Including the Human Element in Tech-Driven Customer Service

Monica Eaton-Cardone

May 02, 2016

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A new trend in our tech-driven, instant-gratification world is customer self-service. Businesses and service providers are looking for technologies that help consumers help themselves - ATMs, ticket kiosks, self-checkout lines, mobile food and drink order app, NFC, payment wallets, and more.

However, these new capabilities make it easy to become overly dependent on technology. We tend to overlook the fact that there is still great value in the human element.

To create a definitively gratifying customer experience, personal interactions should always be the underlying current of tech-based solutions.

Here's how to do it.

1. Don't Assume All Customers Are Tech-Savvy

Not every person is equally tech-savvy, and what may seem like a simple interface to one person may be impossibly confusing to another.

Think about when airlines first rolled out the self-service check-in kiosks back in the early 2000s. At the time, they ran into a multitude of problems stemming from the fact that they had few, if any, employees available to assist customers.

The simple fact that no one was on hand to help, if help was needed, likely induced unnecessary fear, confusion, and frustration.

Effective customer service needs to be dynamic. It offers a variety of different paths for each individual customer to arrive at a satisfying result.

2. Remember That Technology is Not Infallible

There is one simple, and fairly obvious, reason why businesses cannot have an over-reliance on technology: sometimes technology fails.

Servers go down, touchscreens break, POS terminals freeze up-no technology is absolutely foolproof.

To avoid total reliance on technology, a situation that can leave you in the lurch, design low-tech alternatives as a fallback option.

3. Don't Overlook Functionality for the Sake of Futurism

Though a house may be built on a solid foundation, the foundation's function is merely to facilitate the house's grander purpose-which is to provide a home to the homeowner.

Similarly, while a self-service platform may be constructed with a technological foundation, keep in mind that it's not about the technology-it's about serving the customer.

The point is not to make customers believe that you are the most technologically advanced company in the world because you're embracing automation as widely as possible. Rather, the goal is to offer customers top-notch services, provided through a variety of different channels that are tailored to their needs.

Always rely on business best practices and personal attention first, then consider which channels might be streamlined by full-service approaches.

4. Consider Consumer Preferences

The goal of technology-enabled customer service is usually to streamline processes and ultimately, enhance profitability. However, businesses will see limited ROI if the technology doesn't fulfil that goal. And technology won't serve its purpose if the target audience isn't ready to receive it.

Take Pizza Hut, for example. They recently shared a video announcing the release of a tabletop ordering system. Dine-in customers use a touch-screen tabletop to order their pizza and then pay the tab with NFC capabilities on their phone. No human contact is required.

As impressive as this technology is, it is an expensive solution to a problem that doesn't exist. In a Wall Street Journal article, Pizza Hut explained how they are building smaller stores in an effort to optimize their delivery and carry-out services. Therefore, their new technology serves a demographic they don't really have.

A high-tech customer service experience will only generate ROI if it is well received by its users.

5. Be a Human

Consumers who prefer the human experience, despite easy and convenient high-tech options, do so because they enjoy the personal connection. So, be a human-not a human acting like a robot.

Have personality, show empathy, and be polite. Fill the role the customer wants you to fill, and remember that grumpy or rude humans added to technology isn't a better situation than technology without humans.

Just because humans are involved doesn't mean the process needs to be inefficient. Review your policies and practices; look for ways to improve the customer experience without resorting to impersonal technologies.

Technological advancements are just that-advancements. Innovation won't cease to exist. However, the usefulness and effectiveness of this technology will depend on its implementation.

If implemented properly, technology can be a great tool to streamline the customer experience and boost productivity, freeing up manpower for more useful, creative activities. However, it's important to maintain a balance between this new tech-driven efficiency and good, old-fashioned customer service.

Author Bio:

Monica Eaton-Cardone is an author, speaker and international entrepreneur. She's launched numerous business ventures, identifying a need and creating the necessary technologies to fill the void. She currently serves as COO of Chargebacks911, a chargeback prevention service provider, and CIO of its parent company, Global Risk Technologies. Monica excels at developing innovative, dynamic solutions that mitigate risk and optimize profitability. Find Monica on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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