The Choice between Customer Service and Technology

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Choose Two Out of ThreeA recent article on RetailWire.com posed a question about which of two customer loyalty strategies delivered greater ROI. Is it a customer service experience, or is it technology that integrates ease, simplicity and speed into the product? My answer to this is simple: Both!

Technology is amazing. Customer service is amazing. When you marry the two of them, you can have a winning combination. But, consider this: A great technological system can’t replace good old fashioned customer service. And in most industries using technology to enhance the customer’s experience shouldn’t be overlooked.

For example, I believe that Amazon.com is a great technology company. Even if you never interact with an employee, you feel like you receive great service, until the technology fails. But even when it does fail, it’s a simple matter of picking up the phone and dealing with one of Amazon’s very helpful customer service representatives. Amazon recognizes that even with their amazing system, they need the backup of the human support. And, by the way, when the customer is taken care of by the Amazon employee, they feel an even stronger connection.

I recently traveled to Singapore and stayed at a hotel that was as technologically advanced as any hotel I’d ever stayed at. There was an option for self-service check in to avoid any lines. The keys to the room didn’t need to be inserted into the door handle. Just hold the key anywhere near the door handle and the door unlocks. They had high speed elevators, clocks that wirelessly connected to your smartphone and much more. But all of that technology used to enhance my customer experience would have meant nothing if the hotel employees weren’t friendly and engaging. And by the way, they were.

A long time ago I sat in on a sales presentation where the sales rep told his customer about the benefits that his company could offer. He said they offered great customer service, speed and price. Then he added that the customer could choose two of those three.

Maybe that was acceptable twenty years ago. But today, that doesn’t fly. The customer expects, and even demands, all three. Customer service is a non-negotiable. Speed has become a standard expectation. Price is the variable, and while maybe not necessarily the lowest price, the customer must feel that the price they pay is in line with the value they receive.

The most competitive companies in any industry focus on a customer experience that includes the human factor. This is some engagement that is friendly and customer-focused, and many times is enhanced by technology.

So the answer to the question posed at the beginning is simple. You don’t offer the customer a choice between technology that offers “ease, simplicity or speed” or a better customer service experience. You must offer it all.

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