Customer service technology has advanced in leaps and bounds over the past decade, and so has what our customers expect of us. Our customer outcomes are no longer measured against the shop up the road; with the advances in technology, the launch of companies such as Amazon and Netflix, with clever mobile apps and endless pools of data available at the click of a button.
Successful businesses understand that harnessing the right technologies is crucial to driving customer loyalty, and the long-term survival of a brand within a technologically led data-rich environment. But the key is often not in technology alone; how it’s blended with the human aspect of your business.
Outcomes are now measured against the best customer experiences that our customers have ever come across – the bar has been raised across every industry and every location.
Finding the right balance between customer-facing staff, and automation can help propel your business into the upper echelons of customer experience providers, so what might that look like?
What role does technology play within the customer journey?
Customer support is no longer just about putting a smile on your face or communicating clearly.
Advances in technology and the ability to access customer data instantaneously mean that we’re now able to provide more consistent, faster services to our customers without increasing employee headcount.
By utilising technology in our back office processes, our CRM systems and even in employee training, we’re able to enhance our service offering and provide a smoother all-round customer experience.
Not only that, but with advances in artificial intelligence, we can learn more about our customers, what works for them, and when they feel frustrated – without actually having to survey them.
Advanced technology is becoming more accessible to businesses of all sizes, so it doesn’t have to cost the earth to implement solutions that will benefit your customers.
Some solutions even come with free basic packages such as CRM systems for start-ups and small businesses that help to automate certain elements – making new technologies available to even more companies.
Is it always a good idea to try and move to a more technological way of working?
We’ve summarised some key pros and cons of going down the tech route for customer experience.
What are the advantages of using technology?
Clearly there are benefits to using technology in customer experience – the world’s biggest companies can’t be completely wrong on this topic (although based on some of the CX nightmares we hear about, you’d be forgiven for thinking they are!).
Most of the benefits can be broadly characterised as ‘efficiency measures’ – we’ll go into some of the specifics below:
- With the right technology in place, business processes can be automated cutting down the number of physical hours a human needs to work on something
#2 Ease of reporting
- Reporting of data can be streamlined, and much easier to interpret with advances in software like Power BI
#3 Cost reduction
- With automation can come money savings, whether it’s through a reduction in unnecessary headcount, or just swifter service provision enabling faster call handling
- The recent advances in artificial intelligence have opened up clever plug-ins such as voice analytics, and chatbots that help as opposed to tying customers in knots.
- It’s now easier than ever before to reach your customers in a way that is convenient to them, the data available, the multiple options for contact
- Voice of the customer technology has improved hugely over the last decade, it’s now easier to obtain the right feedback and usable data on the best way to put your customer at the heart of experience design
#7 Empowered consumers
- Technology enables customers to self-serve and find their own solutions. It gives them more choice on how they want to interact with us, whether that’s mobile apps, call centres, online services or face-to-face customer support.
What are the disadvantages of using technology?
As with all things technological – it’s great when it works and a nightmare when it doesn’t! When humans make mistakes there can be an apology, and customers tend to be understanding. When technology fails, customers will see it as greedy companies making cost-saving measures at the expense of their customers…
#1 Not meeting customer expectations
- Often if a customer clicks into live chat they expect to talk to a human, being met with a chatbot can induce immediate feelings of dissatisfaction
#2 Loss of jobs
- With advances in AI and automation, more jobs are becoming redundant. That might be a good thing for companies in the short term, but long term there will be an impact on the economy which impacts businesses too.
#3 Employee wellbeing
- This can be a pro if used correctly, but it’s also worth being aware that introducing lots of change can feel unsettling for individuals so change should be managed carefully to avoid any damage to culture and morale.
- Some businesses fall into the trap of automating as much as possible, instead of finding out from customers which elements of services can be automated, and which would detract from their experience. This can lead to a loss of loyalty with clients and employees. A good example of this would be implementing a chatbot but not taking the time to do so properly, causing a dead-end in the customer experience.
- No matter how hard you try to make it work, a computer won’t empathise like a real human, and sometimes that’s all our customers actually want from us. Don’t make the mistake of thinking humans are less important – the right balance is crucial to your customer’s experience.
Employees in customer experiences
People make a place, people buy from people, and you’re only as good as your weakest link – countless sayings actually tell us how important our employees are to our business, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that technology can replace a real-life human.
