The tide is strongly shifting under our feet every time we engage a business as a customer, or on the other end of the spectrum, if we’re the ones determining the shape of the customer experience. With a few exceptions, we’re all moving to a less human and more digital model, with examples such as Amazon’s Alexa leading the charge. You’ll find Alexa in places like your bank, where you can ask it about your current credit card balance or when your next mortgage payment is due. The goal is obviously to improve the customer experience, but these efforts do beg a sincere question: Just because Alexa and other digital customer service representatives (CSRs) can field such requests, should they?
It’s a valid question because customers being serviced through digital means can still be treated rudely, just like they can with an underperforming employee. Think about it: Have you ever had to navigate endless menu options when dealing with an interactive voice response system? Did you ever need to repeat yourself over and over because voice recognition wasn’t recognizing anything, including your frustration? If you left these experiences feeling underappreciated and underserved as a customer, doesn’t that qualify as being treated rudely?
With more options of “less human” interactions, you need to be more aware than ever of delivering and managing consistent brand experiences across channels, making sure your digital “persons” are delivering on the brand promise as well as the human ones. The need for this goes even higher when customer service models that include a third party (think Amazon for fulfillment or payment) complicate the customer experience even further.
How to avoid a digital face-slap
Every single part of the omnichannel customer experience needs to be quality controlled with plenty of visibility and a defined action plan to address service issues when they arise. Your plan needs to have the overarching goal of creating positive brand experiences and memories whether that brand is engaged while sitting at a desk surfing through a website or speaking to a voice recognition system while simultaneously doing laundry and managing other daily tasks of life.
Today’s exponential consumer engagement opportunities through multiple channels also carry exponential risks. Each channel offers you a chance to communicate the value or your brand, but can also destroy your brand through a flawed execution. The problem with a digital-only approach is that a fully-engineered customer experience will never work. Truly memorable moments come when a customer experiences uniquely human touches—such as the empathy of a manager that bends the rules to make sure a customer with a valid complaint leaves happy.
Empathy is a tough thing to replicate through the predefined rules that a digital system will dogmatically follow. Even with the promise of the advanced flexibility powered by artificial-intelligence-driven analytics, there’s still a finer edge to be obtained when a real human being is present at the most critical phase of the customer service experience.
So, the question becomes: What is the right mix of human/digital interaction to build brands instead of putting them at risk? To answer this, you need to capture experiential metrics through every channel and in every possible progression of events that a customer might use to receive service. In short, you need to experience your brand the way your customers do.
An effective way to do this is through the use of multichannel mystery shoppers that can stress test every interface and capture the experience of every consumer demographic. This is a way to take on the journey of the consumer and find out if either your human or digital service components are rudely ignoring what’s really important in the minds of your customers.
A digital CSR can be great, if they don’t become a digital dictator. Using technology to augment your service model, while not replacing it entirely, is probably the smartest way to keep customers happy. And continual testing of the customer’s service experience can help validate the right formula to maximize your brand performance to drive stronger customer loyalty at both a widely distributed—and yet still personal—level.
-Lisa van Kesteren, CEO of SeeLevel HX