When technology becomes a dissatisfier in your customer relationship


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Let your people shine

In the customer relationship of the future, when it comes to creating an emotional bond with consumers, your people will be the ones to really shine through their unique blend of creativity, empathy and passion. These are all qualities that computers are unable to replicate. It is important to let your staff excel in the things they are good at. There is a trend nowadays to overload staff with all kinds of technological aids to ‘optimize’ their relationships with customers. After all, it is logical to assume that a salesperson with an iPad will be better able to help customers, just as it is logical to assume that carrying out a computer simulation with a customer will increase the likelihood of a sale. Logical – but also wrong. An article in the Journal of Marketing (2014, Journal of Marketing, Michael Giebelhausen, Stacey G. Robinson, Nancy J. Sirianni, & Michael K. Brady, Touch Versus Tech: When Technology Functions as a Barrier) has shown that customer satisfaction with regard to contact with staff depends on the presence or absence of an emotional ‘click’. Technology actually forms a barrier that prevents this ‘click’ from taking place. Customer satisfaction is lower when dealing with technology-aided staff than with staff who help customers with conventional means. The best emotional relationships between people are forged in the absence of technology so let your people shine. Let them be the stars of the new type of customer relationship. If they don’t need technology to do their job properly then don’t force it on them! Technology-free moments provide the best opportunity for meaningful human interaction. Nowadays, computer simulations are often made to draw up offers for people wanting to buy a car. Before it gets to that stage, though, it is advisable to let a salesman show the customer the actual car. In many cases, the salesman’s enthusiasm will make all the difference.

Technology is not bad, of course

Of course, these conclusions don’t mean that technology has an adverse effect on the modern customer relationship. That would run contrary to everything that we all feel and hear about every day. The key is to only use technology when it offers genuine added value. It is not necessary or beneficial to use technological aids in every stage of the customer contact. The few remaining moments of human customer contact should remain exactly that: human. When used injudiciously, technological support can frequently have an adverse effect. Consciously seeking to create pure and genuine connections between people within the context of the customer relationship is the only way to generate true added value.

Talk about both sides of the scale

Most companies assume they’ve got the people side of business figured out. In some cases this is even true, or rather: it was. Things are changing and in the future, many tasks will be automated. Computers will take over a lot of the operational human work and when that happens, we will go through a transformation of human skills as well. This implies you need to talk about both sides of the coin. Talk about the digital stuff but also talk about the moments when technology has no place in the customer relationship. Looking for moments of strictly human interaction (without technology) with a customer is a very smart thing to do these days. At a time when genuine human contact is becoming ever more scarce, it is also becoming increasingly valuable. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Van Belleghem
Steven Van Belleghem is inspirator at B-Conversational. He is an inspirator, a coach and gives strategic advice to help companies better understand the world of conversations, social media and digital marketing. In 2010, he published his first book The Conversation Manager, which became a management literature bestseller and was awarded with the Marketing Literature Prize. In 2012, The Conversation Company was published. Steven is also part time Marketing Professor at the Vlerick Management School. He is a former managing partner of the innovative research agency InSites Consulting.


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