One of the most important areas of customer experience (CX) strategy that I have been focusing on in recent months is the need to blend customer service managed by humans with the opportunities to use digital services and technologies. This need to manage a high-tech, high-touch customer service environment is becoming increasingly important because customer expectations are increasing, but humans remain essential for great service.
The TSYS Consumer Payment Study just released in Aprilreally underlines this point. This research is an annual survey of American credit and debit card users – there were over 1,200 responses in the latest survey.
Many of the responses were about different aspects of using their card, in particular security and how to avoid fraud, but even as the customers were asking for digital tools – such as a phone notification every time their card is used – they really emphasized the importance of being able to speak to a real person when they need help.
72% of the customers in the survey want to be able to make a call and to speak to a person when they need help with their cards. This is up from 63% in 2018 – the number of people who want to be able to speak to a human agent when calling customer service is actually increasing in this sector.
The research doesn’t explain why, but I believe that poorly executed chatbot strategies may be influencing these customers. Automation and chatbots can provide a very good service when deployed for services that are transactional and where customers want immediate service. When brands go for a chatbot-first strategy just to deflect customers away from reaching a person in the contact center then things can go wrong – instead of saving money by reducing your contact center costs you just drive customers into the arms of your competition.
High-tech, high-touch means that you explore how technology can improve the customer experience. For some customer engagements, a bot can be preferable to waiting for a human agent to answer the call – just resetting a password or checking a balance for example. But many technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics, can be used inside the contact center to provide information more efficiently and quickly to the agents – so the customer has an engagement with a human agent, but the agent is able to help much faster because of the tools.
In regulated industries these tools can be even more useful as the recommended advice or answers suggested by the system can already be checked to ensure that they meet with compliance standards – the agent can feel sure that they are giving the right advice.
In our own CX Lab research inside Teleperformance we have found that around 8 out of 10 customers prefer speaking to a real person when contacting customer service. The real question about a high-tech, high-touch strategy is how to deploy technologies that increase how quickly customers can be helped – and improve the information they receive – and at the same time continue to give the empathy and understanding of a genuine human interaction.
Let me know if your own experiences match this new survey by leaving a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn profile.
Photo by Thomas Kohlerlicensed under Creative Commons.