Why Digital and Direct Customer Interaction Isn’t An Either/Or for Businesses

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To stay competitive, companies today are in a race to innovate. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning promise to keep them growing revenues and retaining customers While just over a third of organizations use AI, a survey conducted by Oracle and the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), found that 85 percent said they would like to see their businesses adopt it or expand its use.

It’s long been theorized that automation and digital technology could replace people, but with customer experience as a key differentiator, increased technology adoption means customer service professionals only become more important.

New research shows that 74 percent of customers are more loyal to a company if they can speak to a person rather than only having access to digital or self-service channels. And half of survey respondents said they don’t trust their issue will be addressed if they don’t have the option to speak to a person.

The ability to anticipate how new technologies will impact the customer experience is critical because even in a digital world, customer loyalty is driven by the human connection.

Chatbots can’t replace humans
Getting quick questions answered by an online chatbot is efficient. But in emotionally-charged situations when a chatbot doesn’t cut it, companies must also offer customers quick and easy access to a customer service representative. Without the option to speak to a human when a customer needs it most, a business’s reputation can suffer. Nearly half of respondents said they would consider switching to a competitor if they are not given an option to speak with a person, while 37 percent said they would question the legitimacy of the company. Companies must be present on the right channels at all times to assist customers when they need it most.

Technology alone doesn’t solve every problem
Customers understand that innovation is necessary, and most agree that technology can help improve the customer experience. But the latest technology means little to consumers if they don’t see direct benefits. Nearly half think innovation is only important if it improves customer service. When customers don’t see value, technology becomes a source of frustration. Instead of chasing the latest digital trends for the sake of innovation, businesses must take a step back and listen intently to customers.

Digital tools must make employees stronger
While technology must benefit the customer, it needs to also make life easier on the employees. When that happens, everyone wins: forty-one percent of contact center agents agree that new technology frees humans from administrative and routine tasks. This freedom empowers employees to do what they do best, which is listen and empathize with customers. Given that over half of customers believe their voices are heard when they speak to a live person, employees must be equipped with the right tools to provide efficient service when customers call on them for help.

In a technology-driven world, companies shouldn’t favor digital interactions over direct customer communication. Those tools should work in tandem with agents to provide a personalized experience. Implementing the right strategy starts with listening to customers across all channels—whether that’s online, via text or on the phone. With these insights, businesses can innovate with purpose.

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