In a Battle of Online Help vs Face-to-Face Service, the Customer Must Always Win: Part 1

Daniel Burrus
July 06, 2022

Daniel Burrus

One of the World's Leading Technology Forecasters and Business Strategists
In a Battle of Online Help vs Face-to-Face Service, the Customer Must Always Win: Part 1

There is more opportunity now to transform the customer experiences and customer service of your business organization than at any other time in history. We live in a technological world, but more importantly, we also live in a human world. That world is filled with human customers, human employees, and human wants and needs. Human beings are all about relationships and experiences -- the emotions and memories derived from these occurrences are what drive us and, largely, what separate us from machines.

I recently asked Shep Hyken -- who I would refer to as the 'Chief Experience and Amazement Officer' at his company, Shepherd Presentations -- to join me on my program, "Opportunity Hour Conversations with The Masters," on the subject of creating amazing customer service experiences in this digital, transformative world.

For decades, Shep has been helping companies elevate their customer experience and customer service efforts to remarkable levels. Shep and I talked about how you can create and elevate amazing customer experiences regardless of the size of your organization, whether you are an entrepreneur or just starting your company.

As Customer Service Technology Increased, Usage Preference Decreased

Shep Hyken has done some great things for customer service and customer experiences in 2022, starting with a massive customer experience study stemming from a survey of all types of consumers and their experience at organizations. What Shep aimed his study at was what I have discussed at length in previous blogs and articles regarding the human side of customer service, because, as mentioned above, we are humans buying products, using services, and impacted by business practices.

But what Shep went on to prove was that all of the accelerating and digitally disruptive technology of the world today can absolutely enhance a customer's experience. In knowing this, Shep and I have some refreshed insights on how to leverage these technologies exponentially.

This is a benchmark study for several questions surrounding where customer service and, moreover, the customer experience is heading. This is the third year in a row Shep and his team have done a customer experience study, and this time it specifically had to do with technology and the human factor.

Shep said: "In past years, when we asked consumers if using a digital technology to get their questions answered and complaints resolved was a favorable option, a surprising 71% of the thousand customers we asked across the United States and around the world said 'yes' to a preference of a self-service tool, digital customer service solution, frequently asked questions section of a website, or video tutorials.

"However, when this same question was posed more recently, only 41% said they would go digital, which means our needs as a human being and decision to deal with a computer or another human vary depending on the circumstance."

Shep went on to explain further that as of 2022, the same study again reflected a drop in customers wanting digital-only solutions to their needs and issues as a customer -- down to 35% of that same size sample survey.

Machines Are Not Empathetic

It is a fact that companies invest millions and, in many cases, billions of dollars into digital technology solutions. Why would they not be seamless enough to serve nearly everyone better than a person could? Why do so many consumers in recent times prefer an old-fashioned telephone call to a human being over any of the aforementioned digital solutions to a problem or question about a product or service?

Shep Hyken believes this decline has something to do with companies glazing over what new, smart technology is capable of accomplishing at this stage, and what is just not yet fully developed.

"If, as a customer, all I want is to know what the balance of my bank account is, I should be able to log in, enter my password, and obtain that information without having to call somebody, be put on hold, then do a form of authentication through a person," Hyken says. "This is something that is easily handled by customer-facing technology that has long replaced a customer service representative and a telephone."

But where Shep Hyken, myself, and many others in customer service know a line gets drawn between digital applications in customer service and a human being helping begins with empathy. Digital technology is not empathetic toward your specific wants and needs as a customer, and as mentioned in Shep's example of logging in to your bank account, much of the digital technology that a company invests all that money into is really just for entry-level questions and access -- the mundane tasks that can be done by advanced, artificially intelligent software without human help.

A question many may have going forward is: Can machines replace human customer service representatives and processes permanently if they find a way to make them empathetic?

Find out in part two of this article series next week and learn how anticipation will position you and your organization in a way to connect transformative digital technology and the human empathetic touch in customer service!

Daniel Burrus

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