In this era of the digital economy will the human interaction become less important?
No, I don’t believe that. In fact it’s quite surprising how little is written about this subject and even more so, how little time is spent on understanding how modern technology can play a role in transforming the face to face interaction to the better. I often feel empowered when using the web and my smartphone, but equally often I feel disappointed when a service provider’s brand promise is broken when I enter their premises and interact with their staff.
What is Customer Experience?
Every time a customer interacts with a company, whether by phoning, visiting a store, a branch, a hospital or any other location, seeing an ad, or visiting a web site or Facebook, it’s an experience. How people perceive that interaction is what shapes the experience to be good or bad. Companies leading customer experience excellence know that every interaction is an opportunity for them to delight their customer by fulfilling their promise.
The Business Challenge
The way businesses interact with their customers and the communication which is enabled by the digital revolution have created a shift to a customer-driven economy. This is an economy where customers have more power than they’ve ever had.
Companies have been distancing themselves from their customers for some time, removing employees from customer interactions. Contact centers first removed face-to-face interactions, and then the web in some cases started to remove the human interaction altogether.
In the physical meeting space efforts are at best made in educating the staff to become “service friendly”. Very little thought is going into how to integrate the digital customer experience with the face-to-face customer experience. The discussion about speaking with one voice in all channels often focuses on the digital channel and not the face-to-face channel or the important transition between the two.
While expediting transactions and delivery of value to the consumer, these changes have led to a loss of the critical early warning systems that tell us when a customer is unhappy – body language, conversations and true person-to-person negotiation have been replaced with passive technology, which have not typically provided companies the information needed to resolve customer issues.
Also, focusing on moving the business online makes business more alike and transparent. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to compete on anything other than on price.
What does the Customer Economy look like?
The customer economy is one where customers easily communicate beyond their immediate network. Through blogs, podcasts, social networks, video sharing, and rating sites, one customer can share their bad experience story with hundreds, thousands, and millions of people. And that story lasts forever and continues to spread, thanks to search engines.
While the internet has been empowering customers, companies have been distancing themselves from their customers. Where customers used to go to a company’s location to do business, they can now pick up the phone or log onto a Web site. This is convenient for customers and cost effective for companies, but can mean trouble when something goes wrong.
Without the face-to-face interaction, if a contact center agent fails a customer, or the Web site doesn’t work, it’s easy for that customer to hang up or leave the Web site. The company may never know what went wrong. And if the customer is frustrated enough, they can tell the world, with the company only realizing that something is wrong when it’s too late.
Obviously, companies have to understand how to deliver good customer experiences, not bad ones. But they need customers to help drive improvements in ways that are effective, and reflect a genuine interest in the customer experience. The only way to do this is to embrace the customer economy.
Manage the shift with Customer Experience Management
Customer experience management (CEM) is a strategy that helps companies manage the shift to the new customer economy by connecting companies and their customers, and by transforming the actions and voice of the customer into great interactions/meetings and actionable business intelligence. It is the practice of continuously closing the gap between an organization’s customer promise and the delivered customer experiences in the quest to create a dependable population of customer advocates.
The importance of Human Interaction will grow. People expect to get great service; people expect to meet with staff that knows something about what they are interested in, people will not accept to have service providers wasting their time. People expect to get exactly the same empowerment and ability to act in the physical environment as in the digital.
People expect the digital experience to be totally integrated with the physical experience.