In today’s world of 24/7 digital services, it’s easy to assume that human customer support isn’t necessary or even wanted by a consumer. I mean, modern technology, artificial intelligence and chatbots should capture any questions and provide some instant resolution, right?
While this may be true for some brands, I’ve found that human connection isn’t something to compromise on and, in fact, a smart balance between technology and human support goes a long way. Consumers still appreciate and can even be delighted by a positive, empathetic interaction with human customer support, which a digital approach may fail to deliver on alone.
As the customer success manager for Haven Life, an innovative digital life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by MassMutual, I’ve learned that each customer is unique and has their own preference on how they want to receive help. I see these varied customer expectations every day as individuals consider purchasing life insurance — an important financial product that they will have for the next 10, 20 or 30 years.
Before Haven Life, you could not purchase medically underwritten term life insurance online in a self-directed capacity. Consumer purchasing habits have dramatically changed in the past decade, creating a need for the life insurance industry to evolve as well. Today, Haven Life is known not only for making it simple to buy term life insurance online, but also for the excellent experience our customers enjoy. To achieve this reputation, I’ve learned that we can’t just offer a seamless digital purchasing experience, it’s critical that we also foster a human connection with the customers who desire one.
Here are four ways other digital brands can accomplish this.
Make it easy for customers to contact and speak with you
While many companies claim to be customer-friendly, when you find yourself seeking assistance, it isn’t always easy to get the help you need in a timely manner. Whether it’s an extensive automated phone tree (think: constantly repeating “speak to a representative”) or a robotic chatbot, sometimes, all you want is to connect with a human and get an immediate resolution.
One way for a company to be customer centric is to prominently display their contact information. If a business offers multiple ways to get in touch — and clearly displays those channels on its homepage and throughout the path to purchase — it’s an open invitation to reach out. Additionally, the response time of how quickly a customer gets to a human matters.
For Haven Life, we’ve set internal goals for all our customer interactions, such as a response rate of 90 minutes for email.
Seventy percent of Haven Life customers purchase a policy without ever contacting customer support for help. I’m proud of this number because it illustrates the immense amount of work we’ve put into anticipating and solving for problems and questions before they ever come up, as well as the power of self-service tools for those who wish to keep it digital. For the other 30 percent who have questions, we prominently display ways to contact us by phone, email or chat, and we’re quick to offer a human response when they do.
Interact with empathy
It’s important for all online brands to interact with customers in a personable way. Automated processes are useful for creating efficiencies that are more administrative oriented (like updating payment information). But when a customer is looking for human assistance, brands must capitalize on this as an opportunity to form a relationship. Especially for digital brands, customer service representatives must listen, respond and interact in a real and empathetic manner.
For example, at Haven Life, we help people get a safety net in place to financially protect their loved ones. Not surprisingly, sometimes customers come to us because the loss of a loved one, friend or even a friend-of-a-friend spurred them to realize that the future isn’t always promised. Our team is able to hear their stories, respond with empathy and provide them with the confidence that there are caring people behind this digital life insurance agency.
Have you ever received an email or text letting you know there’s been an unexpected delay in your scheduled delivery? Or, a notice that service may be interrupted during a certain timeframe? Communicating proactively let’s customers know that you haven’t forgotten about them and also prevents frustrated emails, chats or phone calls from coming in.
It’s important to be proactive with communication so individuals feel informed every step of the way. This can usually be done through a light touch with emails to alert customers. Examples for life insurance include when an application is completed, how to schedule a medical exam if necessary and decisions on eligibility and pricing for those who don’t get instant offers.
Automate things, but keep it personal
You may be thinking: is human customer support a scalable solution? As a business expands and your customer base grows, it may seem difficult to maintain that personal touch. However, by automating some of your interactions or tasks, you will actually ‘free up’ the time of customer service representatives, so they can focus on providing more one-on-one customer support.
A good place to start when figuring out what to automate is to identify your customers’ needs and understand the timing of when they typically reach out. Once identified, (at Haven life, customers may reach out with questions while filling out an application online) you can determine the most efficient way to help. For example, proactively send an email during this common point of friction and supply the information they are likely searching for. If you use the right language and tool, it doesn’t have sound robotic or impersonal.
No matter how sophisticated an online brand can be, it’s important to remember that the human connection can still go a long way.