Nobody is in any doubt that the right technology can bring tremendous advantage to every function with an organisation, not least customer management.
Here, technology can substantially reduce the cost of managing the customer experience, by delivering data-driven insights that help to build an informed understanding of the customer base; by enabling interactions across multiple platforms – online, digital and direct; and by automating standard customer queries.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that automation has its limits. The fact remains that most people want to speak to a real person at some point, and usually that point is a critical one.
Failure to recognise the value of the human touch in today’s digital era is demonstrated in the way many companies are striving (somewhat blindly) to adopt artificial intelligence tools such as chatbots.
>See also: What is customer identity access management?
Few firms have applied an analytical methodology to properly assess whether (and how) these advanced technologies will deliver measurable commercial payback in terms of customer management.
In their recent report on the subject, Forrester Research goes as far as stating that such deployments do not have the customer experience at heart and that all too frequently “hot tech leaves humans in the cold”.
Recent research from Yonder Digital Group conducted independently among 1000 UK consumers across a range of industries investigated several key components of customer management and shed interesting light on the issue of live interaction within the customer journey.
87% of the research base said that they stay more loyal and are more likely to increase their business with a firm that offers a live agent to speak to when necessary. The commercial benefits go beyond customer retention; startlingly, 69% said that they take their business elsewhere if their efforts to get through to a real person are in vain.
Evidently, automating the process of customer management in its totality does not just lead to frustrated customers but to paying the ultimate price – losing them to competitors who better fulfil their requirements.
‘I tend to stay more loyal and increase my business with companies who offer a real person to talk to when I need it’ – 87%.
‘I tend to stay more loyal and increase my business with companies who offer a choice of ways of getting in touch with them’ – 84%.
‘I tend to stay more loyal and increase my business with companies who resolve my queries and enquiries quickly and effectively, however I get in touch with them’ – 92%
‘If I can’t get through to a real person when I have a query with a company, I tend to take my business elsewhere’ – 69%.
‘If my queries aren’t answered quickly and effectively by a company, I tend to take my business elsewhere’ – 81%.
>See also: 5 layers of customer identity
Research respondents deemed having a choice of channels by which to get hold of a company as almost as important (84%) as having live customer service agents. This is not simply about a woolly feel-good factor.
Giving customers a choice in how they make contact brings the highly tangible commercial reward of retaining them as customers, and even encouraging them to increase their spending.
What this research proves is that good (and bad) customer experience management has a direct effect on the bottom-line, influencing retention and defection levels.
Given that these metrics are relatively easy to measure and track, this should attract the attention of those company board directors who have expressed scepticism about the return on investment achievable from customer management initiatives.
In fact, it is senior management who sometimes hold the view that technology is an all-encompassing solution in the customer service function.
But as the research findings imply, it is rare that automation presents a silver bullet, especially as it is usually at the most sensitive moment that customers reach for the phone – to complain, for instance, or to make a non-standard enquiry which requires real-life diplomacy and people management skills.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, investment in automated customer management tools can certainly deliver huge value in many areas. Indeed technology is imperative to allow organisations to track, monitor and analyse customer behaviour so that they can understand the customer journey across all channels, pinpoint where automated systems are suitable, and where live agents should step in.
The pioneering companies who have mastered this balance between traditional and digital are those that then harness their customer management system to feed up-to-date customer information to their agents, empowering them to deliver informed responses, resolve problems seamlessly or nudge the customer towards a sale.
Taking a systematic approach to understanding (and improving) the customer journey is the foundation for informed decision-making about the role technology plays within the wider customer management strategy.
As the research demonstrates, companies must aspire to customer experience excellence because it has such a positive, substantial effect on customer retention, which ultimately translates into increased sales and revenues.
Sourced by Graham Ede, Yonder Digital Group
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