There are still so many pros to having people at every stage of the customer journey.
What are the advantages of human interaction in customer experiences?
Humans have empathy, machines and technology can have pre-programmed answers and solutions; sometimes human interaction can make the world of a difference. People can tend to relate to people, some more than others. Having the right level of customer service can impact your customer experience profusely.
#1 The human touch
- Sometimes you just want to talk to a real human, to have someone listen who understands. That can’t be replicated by any technology.
- In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2026, 75% of customers will call customer service teams and support due to loneliness, rather than a genuine service need.
- With experience comes the knowledge that is hard to replicate digitally. Whilst AI is capable of learning and adapting as it answers questions, building a knowledge base that enables employees to share their experiences with others can be a great tool, especially if your teams work remotely.
#3 Intelligent answers
- Sometimes customers call with a genuine conundrum that needs a few people to put their heads together. Teamwork really can make the dream work when it comes to problem-solving!
#4 Cultural alignment
- If you’ve employed values-based training for your employees, then their behaviours, their customer relationship management, and their natural responses to customers will be consistent and filled with the values you want to be known for.
#5 Building a trusted brand
- People are more likely to feel trust in a brand with helpful employees. A digital experience no matter how smooth, won’t lead to as strong an emotional connection as talking to a friendly and helpful human.
#6 Expert insights and Innovation
- A front-line customer service agent will see customer challenges day in and day out, getting them involved in innovations that help fix customer issues is a great use of the human resource you have in your team and makes for excellent customer service.
What are the disadvantages of human interaction in customer experience?
As humans making mistakes is inevitable and through these mistakes we can learn from them to do better and progress. Here are the ways in which human interaction can drawback your customer experience strategy.
#1 Human error
- No matter how well you train your customer service team we’re all only human, and from time to time we’ll make mistakes. This is less likely to happen where there are automation. Don’t panic though, most customer interactions that go wrong can still be salvaged with an apology and a little bit of proactive help.
#2 Time waste
- Even with all of the tools available to agents on the phone, or behind the scenes, some parts of the job will take more time purely because they are done by a human and not a computer. Our advice here is to automate the things that help your agents do their work faster but don’t seek to replace them as they are so valuable to the customer service experience.
#3 Sickness and disciplinary
- In any business, humans have equal potential for HR issues such as sickness or disciplinary action that you simply don’t get from technology. That said, by using technology to actually improve the employee experience and make your team’s life easier, you’ll likely improve culture and morale so could end up with happier staff, and fewer issues.
#4 A lack of empathy
- This is a double-edged sword. No one expects empathy from a chatbot, but they do from a human, so if they chat to a human who shows a lack of empathy their expectations won’t be met and it can lead to dissatisfaction. Showing empathy in all communication is of critical importance.
Technology vs Employees- which plays a more important role?
This question is a bit of a red herring, neither can work without the other so it’s less about which is more important to your business, your consumers and your business’s readiness to stay ahead of competitors, but more about what’s the right balance.
Striking the right balance between tech and the human touch could be a game changer for your company.
Customers want value from the companies they interact with. They are more likely to be loyal to companies who invest in their services to add features that make a customer’s life easier, whether that’s live chat, omnichannel technologies or interactive knowledge bases to enable self-service.
But they want to be able to communicate with a real human if any of that technology either doesn’t work as it should, or their enquiry is more complex.
With advancing technologies, the ability to service customers has evolved. More businesses are embracing technology behind the scenes to free up the customer facing staff to ensure they have the resource and the time to resolve customer issues.
In conclusion – The future of technology in customer service
The future of technology in customer experience is vast. Customer data, tools available to brands to communicate with their customers, ways to interpret data, speed up service and create a smoother digital journey will all add to your business and your customer experience toolkit.
But it’s the people behind the tech putting personality into social media, using their knowledge and experience to innovate and empathise that will continue to build the strongest loyalty.
Technology helps make life easier for customers and employees, but it’s never going to replace the need for real people.
The importance of having humans at the heart of your business looking after your clients can not be overstated.
Technology can be used to great effect, reaching consumers where they find it convenient, harnessing tech to be proactive with customer management, freeing up valuable customer support agents, collecting and analysing data, as well as to understand the best communication channels to use are all great examples of technology fuels customer experience that helps your brand stand out from the crowd.