While doing regular research on the latest CX trends and development, I get to speak to many CX professionals from several different countries and regions and this year they are all saying the same thing.
Digital. Digital. Digital
Digital transformation, digital experience, digital assistants, digital everything and everywhere. The world of CX had to embrace and implement their digital strategy 5 times faster than they originally planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” He added, “From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security—we are working alongside customers every day to help them adapt and stay open for business in a world of remote everything.”
This proves that to stay relevant and ahead of your competitors, it is vital for companies and brands to transform boldly, no doubt about that and one cannot argue this point. There is something we can argue though, and, this needs to be part of the boardroom discussions and then embedded into the company culture all the way down.
We can not turn a blind eye and avoid the fact that customers are still human, and as great as digital services can be, humans still yearn for human interaction, care and empathy and personalized attention. This was pointed out and made clear to me in my own experience a few days ago at a bookstore.
Let’s start at the beginning of this experience.
As I passed the store, well, planning to pass the store they lured me in with bookshelves outside of the store showing they are having a sale and showcased some titles I was interested in (This was just a coincidence as they have never seen my search history, or it can just be the fact that thousands of readers would be interested in war & history titles). I know this can be done digitally as well and probably better with SEO marketing, social media marketing and personalized offer pop-ups. At his point of my experience digital and human are still almost level because digital can do this better but one can also close the app or website much easier as to pass the items that are right there in front of you to touch, feel and already picture yourself using.
Next, I see thousands of books inside and just as my curiosity is about to lead my inside, I hear a friendly voice “Hi Sir and welcome to our store”. Immediately I felt welcomed, valued and at ease. Yes, again, AI can also greet you, but it is not the same warm feeling because you know it is programmed that way and does not really care at all. After taking quite some time journeying through most of the shelves, I decided on two books and head over to the counter. I have a question on one of these books, but in my head, I am already assuming that the lady at the counter would probably not be able to answer it. I actually wouldn’t blame her as it is impossible for her to have read all these books and have knowledge on all of them, even though my questions wasn’t about the content of the book but rather the specific edition of the book.
Now, real-time old school customer services came to play. She didn’t know the answer and instead of just saying “I am not sure, sorry” and ringing it up (which I would have accepted and bought the book in any case) she immediately got her manager and repeated my question. The manager didn’t read the book either but she had more knowledge on their books in general and she answered my question.
As I was about to pay and leave the store, she took it a step further and delivered the true human side of customer experience, she told me to wait a second as she is sure their other store has the edition I am looking for. Within a minute, she made a call, confirmed that they have it, confirmed the price and the other store even sent a photo to her to show me. Now slightly more than satisfied, I was really feeling valued. Before I could think twice, she said that she is heading to that store tomorrow so she will pick it up personally and bring to this store but, in the meantime, I should take this one and I can start reading it. She will give me a call the following day and I can come exchange mine for the one I actually desire.
Loyal & Returning Customer.
I am not saying Digital Transformation is not needed. In this case it was 100% human touch and showing empathy towards me, not only solving my problem but exceeding my expectations. 100% Human touch will not always be possible, especially in large organisations and this is where digital is definitely needed. You can’t always go back to the past because without digital innovation, customers would sit hours and wait for the agents on the call and be transferred to many agents before problem is solved, which is definitely not the way to go. Today we are seeing some great innovations take CX forward and this should be embraced to move forward and the speed it is needed. What I am saying is that organisations need to implement these tech services correctly but, also balance it correctly with the human touch and empathy.
Organisations who get the formula right of balancing the past with the future, the human with the tech, will become truly customer-centric leaders in the CX space, and will shape the future of CX for years to come.