Communication is a very important element of customer-centric organizations and is also the most important element in mitigating customer stress. Imagine you are on a train platform and there is a train delay, your emotions run high, as you pay an intermittent and frantic glance at your watch and the train timetable board. At that point, you look for any transport official and train staff for updates. Glancing at the timetable is not enough, as you want an explanation as to why there is a delay and the rough estimated waiting time. You want someone to listen to you and provide information, to pacify your nerves and mitigate your anxiety. I had carried out an informal research interview with couple of customers, asking them, what improvements they expected from companies in 2015, with regards to customer experience and majority of these customers stressed that they would like to communicate with customer service agents in real time. Out of my discussion with these customers, I deduced the following core reasons, for this demand or outcry for human communication.
5 reasons why customers want to communicate with a human:
1) Validation: At times as a customer, we do feel like we could be making up a problem in our heads. Like: ‘is the train time current or am I just panicking that a train is running late for not just reason?’ We need someone to confirm with us, that we are making sense and not just making things up. That our telephone bill is actually more than what we normally pay for and that we are not making any imaginary postulation or hallucinating. As humans, we get happy when someone validates that we are making sense, which is similar to effective customer- company communication process.
2) Attention: There is an appreciation or an increase in our self-esteem, when someone gives us their attention. It is an emotional gratification that makes us feel we have much worth to secure someone’s attention. Customers are sometimes like babies, they want your attention not that of a machine or automated response software. It shows you value them and appreciate their patronage.
3) Empathy: This pertains to putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, to feel their pain or disappointment. It is a great way to connect with your customers, as Professor of Psychology James Coan said: “Our self comes to include the people we feel close to.” Farriss Samarrai couldn’t have put it any better by stating: “Our self-identity is largely based on whom we know and empathize with.” Customers need empathy and you build your self-identity through showing empathy.
4) Outlet: As humans we generally crave to expel our anxiety, frustration and discontent to someone sensitive and understanding. Your customers want an outlet or a customer support agent, with whom they can express and dispel their worries. This helps them feel better and gain a new lease of hope. If they are frustrated about your product and service, it is because they care and want things to improve. They sure need an outlet to vent this frustration, a human outlet that would listen and pass things across to higher management.
5) Reassurance: Sometimes as a customer, we want the reassurance that everything would be okay. Like the train scenario, we want a member of staff to explain to us, that the train would arrive and an estimated time at which it would arrive. Reassurance calms the nerves and brightens up the customer experience- as it gives hope when anxiety and disappointment are lurking.
Machines may find it hard to emotionally connect with customers through empathy and social intelligent techniques. Al Urbanski wrote an article titled:“News Bythe: Customers still prefer the human touch.” In this article he expressed research findings carried out by TARP, which was collected from over 16 verticals and revealed that about 71% of customers prefer to communicate with companies using offline methods- I would say more human or personal than automated methods. This is because humans are better disposed to understanding emotions and having enough customer service professionals across telephone, online and retail channels, would be important in 2015. Companies that better humanize the customer experience may be slightly ahead of the competition.