategic when implementing technology and use it to augment human connections.
Building an Emotional Connection in an Increasingly Digital World
Technology should never act as a roadblock that prevents customers from speaking with a human being. It should build a bridge to the people who understand how customers feel and can take appropriate action. Every day, contact-center agents interact with customers, and they have the power to make or break the customer experience. When agents have access to the right tools and technology, such as speech analytics, they can understand what customers truly think, feel and want, enabling them to offer personalized experiences that keep customers coming back for more.
It’s no secret that retailers must continue to invest in technology, but the technology must empower humans who can build emotional connections so customers feel heard. Unlike Alexa and Siri, agents in the contact center can empathize and become advocates for customers. When retailers emphasize the importance of human interaction and deploy technology solutions around people, they have the power to create invaluable experiences that drive brand loyalty and keep their doors open for years to come.
Rebecca Martin is the chief marketing officer at Calabrio, an integrated workforce optimization suite.
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