You May Be Digital, I Am Still Human

There is no doubt that contacting the organisations we do business with has become considerably easier since the birth of the contact centre and the explosion of digital channels and self-service platforms. But does this ease of access actually translate into better customer service? We are not convinced.

There is a newly created complexity that means that it often feels like the onus is on us customers to do all the hard work – self-service is a wonderful thing when it’s intuitive and slick, but so often it’s clunky, creaky and, frankly, exhausting.

Too much time is wasted by machines like the supermarket self-service tills, with an argumentative machine demanding you place non-existent goods in the bagging area, or voice recognition systems that don’t recognise your voice.

But we also use self-service sometimes as a way of avoiding the pain of one-to-one interactions that don’t meet our needs. As a customer, several years ago I stopped contacting my bank unless absolutely essential – is that what they wanted when they created online banking and sent their contact centre activity overseas? Maybe they didn’t care, but I did soon switch to a bank with whom I could hold a reasonable conversation when the need arose.

Imparta’s own insight generated findings that perhaps in some ways are unsurprising –customers still value and expect traditional service delivery that recognises us as people with human needs first, and customers second.

We want service with a focus on relationship, efficiency and value, whatever channel is our access point to an organisation. The priority is to achieve resolution with the minimum of effort, but us consumers still want and expect to be treated like a VIP and a real human being while this is happening.

This sounds reassuringly simple – however, in truth it is not. Rarely does an organisation have the ability to deliver this customer experience consistently across large service centres and multiple channels. Even those that think they have cracked it will get it wrong when demand spikes or a new failure point is inadvertently created in their customer journey.

One could argue that introducing new technology in isolation will do almost nothing to improve customer service for us in these terms.

We remain pretty resolute, and the telephone still holds the number one spot for how we prefer to get in touch when something needs to be sorted out. Companies need to continue to find ways to ensure they have the right people at the ready who can deliver consistently brilliant conversations every hour of every day.

What matters is ensuring the people doing these essential jobs understand and care about what we really want, know what that conversation should sound like, and that they are given the skills and support to have that brilliant conversation with us.