Make Opposites Attract: Master High Tech and High Touch for a Great Service Experience

by Connie Kelly

When was the last time you were caught in the automated customer service loop? You know the one: “Please press 1 for billing information. Please press 2 to change your mailing address. Please press 3 for your account balance. Please press 4 to be caught in this loop forever!”

Too many customers experience this frustration and end up yelling into the phone “REPRESENTATIVE!” And then, pity the poor soul who actually does come on the line to help. They are met with a highly agitated customer who exclaims: “Finally, a real human being!”

Increasingly, there is a push to move away from the phone menu of services and toward making it easier for customers to talk to a representative. This customization can help differentiate a business in a crowded marketplace and provide the high touch experience in a high tech environment.

Granted, not every customer interaction requires person-to person contact. In fact, customers often prefer to handle certain tasks without human contact. FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) or providing account balance information works well through an automated system. And, many companies are taking advantage of the digital age with text messaging and voice mail.

For example, a May 2019 J.D. Power survey of service departments in car dealerships found that while most customers said they prefer to use a digital platform for scheduling service appointments, they specified a preference for personal contact for information about work performed, questions, service recommendations, and status.

This confirms our common sense understanding that when customers have difficulties or questions, they want to speak to a person not push a series of buttons. They want to explain their predicament. They want to work with the customer service representative to resolve their problems. In fact, we know that over 60% of customers who abandon a business do so because of indifferent service.

According to a survey conducted by Dimensional Research, an independent technical research company: “Survey participants who had indicated they had a good customer service experience were asked what specifically made that experience good. The most important factor cited by participants was a quick resolution of the problem (69%) followed by being helped by a pleasant person (65%)."

Interestingly, the actual outcome of the problem was least important, with less than half (47%) indicating that their customer service interaction was good because of the outcome.

Creating a high touch experience is not limited to the phone. Because we live in an age where email, texting, and website chat sessions are at our disposal, both service providers and customers look to these channels for connecting. Smart service providers ask their customers how they would like to receive information and then customize contact accordingly.

Email offers an enormous opportunity to build relationships with customers. The most recent Customer Service Benchmark Report (published by SuperOffice) found that of 1,000 companies surveyed, 62% said they do not respond to emails. This leaves an enormous opportunity for those organizations that do respond. Adding relational, personal and customized language increases the chances of winning customers for life.

Texting is the lowest level of personalization given the limited space and lack of security. It serves the customer best for short messages, such as sending reminders for appointments or to alert customers that their table is ready at a restaurant. But, it is not appropriate for resolving issues or sending important information. Even when the customer requests information through text, a quick, polite response that steers that customer back to email or phone is in everyone’s best interest.
 

We often consider high touch businesses as those that do a lot of hand-holding, but there are ways to create a high touch experience even for the one-time customer.  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Lose the loop. Allow customers a quick and easy way to speak to an agent.

  2. Develop your representatives. Teach them the best language to use, how and when to ask questions, to listen carefully and to resolve issues quickly and personably.

  3. Respond to emails. If a customer takes the time to write, someone needs to be responsible for the inquiry, question or complaint. Capture this opportunity to build relationship and win customers for life. 

  4. Pick the best channel for your customers. Carefully examine which channel—phone, email, text, web chat—is the best way to communicate with your customers.

  5. Put the customer first. Too often companies focus on efficiency over effectiveness. In a world where we all feel disenfranchised at times, those businesses that treat the customer as a highly valued asset lead the way.

No business needs to sacrifice high tech for high touch or vice versa when they consider and act on making opposites attract.
Connie Kelly is a Communico facilitator with over 30 years experience in helping others communicate more effectively through the spoken word and in writing.
 
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