In the world of customer experience, a neutral interaction is worth as little as a negative one. Companies are trying every trick in the book to create as many positive experiences as possible—the kind which drive customer satisfaction, promote referrals, and ensure retention.
And technology is at the core of it all. Digital experiences have become the norm for even the most traditional bricks-and-mortar stores following the pandemic, and the allure of shiny new tech is strong in the digital world. AI and machine learning, for example, are powerful because they offer data-driven insights you could never get without them.
But in this vast sea of ever-changing, ever-advancing technology, how can companies retain that treasured ‘human touch’ which consumers say is essential for a great customer experience? A start might be looking at how your company adopts “personalization”…
The difference between personalized and downright scary
Most of us want personalized service—we just don’t want to see, hear, or notice it at all.
We all want to visit a website and immediately find the perfect items for us. We want discounts on the high-price items we’ve been thinking about buying. We like ads showing products we really want, as long as it’s at a time when we’re receptive to them. Interesting content from companies on social? Great! Just as long as it’s aligned with my interests and values.
This is seriously powerful stuff. But the last thing customers want is having it shoved in their face:
“Hey John. Our AI tech flagged that you left this book in your basket. Based on the previous mountaineering books you’ve read, we’re sure you’ll love it. Maybe you could read a few chapters after your Friday morning climb with Barry? And as a congratulations for your wife’s pregnancy, here’s a special discount code!”
No no no. Even if we’re exaggerating a bit, the point is clear—most people enjoy the benefits of personalized marketing but prefer to stay blessedly ignorant of the details.
And that’s not to say dropping names or flagging a past purchase is always a bad idea. There just needs to be a purpose to doing it. Compare the two:
- “Hi. As a thanks for being a loyal customer, we’ve credited your account with a 50% off book coupon.”
- “Hi Mary Hampstead. How are you? As a customer since 2016 that’s purchased many Grisham thrillers, we’ve credited your account with a special birthday discount of 50% off his new novel!”
The second is how many companies use personal data: loudly and in as much volume as possible. In reality, it can come across as a bit creepy. By contrast, the first option sounds quite genuine—using the data to make a compelling offer while retaining a human voice.
Not every tech trend applies to YOU
Oooh, a new technology tool has been released? You probably don’t need it!
Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. While an AI-powered chatbot might yield incredible results for that SaaS startup in Silicon Valley, it’ll probably be an expensive flop at your rural farm shop and pumpkin patch. You’re probably better paying a real person to man the phones and be useful, personable, and kind to potential customers.
Part of the problem is that companies present these new tools as THE solution to your problems. Not just a useful tool in specific circumstances, oh no—this is the universal key to unlock the previously-untapped revenue potential for any business!
Except of course it’s not really.
PR team not getting you in the news? This must-use startup sends ransom-note-style “or else” threats to ALL major journalists!
If a new trend or technology can help your business cut costs, increase sales, save time, or something else valuable, then consider applying it. But if it doesn’t tackle the problem you’re already aware of, maybe shelf it for now and just focus on delighting the people actually buying your stuff. It’s easy to drown your business in the quagmire of unnecessary tech.
Integrating technology with good employees
Technology itself is never the problem. Nuclear chemistry is a brilliant field of science which may lead to limitless green energy for the entire planet. In the wrong hands, it can lead to weapons of mass destruction. Similarly, it’s the adoption of new technology that often causes problems.
For example, there’s a disconnect between how well staff adopt new technologies and how well their C-suite executives think it’s adopted. In fact, “90% of C-suite execs say their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology, but only 53% of staff agree.”
Let’s say new technology has been introduced to streamline customer service queries.
- The C-suite exec sees this technology through its curated data reports, insights, and dashboards.
- “Neat, look at all this data we’re getting!”
- The support staff, however, see the clunky and cumbersome interface which slows down their work and prolongs support calls.
- “Eurgh, I’ll have to work twice as fast to still service customers now!”
A robust and honest feedback loop is required when adopting new customer-facing technology. If not, employees might view the company’s fight for increased efficiency as just another way to streamline the payroll. But if technology can be brought in which heightens the employee’s ability to perform (i.e. by freeing up time so they can add value elsewhere) then those companies will thrive.
New technology can enhance the human touch experienced by customers—but only if we integrate it with (not in place of) employees.
Stop overcomplicating what it means to use ‘technology’
While genuinely powerful AI, BI, and IM solutions do abound, businesses need to remember that ‘technology’ extends far beyond the manipulation of customer data. Yes, it’s fashionable and has many applications, but data analysis isn’t the only type of tech you can leverage.
“Losing the human touch” often stems from missteps in online technologies such as social media, on-site UX, knowledge centres, and simple customer support. And here’s the truth bomb: if you don’t want to lose the human touch, keep communicating like a human!
This is probably the easiest thing to overlook. There are plenty of companies whose human customer service teams sound like poorly-designed androids.
“I appreciate your time answering that question. Please grant me time to action that request on your behalf.”
“I regret that it is not possible for me to provide such an update at this current time.”
This stuffy, machine-like language probably comes from a good place. Companies want to sound professional, or they know that prepared scripts can improve efficiency, or…whatever. But if communication with your customers is stale and robotic, it doesn’t matter what trends you follow or how amazing your data is—they’re not gonna like it.
It bears repeating: if you want to retain the human touch, start by communicating like a human!