5 ways technology can strengthen customer service (without losing the human touch)


While the internet and smartphone revolution may not have re-written the rulebook, it’s certainly moved the goalposts as far as customer service is concerned. So how can you use technology to your advantage and make your customers get great service before, during and after a sale?

With customer expectations higher than ever, and the number of service touchpoints growing all the time, Guy Myles – CEO and co-founder of independent financial advice and investment company Flying Colours – has collected together his top five tips for great service through technology:

Get yourself a CRM system

A customer relationship management system (CRM) is like a combined diary, contacts book and personal assistant all rolled into one. Although it may not be useful if you only have a handful of clients, it’s nothing short of essential for almost all other companies. Punch in your customer’s details and up comes their full history: purchases, complaints and every communication there’s ever been between you and your customer.

>See also: Machines: a new breed of customer service agents

CRM systems can be set to schedule time-bound communications, such as subscription renewal notices, marketing campaigns, or selling to a customer who hasn’t shopped with your for a while.

Use smart online chat tools (bots)

From the now defunct Microsoft Messenger to Skype, Facebook and now WhatsApp and SnapChat, private messaging has always been one of the internet’s most popular uses. In fact, 73% of shoppers prefer live chat above any other communication – and technology is here to help once again.

Not only is it easy to open live chat boxes when customers are on your website, new artificial intelligence tools mean you can start chatting to website visitors straight away. And all without a human being involved until absolutely necessary.

Outsource the right parts of your service offering

Some businesses can outsource their service departments to specialist third-party organisations. This frees you from the complicated and costly process of hiring and training employees, so it’s worth considering if you’re in a niche industry, or need to keep expansion plans modest for a while.

>See also: Customer service must go mobile in the Uber era

Embrace social media as a service channel

You should be doing this already – using social media channels to field customer support requests. It can be time-intensive, but you can easily train your existing service and sales teams to apply their skills to your social channels. Using social as a service channel is a great opportunity delight your customers and improve brand loyalty.

Don’t rely on technology (…use it as a tool)

A cautionary tale from my own world of independent financial advice. One of the biggest developments in the finance industry over the last decade has been the rise of ‘robo- advisors’. These companies claim to offer lower-cost financial advice by reducing or removing the input from human financial advisors and instead delivering advice through software, rule-based processes and artificial intelligence.

>See also: Why social media should form part of any customer service strategy

Some automation, such as marketing campaigns for customer acquisition and retention and chatbots for service handling, can drive down costs and improve results. But go too far – like the robo-advisors – and you’ll start seeing trust problems. Potential customers are much more likely to trust a vendor if they can interact with a real human. Consequently, robo-advisors have found their market penetration to be greatly limited.

The most successful companies are those which use technology to complement their customer service and sales teams, not replace them. In short: automate what you can, but never lose that human touch.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...