For everyone who tosses an iPhone in disgust or screams when Instagram is down, there are legions of people who praise technology—particularly for its ability to provide better customer service.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) advances; programs that analyze and target messages to the right consumers, in the right amounts; and just software that puts a customers information at the fingertips of a telephone support agent—all are helping to smooth the confluence between tech and service.
So why is it that it sometimes, technology actually deprecates the customer experience? And what can be done about this?
Here are three anecdotal experiences that created genuine pain among customers:
Indeed, this experience got even worse. Behind the counter, our customer observed five people servicing customers, while two were standing behind them—doing nothing. So, not only were people seemingly being called out of order, but two people were simply idling—seemingly not caring about the full room in front of them and average wait times of an hour or longer. Meanwhile, customers are talking among themselves about how bad their experience is and feeling like they are in the dark. Tension and frustration fills the room.
Now, it might seem to you that I’ve made up these examples since they are so very bad. But in fact they are all real. Why? How could it be this bad?
What connects all of these experiences is the stark reality that all are likely the result of an organization that is focused more on their internal needs than their customers. And that starts with leadership and strategy.
Let’s go back to example one. It turns out that at this service center, each of the agents is specialized, meaning that they each only perform one or two types of actions. So, when the only person there who does what you need is busy, you have to wait. And, though it seems that other people are being called ahead of you, they are simply being serviced by someone with their particular needs in mind. Companies that operate this way would argue that their approach is easier for the organization offering the service – they only have to train one of five of their staff members on the particular specialty in question.
If this was a customer-focused organization, the outcome would be quite different. First, they would cross train all five people, so any one can offer any type of service. Sure, it’s more work, and yes, it costs more money. But this organization needs to think about its customer, not itself. How do we make it easy for them? Because if we do, and it’s a great experience, they will come back—again and again.
So, once the company cross trains, they can now pick customers in order—first-come, first-served. This builds confidence in the process among customers, who can be remarkably forgiving and patient when they know what the game is, what the rules are, and if they are being applied fairly. Conversely, customers can be equally impatient and unforgiving when they don’t understand the process. So a customer-focused organization would fix the process and build confidence as the first priority.
How about the second example. Could there be internal reasons for such a poor credit card authorization process? Perhaps. But why create such a pain point for customers in the first place? In fact, consumers poised at the checkouts find that the poor credit card system is universally hated, even by regulars. What would a customer-focused organization do? Fix it! Maybe it’s a legacy system, or perhaps it simply was a mistake that needs to be fixed and corrected. But doesn’t it make sense to make it EASY for your customers to BUY SOMETHING from you?
And for self checkout, if your system isn’t efficient, don’t offer it until it is. Or perhaps limit it to an express offering of five items or less, where the delay per item isn’t so onerous. But once again, the customer-focused organization knows what is unsatisfactory to the customer, and puts that viewpoint first.
You get the idea. Chief Outsiders works with many clients to help build a customer-focused strategy and team. How about your company? Whether or not you can identify the source of the technology-gone-bad, its more important to make a commitment to change. No one, I hope, has purposely tried to build a bad experience. But these things can be fixed. And when they are, the underlying technology can be a huge enabler of a great seamless customer transaction experience that builds high loyalty and consistent repeat business. Isn’t that where you want to be with your customers?