Use Technology to Enhance, Not Replace, Service
Marketing automation. Real-time analytics. Chat bots. New technologies like these have created some tremendous capabilities in marketing, customer service, and the customer experience. But as I was reminded by several posts this past month, we must not become so enamored with technology-enabled service that we forget our first love must be our customers. We shouldn’t rely on technology over common sense. Here are a few points that I read about the importance of using technology to enhance, not replace, service.
In When It Comes To Customer Experience, Consistency Is As Important As Innovation, John Sills writes about the need to always deliver on basic customer needs before engineering some new experience dimension.
“Companies are always trying to work out what The Next Big thing is…[but] they miss the things that don’t change. The constant threads that run through life. The things that people really care about, whether they know it or not… These threads exist in every industry. Airlines – get me there safely and on time. Restaurants – give me food that tastes good. Banks – keep my money safe and secure. Utilities – keep my lights on and water running. These are all industries that have played around endlessly with how to deliver their products & services to customers, with some brilliant innovations. But ultimately, unless those core needs are met, everything else is insignificant…Obsessively monitoring Twitter and overweighting the opinion of the outraged and techno-dazzled can cause companies to miss or forget about the consistent, necessary, and often unexciting threads that form the backbone of their offering.”
Micah Solomon describes some of his recent customer service experiences in Stupid Touchpoints Are Worse Than No Touchpoints In Customer Service And Customer Experience. He relayed one particularly frustrating scenario in which technology-enable service that was supposed to delight him ended up doing the exact opposite. “Just as I got to my room, a text on my phone offering to help me, directly, with any needs I had. (‘My name is Rosa [not her actual name]; please just text me if you need anything at all and it will be my pleasure to take care of it for you, Mr. Solomon.’) When, in fact, I did need something, and pronto (I had left my iPad in the room and was texting from the cab en route to the airport), I took my texty friend Rosa up on the offer, texting ‘her’ to find out if they had found my device. Did Rosa text back ‘Absolutely, let me check?’ Nope. She texted back, and I quote, ‘You need to call Security.’”
Disney is an example of a company using technology the right way. Evan Carroll writes about the Disney Operational Command Center in Real-Time Response: Creating Customer Experience Magic. “Technicians there are watching wait times at every Magic Kingdom attraction and deploying various tactics to alleviate congestion in real-time…[If they are alerted about increased the wait time at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride], they might respond by alerting managers to launch more boats. Another option involves dispatching Captain Jack Sparrow or Goofy or one of their pals to the queue to entertain people as they wait…By monitoring and responding in real time, Disney can manage wait times and provide a less congested experience for customers. Waiting is a fact of life at any theme park. However Disney’s monitoring and responsiveness enables them to keep guests happy by maximizing capacity, directing flow through the park, and providing entertainment in those moments when waiting is inevitable.”
Zach Heller provides a good takeaway. In Marketing Myths – Automation is Always Better, he writes, “The human touch is still important to most customers. People don’t buy from emails, they don’t buy from websites, they don’t buy from machines. People buy from people. Not in every case, but in some cases…In our rush to automate everything, it can be tempting to ignore the devil’s advocate who we see as afraid of change. But I’m here to tell you that there are some things that should not be automated. The companies that find the right balance of automation and human touch will win out.” [emphasis mine]