When technology replaces human touch!

albert-einstein-fear-technology-surpass-human-interaction-generation-idiots

Prologue: I am writing this article given the recent mishap which I had with online buying of products with one of the leading online retailers. Those who read that post will also know which one I am talking about. I am glad that they have picked up the products and have refunded us for the same. But while in process with current business model and some more, I felt that power of technology & internet is a boon but it needs to be balanced with human touch. What I am thinking today, the Genius (Albert Einstein) thought ages back!

 

When technology replaces human touch!

  • How many times has it happened that while making payments due to server issues money gets deducted from your account but it doesn’t show with any of the parties involved?
  • How many times after buying a product from retailer you kept on getting juggled between brand you bought and the retailer from where you bought it for post sales issues?
  • How many times have we felt super frustrated with IVRs as they don’t suggest the required options?
  • How many times you just lost it, when you have been kept on perpetual holds and keep getting transferred from one personnel to another for a simple complaint or query of yours?
  • How many times does the call center guy says “Sorry Sir/ Ma’am, it is not possible”?
  • How many times while taking the flights did you feel that the airhostess is wearing a fake smile?

Well, I had such experiences once or more than once with reputed as well as growing brands. So, what is the common theme here?

Over dependence on technology & processes orientation than customer centricity!

Let’s take the issues one by one and see what could have been done to avoid grievance or resolution of grievances

Issue 1: Too many party’s involved:

  • How many times has it happened that while making payments due to server issues payment has got deducted and it doesn’t show with any of the parties involved?
  • How many times after buying a product from retailer you kept on getting juggled between brand you bought and the retailer from where you bought it?

A classical case when on a virtual platform too many parties are involved in a payment system or purchase of a product or service!

In such a case, mismanagement by one of the party results into a bad experience for customers but the one who gets blamed is front ending brand. Examples:

  1. Any of the online market places, they have a limited control over the quality of product/ services sold online. If product turns out to be bad one, we attribute it to the front ending brand.
  2. If we try to make payments via third party payment system or payment gateways and due to server issues the payment is not showing, then we tend to again blame the brand for which we are making the payment.

From end customer point of view, the brands are ought to be the culprit but also from business model perspective too. Because if you have accepted a vendor or a partner; it is your responsibility to ensure that they sell the right products & services or have systems aligned to make payments error free.

Problem arises when none of the involved parties want to take the responsibility of “a rotten apple”. Simply because, it is an era of cut throat competition! Everyone is running after numbers.

If one sale goes wrong probably it doesn’t hit balance sheet of a company too much. But if they don’t rectify the issue; it creates ripple effects via “Bad word of mouth” being spread around.

What should the brands do to deal with such issues?: Re – define value chains from customers point of view

If such situations are arising too often, it is time when brands re-look at their value chains; try and find “Pain points” and “Gain points”; mend the gaps & deliver services in a way to create delight for customers.

 

Issue 2: Too much mechanization

  • How many times have we felt super frustrated with IVRs as they don’t suggest the required options?
  • How many times you just lost it, when you have been kept on perpetual holds and keep getting transferred from one personnel to another for a simple complaint or query of yours?

From company’s perspective they are trying to create processes which are replicable without deviations as they would want to give standard experiences to all customers but systems and mechanically trained personnel who front end customers, fail to empathize with customers many times.

What should the brands do to deal with such issues?: Leave an “others” box!

In research, whenever we try to generate any list of reasons which customer can think of; we always feel we have created the most exhaustive list. But in research; the 1st thing you learn is leave an “others” box i.e. if there is anything else which customer wants to share; leave proper spaces for them.

With an overburden on call center; the companies took the options of calling the call centers at the fag end which a new customer or a 1st time buyer would probably miss out and would feel irritated about.

Over process compliance and inability of brands to see an exceptional case leads to too much relaying at the call center.

A good option would be when a customer is on hold while calling Call center, rather than advertising about their brands; educate the customer about your standard terms and conditions, escalation matrices, customer grievance processes. At that time, since he/ she is on hold; they wouldn’t mind listening to something which would come handy the next time

 

Issue 3: Mechanized personnel

  • How many times does the call center guy says “Sorry Sir/ Ma’am, it is not possible”?
  • How many times while taking the flights did you feel that the airhostess is wearing a fake smile?

Standardization of experiences is good but not an overdose of it! Brands train their personnel to be professional but fail to train them on empathy. Hence, the end result is standard dialogue – Sorry!; as their target is to end the call as soon as possible

Airlines specially train air-hostesses to smile but they fail to understand that they too are humans with feelings. They can have a terrible day off work, how are they supposed to smile in that case but they are trained to do so and also expected to do so!

What should the brands do to deal with such issues?: Look out for some customization

Train your personnel well but also train them to empathize and sympathize with customers. Make them go that extra mile which provides customer delight. Also, let them be human and don’t make them mechanized robots (like trained to SMILE! or trained to say SORRY!). Customers can see it through! Don’t think they are fools, it won’t help your brands grow.

What research says?

If brands are able to create delight experiences, research supports that it leads to positive business outcomes like continue to do business, high share of spends, increase business with brands, high recommendation, positive word of mouth. This ultimately leads to positive business results

 

Just to summarize:

Redefine value chains & Mend the gaps!

Educate customer when he has time! But keep the processes simple

Train your personnel to empathize and behave as normal humans

Please share your thoughts and views on this article in comments below. Would be glad to learn from other experiences and understand different view points.

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