Why You Can't Automate Customer Experience

Cover Story

Why You Can't Automate Customer Experience

By Special Guest
Sarah Simon
  |  December 14, 2015

Today’s world is filled with automated technology to make everyday tasks simpler to manage. Bills are automated so you don’t run the risk of missing payments. Facebook (News - Alert) automatically reminds you it’s your friend’s birthday so you don’t forget and drop the ball on making a celebratory cake. Your home thermostat is automated so you don’t waste energy (and money) while you’re out. We’re quickly moving closer to a future of commercialized self-driving cars.

Automation has changed the way we live and will continue to for the foreseeable future, but is its convenience causing us to disengage and disconnect from people around us?

For some, the ease of automation is intriguing, especially from a business perspective. We’re all so focused on making our work lives more efficient. But what we don’t see is the impact, sometimes negative, automation may have in core areas of a business, particularly in the way we interact with customers.

At the end of the day, people do business with people.  Companies must put more weight behind building relationships and understanding customers rather than over-relying on automated technology to do the job for us. The strongest customer strategy efforts are programs that use automated tools to help collect information about customers, but then leverage real, human talent and relationship building to use the information automatically generated to then create a more meaningful relationship with customers.

Before you fall into the common automation trap, consider these simple changes that will have lasting impact.

Turn insights into action

All too often, customer experience initiatives are a part-time commitment for matrixed resources or handled by one overwhelmed generalist trying to fulfill too many roles. With so many competing priorities, CX gets relegated to being a nice to have. Not only that, but many times programs focus only on part of the total CX initiative, unable to take on the full effort. For instance, they listen to the voice of the customer and dutifully report on the results in an automated fashion, but the organization fails to convert reports into insights and insights into action.

Customers will disengage and lose trust quickly if they feel like they’re not being heard. Action is an important element in building and maintaining relationships.

Here’s an example: A major factor in an insurance company’s decision to purchase a new billing system was that billing issues accounted for 33 percent of complaints. What the company learned was that its customer base needed a more effective and efficient billing system so that they (the agents) could more effectively manage and assist the policyholders. This change ultimately led to an increase in client retention for the insurance company and higher company satisfaction because they listened to customer needs and acted on it.

Tailor surveys based on preferences

A poorly-run CX program can easily alienate customers by providing a poor feedback experience – such as not tailoring surveys to each customer, or by failing to follow up on feedback when customers make the effort to provide it. Lack of peer education dampens VoC adoption, and weak or non-existent executive buy-in waters down efforts to foster growth and change.

The closer and more impactful relationships you foster with your customers, the better you can understand what makes them tick. By tailoring your surveys based on what you know about them, the more likely they’ll be to respond and stay engaged over time.

Small gestures go a long way

The problem with automated systems is that sometimes customers feel like there isn’t a human helping them on the other side of the screen. Taking the time to go an extra step and personally reach out to a customer that’s had a good or bad experience is important.

An example of this is employees taking the time to write hand-written thank you notes to customers. One company recently began doing this in such high-volume that the thank you cards are now on back order with the card supplier. It’s not required for any employee to do this, but they all feel strongly about creating strong, personal connections with customers. Customers have been so moved by the gesture, and the company has started to receive hand-written notes in response to these thank you cards.

It’s also just as easy to pick up the phone, call someone and have a conversation to let them know you care and are invested in the relationship. By doing so, you’re creating a customer experience that’s unique, less automated, and more impactful.  Automation can make individual interactions more efficient, but only human-to-human interactions strengthen the ongoing customer relationship.

Sarah Simon is a senior solutions consultant at Confirmit (News - Alert) (www.confirmit.com).

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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