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Is technology putting a band aid over poor customer service?

I’m by no way saying a good implementation of the right technology isn’t effective - I often go online and open up a chat window to talk to a representative to find out where my order is or arrange a return - but recently I arrived at the conclusion that I was only doing this for certain companies.

I’ve developed an inbuilt customer services filter. I absolutely refuse to pick up the phone and talk to certain companies, as the quality of service is... let us agree to use the term ‘poor’, at best. So, for them I’ll open up my laptop, scramble around looking for the answer buried somewhere in their website, before resigning to the fact that I need help and reluctantly click the “Talk To Us” tab to open up a chat window with someone often 6,000 miles away.

I’m not using technology and congratulating the company on a wonderful customer experience; I use it to avoid talking to someone. I’m even seeing this in stores; I can use my phone and store app to find my required products, check if it’s in stock at other local stores and even pay for items without having to talk to anyone. This is all great until you actually talk to a human and realize that they know less than you, since you’re the one with the app.

Too many companies rely on technology to deliver their customer service, when really technology is just a tool. It should be one part of an overall solution. When not implemented correctly, technology makes the whole customer experience worse! I know most people reading this would have experienced shouting down the phone at an automated system that either doesn’t recognize your accent or asks you more questions than an IRS audit.

There are companies who get it right and having worked in customer services for over 20 years I have had the pleasure in delivering excellent customer experiences. We use similar technology to improve communication and support with suppliers. What is the secret? Do everything well, and with 100% investment in each area. Do everything well may sound like an obvious and almost ridiculous statement, but it’s true; customer experience is as important as product value. The promise of a low price will always get customers through the door, but great customer experience will keep them returning.

Don’t use technology to cut corners and don’t let it get in the way of talking to a customer. Knowledge bases, chatbots and social monitoring all have their places and they do help customers get to information quickly, but do not lose sight of the importance of the human touch. Use technology wisely and not just for customers, enable your customer service agents. Empower them with information but train them to have knowledge of your business and products. In the case of private brands, use your suppliers as product expects to provide more information.  Educate your team to ask the correct questions and to listen and care about the customers responses. You often get one shot to demonstrate how much you care about your customer, so whether it’s delivered by technology or good old fashioned in store assistance, make it count!

Tags: Customer experience, Product development

Robert Neill

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