How Retailers Can Strike the Balance Between Man and Machine
Brands across industries are eager to wow customers with new technology — and rightly so. In the age of heightened convenience, more personalized experiences and innovative shopping options like Amazon Alexa, consumers won’t tolerate brands that don’t embrace the future. However, that doesn’t mean brands should rely on tech to replace a good customer experience. Usabilla's recent report reveals that today’s consumers actually crave more opportunities to connect with real human beings to help solve complex problems and enjoy the worthwhile customer experiences they desire.
In the age of automation, here’s how to balance human and machine in your customer experience:
Let Your Employees Shine
Brands often operate with the intent of minimizing human interaction as much as possible. Whether purchasing food on Grubhub to avoid going to a restaurant or ordering their morning cup of Starbucks without even acknowledging a barista, customers have many opportunities to cut employees out of the equation when dealing with brands. But as it turns out, that’s not ideal in many situations.
Despite misconceptions that customers are more averse to phone calls, over half (55 percent) report they prefer speaking with human customer service agents over the phone. And when faced with the dreaded phone-tree, 73 percent of shoppers skip the robo-call, often pressing “0” to reach a human first. The report shows that customers are eager to hop on a phone call with a live representative to help solve their problems.
This means your employees should still be front and center. Unfortunately, customer service may suffer from the new emphasis on technology. When asked what brands can do to improve their customer experience, 40 percent of consumers want better training for customer service reps, while 31 percent want faster customer service. To deliver high-quality, high-touch customer interactions, it’s critical that your employees are well-trained to resolve problems and represent your brand.
Use Technology as an Engine for Efficiency
None of this means that technology doesn’t play an important part in a brand’s CX. Customers aren’t adverse to using technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots in the place of real human reps, but only when appropriate. And they’re appropriate when they can increase efficiency.
Seventy percent of customers report they have used chatbots already, and 60 percent of those who haven’t used them say they would feel comfortable doing so. However, they want to use them when it makes their experience easier and more convenient, not for handling nuanced problems or answering complicated questions.
Thirty-six percent of respondents said they would prefer to use a chatbot over speaking with a human when they have a simple request or question that doesn’t require the finesse of a real customer service representative. Furthermore, 35 percent said they would do so if it saved them time.
Use technology tools to make experiences easier for customers, but don’t rely on them to handle every interaction.
Prioritize Customer Independence
It’s easy to get caught up in talk about whether using technology or service reps are best to solve problems, but remember that no one should have to engage with either to complete a simple purchase or research a product. It’s best if customers don’t have to exude more effort to get the information or solutions they need. That’s why brands need to enable customer self-service.
Fortunately, most brands are doing a good job of this. Eighty-seven percent of customers say they’re satisfied or very satisfied with their ability to solve problems and answer questions on their own through a brand’s website. In that regard, most customers flock to FAQ sections to answer questions without assistance, with 70 percent reporting they find them helpful or very helpful.
That said, leverage rich and comprehensive resources on your site (e.g., how-to videos, customer reviews, detailed product images) to ensure customers are getting the information they need before reaching out for more help.
Stakes are high for having the best CX possible. Brands must balance innovative technology with the same principles that have distinguished them for decades, long before Amazon.com or chatbots. It’s critical to use tech to make your customers’ lives easier while retaining the emotional human element that can make or break an experience.
Katie Hickey is a marketing manager at Usabilla, a voice of customer (VoC) platform.
Related story: Why it’s Time to Consider Leaving Your Customers Alone