The Verdict Is In: Customer Service Isn’t Human Enough

Since the pandemic first began, consumer demand for heightened levels of customer service has exploded. In fact, 80 percent of consumers expected the pandemic to deliver improved customer experiences while 58 percent continue to demand further improvements in a post-pandemic world. But between the Great Resignation and fledgling technologies, businesses have struggled to keep up.

Brands racing to meet these shifting expectations are eagerly implementing digital solutions that promise efficiency and accuracy in an omnichannel environment. But this focus on digital transformation, while important, can often come at the expense of the all-too-important human touch that 75 percent of customers are craving. Without it, more than half of your customers will rate their experience as poor, or worse.

This is an issue that comes at a very high cost for brands today. For more than eight out of 10 people, just one poor customer experience will send them packing. Rather than betting your entire CX strategy on automated tools, it’s imperative not to neglect the human throughout. Consider these three tips to ensure your customer experience is truly human enough for your valuable customers.

1. Cater to All Generations–Not Just Millennials

Because Millennials (an important subset of the Visual Generation) are among the largest consumer category in the US right now, it’s natural for brands to prioritize their needs above others. Unless your customer base is strictly under the age of 40 though, catering only to Millennials would be a mistake. While most Millennials like to start their customer experience through live chat, 76 percent of all consumers still prefer to connect with customer service professionals via a phone call above all else.

Your CX strategy must include both online chat and call solutions equally, and don’t neglect social media either. Consumers are taking to platforms like Twitter to contact brands quickly and hold them accountable for a response. But of course, you can’t just stop there.

Customers not only demand multiple ways to get in touch. At least 73 percent also expect to start a conversation in one channel and pick it up in another without any loss of information in the process. We’ve all experienced the frustration of investing our time with one agent via chat only to have to repeat everything once transferred to a phone call. That’s because a mere 28 percent of US companies provide their service agents with digital solutions that make this process seamless. If your organization is among the 72 percent missing the mark, this is your sign to adjust your digital strategy around fixing this issue immediately.

2. Help Customers Connect to a Human With Ease and Speed

A whopping 66 percent of customers expect their issues to be resolved within just 10 minutes. In addition to this, more than half of consumers report frustration with automated systems that make it hard to connect with a service agent. But this doesn’t mean you have to trash your automated system. In fact, many customer service issues can be solved simply through automated solutions–think product returns, account updates, and digital product manuals or how-to guides. Of course, providing easy and speedy access to a human agent can mean the difference between an angry customer and a satisfied one.

Great CX strategies combine the advantages of automated solutions like AI-driven chat bots and call-center prompts with intuitive features that connect customers to agents with ease. Consider setting up your automated call-in system with an override feature that connects customers with an agent anytime they press zero.

When using a chat bot, make sure your audience isn’t forced into a binary solution path in which they are provided only a narrow set of answers to select from as the bot asks them questions. Customers understand that chat bots are now the norm, but they also expect them to be advanced enough to interpret written text. In addition, 98 percent of customers expect that when they type “representative,” “customer service,” or “live person” into the chat, they will immediately be directed to a live agent.

3. Empower Your Agents to Be Conversational

Customer service isn’t just about solving problems quickly. When a customer gets to connect with a real person, they want the experience to feel like a conversation. To do this properly, agents must have access to a detailed account history of each customer, including (at minimum) documentation of previous communications and an account of all past purchases. This ensures the agent can pick up where others left off and provide a more personalized experience for customers. But only 19 percent of businesses in the US provide their agents with this critical context despite 72 percent of consumers desiring it.

Beyond providing agents with important context to ensure a customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves, many other factors can hinder your agent’s ability to deliver a positive, conversational experience. Consider ways to solve the following common roadblocks agents face:

  • Long wait times can greatly impact a customer’s attitude and put your agents at a disadvantage from the start.
  • A lack of self-service information on the company website can bury your agents in low-priority inquiries, leading to burnout.
  • Siloed departments can make it hard for a single agent to resolve the problem, leading to customers jumping from one agent to another and building frustration at every turn.
  • A lack of clarity around the customer journey can make it hard for your agents to strike the right tone with their audience.

Customers Will Pay More for a Human-Centered Customer Experience

Ensuring your customer experience feels human won’t just help you keep your customers; it can also lead to increased sales and long-term loyalty. When customers have the opportunity to speak to an agent who is both motivated and equipped with the right knowledge and tools to solve their problems, they are more likely to make an additional purchase in the process. In fact, 51 percent seek out product inquiries from an agent during their service. In addition, 86 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a product or service from a company that offers a great customer experience. So, if your organization has prioritized digital solutions over the human element, it might be time to reconsider your strategy. Don’t lose your customers in the throes of automation. Nurture human interactions within all aspects of your customer experience and reap the rewards of stronger brand-customer relationships.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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