Closing the Gap Between Humans and Technology in Customer Care


What is the secret of top performing companies? According to David Clarke, Global CxO, Experience Consulting and Digital Consumer Markets Leader at PwC, it’s the human experience. In fact, 82 percent of top performing organizations say they prioritize the human experience above all else. As retail brands compete head-to-head on new, customer-centric offerings like one-day delivery and 24/7 customer service, prioritizing the personal connection has never been more important — and customer care rises to the top of the list of vital touchpoints. Whether interactions are happening via agent, phone, chat, or email, brands need to execute a flawlessly human experience, or risk losing customers and profits in the process. Achieving this requires the right balance of talent and technology innovation.

Leverage New Customer Care Technology

Customers can be fickle with when and how they want to interact with retailers. As such, retailers should always be seeking out new technologies that allow them to tailor the customer’s experience to their evolving preferences.

Self-service is one area where technology is paving the way to a more personalized and convenient customer experience. According to a recent report from CFI Group and Radial, when a retail customer is online and a self-serve option is made available to assist them, 57 percent say they will typically try it before reaching out to customer service. However, customers who attempt to self-serve but are then forced to pick up the phone due to a failed experience are 10 percent more disloyal than customers who were able to resolve their issue in the channel of their first choice.

While there are many self-service trends on the horizon, providing customers with AI options and Visual Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology are two of the more popular and effective tools available today. Among AI options, chatbots are ideal for accessing information and completing basic tasks. In fact, 67 percent of consumers worldwide used a chatbot for customer support in the past year and 40 percent of consumers are happy to work with either a chatbot or a service rep, as long as they are getting the help they need.

These technologies allow customer service professionals to refocus their time on value-added services, saving retailers and brands money while providing instant service to customers. From secure sharing of financial information, to auto call-back options, these new technologies are making customer service transactions more efficient and helpful.

Instill Passion in Your Customer Care Team

As helpful as technology can be in optimizing the customer service experience, it can’t substitute for a true human connection  patience, empathy, attentiveness, knowledge and passion can only be delivered human-to-human. For this reason, customer care has become an important differentiator for businesses today, and the customer care profession has evolved as a result. The job has become increasingly complex, requiring writing and technology skills, deep product knowledge and a warm and inviting personality. Additionally, customer care professionals must be fluent in “Experience Engineering,” which helps manage the customer expectations while striving to give them the best outcome in a situation where there may not be an ideal outcome. Experience Engineering helps increase customer perception and helps customer care employees better communicate in less-than-ideal situations.

Unfortunately, these skills are becoming increasingly hard to find. According to a recent Aberdeen study, 32 percent of contact center leaders consider finding and retaining qualified staff to be a top challenge, second only to implementing new technologies and channels to address changing consumer behavior (36 percent). Today’s customer care personnel should be passionate about the brands they serve, and this starts with enabling staff to carve their own relationships with these brands. We have found that fostering a team that is passionate about the service they provide and the brand they serve results in more enthusiastic representatives, who then pass that passion on to customers. (At Radial, each call center hosts a “mini-store” on-site where employees can interact directly with the products they represent. This hands-on approach means call center staff are rarely caught off guard by a customer’s question and can stand in as a true representative for the brand.)

Make Sure the Technology and Humans Work in Tandem

Building a successful customer-care engine should start with the people and be supplemented by the technology. This means that businesses need to be smart in constructing the right employee experience out of the gate, providing compelling work and career growth opportunities that map back to the individual’s passions and foster enthusiasm in the company, while leveraging technology that makes the representative’s job easier and more convenient. Part of making jobs easier is offering flexibility in how and where employees work, such as by offering a range of work at home options to accommodate representatives who may not always be able to make their way to the office. These benefits help to attract and retain loyal employees, which makes all the difference in driving success. 

Once you have your workforce in place, arm representatives with technology that supplements their strengths and puts customer information and preferences at their fingertips, such as AI and robotics to help agents identify the best solution quickly and prove guidance in real time. Nearly one in four consumers who have been in touch with a customer care agent say they were less likely to follow through with a purchase when the agent did not have access to their order history. Ensuring customer care representatives have the tools necessary to be knowledgeable and helpful to customers is critical not only to customer experience, but to empowering representatives with technology that will enhance their experience and retain them as employees. Consider, for example, technology that will to capture every interaction that the agent handles and provide increased visibility and real-time feedback on the effort an agent has put forth to assist their customer. Visibility across the supply chain and operations through technology can help businesses avoid customer experience mistakes before they happen.     

In the highly-competitive world of retail, the customer’s experience can be as vital to a sale as price and even more important to fostering brand loyalty. While modern technologies abound to simplify and improve these experiences, they can never replace the human experience of empathy and connection that customer care agents provide. Rather, retailers and brands need to orchestrate a perfect balance of technology and human touchpoints, because when the human experience becomes a central focus for customer care, brands will in return be presented with happier customers and happier employees.   

Carey Stoker is Senior Vice President, Customer Care Services, Radial.

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