In an earlier article AI vs. HI – Are we asking the right questions?, I had written about my views on the ongoing debate about how AI is all set to take over the role of humans in customer support functions. My observations in that article were that while technology is taking gigantic leaps, and quite rapidly, we are far from a time, when we can dispense with a human touch completely. And that technology and humans need to work in tandem, while keeping focus on the key outcome of providing an amazing customer experience.
This was in the pre-covid era!
These are not normal times and these are not normal customer conversations
The world has transformed at a phenomenal pace in a matter of a few months. We are now likely serving customer behaviors that have changed significantly. Expectations have shifted. Experiences delivered previously, which may have been deemed as positive or exceptional, may now not fall in either category. With COVID-19, customers are isolated, low on patience and un-trusting. They want quick and accurate information, immediate resolution, transparency and more than ever, an empathetic and human connection.
Given these extraordinary circumstances, we must think beyond purely cost and process efficiencies, and consider the heightened need for customers to have the comfort of a human connection at the other end of their telephone line or chat screen. Customers need to feel like they are being treated as people first and customers second, that they mean more to the company than being merely a number. While we all agree that these should be the tenets of our operations in ‘normal’ circumstances as well, we need to be even more vigilant and sensitive to upholding them during these times.
Ironically, the answers lie in Technology
Human connections are built when relationships are developed. A relationship develops when people have a conversation and understand one another. The more data a business has about each and every one of their customers enables them to build better relationships. With an increasing reliance on digital capabilities to support internal operations and customers, technology is in a unique position to lead businesses through this crisis. It can unlock the value of an organization’s data and put it to use to create personalized customer interactions. Not only add considerable value to human-to-human interaction but also help build more efficient processes of automating delivery of information requested by a customer via text and email messages, meeting the customer’s need for immediate information, while freeing up resources to focus on high-touch interactions.
We need to apply technology in a way that brings the distinct value of the human touch to the fore. With our human agents expected to manage the process and nurture customers through the entire customer journey, and within the current challenges, timely information access and quick data processing can go a long way in enriching customer experiences
Solutions for short-term need but also for long-term impact
The new ways we are serving our customers during COVID-19 will not only hold us in good stead in the near term but also in the future, as we adapt ourselves to the new normal. Customers have a long memory and will look back to organizations that built a positive experience for them during these challenging times. Staying focused on customers, when organizations are facing an existential crisis, is a fierce commitment. But it will stand the test of time and help deepen your relationship with your customers.
The key, for me, still lies in technology and humans working together in the most efficient way possible to ensure we deliver customer experiences that are efficient, empathetic and enriching. As long as we understand that technology is a tool for enhancing the human connection and not a replacement for humans, we will be able to keep innovating and finding newer ways to deliver on all three.