Digital vs. Humanized Customer Experience: Striking a Balance

Technology has transformed customer service as we know it, making it more possible than ever to resolve a problem on multiple channels with self-service options. Customers and contact centers alike are able to save time, agents increase productivity, brands drive sales, and customers are ideally satisfied with the wealth of customer service options at their disposal. But where exactly does this satisfaction come from? And is 100% digital the answer to the future of customer service, or should we keep a human touch?Without question, research has proven that self-service options are appealing to customers. A Gartner study found that 72% of customers enjoy self-service when a contact center employs efficient technology, and 65% engage on multiple channels. Self-service features such as IVR have made it easier for customers to engage with a brand, and the ever-growing popularity of social media platforms for customer service shows that consumers embrace the idea of using technology for quick yet efficient service.However, statistics also suggest that it’s not technology alone that drives customer satisfaction. A 2014 Contact Center Satisfaction Index found that 57% of consumers still prefer to use the voice channel, as was also reported the previous year in the same study. In addition, a study conducted by CX Act Inc., a customer experience improvement firm, found that over half the customers surveyed preferred to contact a brand by phone as they found it best for resolving issues, using other channels to a much lesser degree. The study also found that the rise in calling agents was mostly attributed to a failure in email responses to the customer—agents taking too long to resolve issues or failing to do so thoroughly. A Consumer Reports study paints a similar picture: 67% of customers have hung up the phone when unable to talk to a real person, while a RightNow study found that 73% of customers believe that a friendly customer service agent can make them love a brand.Customers may therefore embrace technology, but brands cannot afford to fail them with faulty channels and slow responses. Customers still need the human touch when a situation is too complex to handle, a problem is taking too much time, or even when needing convincing that a brand is worth it at all. For example, the older consumer generation may prefer voice, as customer service has traditionally been conducted via telephone. Other consumers may not think they receive good enough service on other channels, especially if a contact center has not optimized its services across all channels. Complex issues may need to be discussed and can’t always be resolved through self-service or switching to a text-based channel, so customers may turn to voice.If customer service is to involve showing empathy and appreciation for a customer’s issue–what most companies strive for these days–brands must not neglect all the touchpoints where human service counts the most: giving customers a live agent to solve a difficult problem when needed, training agents to be positive and sensitive to a customer’s needs while offering personalized options, remembering that actual humans are behind social messaging so agents should be conversational and approachable, and embracing such channels as video chat to give customers a face-to-face service experience. For marketing purposes, customers should see the human face of a brand as well: video testimonials for a brand, stories documenting the brand’s history, and video tutorials featuring actual employees are all ways to show customers that a brand is not just customer-centric but people-centric. It’s not just about business; it’s a communal appreciation for a brand’s values.Customers want great service, and digital continues to play a dominant role in delivering seamless experiences. Nonetheless, brands should not underestimate the power of the personal touch in customer service, as customers often desire the empathy, reassurance, and knowledge of another human being when engaging with a brand. Learn about Vocalcom contact center solutions for a great omnichannel customer experience.

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