Digital disruption over the past decade has seen many firms favouring a tech-first approach for customers, driven by the need to reduce costs. Introducing the human touch – at all levels of the user's journey – can radically transform customer service. It was the central theme at our recent Future of Service conference and industry survey, which unearthed the following trends.
A human touch can improve the bottom line
For much of the 2010s, many businesses have pursued automation of customer service processes, believing them to be more cost-effective, efficient and less likely to result in error. Yet, according to those businesses responding to our survey, a human-first approach has delivered higher financial returns.
Companies considered to be human experience leaders (those who provide excellent customer and employee experience) were 1.4 times more likely to have reported increased revenue in the previous year than those that defined themselves as solely employee experience or customer experience leaders.
In a paradigm shift reflected elsewhere in the survey: managers are prioritising customer experience (21 per cent of respondents said their transformation agendas were focused on this) over keeping up with changes in technology (16 per cent). As Gobeyond Partners CEO Mark Palmer commented:
"Where are we seeing improved productivity and more effective customer service currently? - it's coming from a different place: the starting point is [companies figuring out] what the experience will be for the human being – both the provider and recipient of products and services.”
Want stronger customer experience? Start by making employees happy first
When it comes to human-led customer service, one of the significant issues for customers is that the employee at the other end of the email or phone seem poorly equipped to respond to their needs.
According to experts ranging from Twitter vice-president (and author of The Joy of Work) Bruce Daisley to anthropologist David Graeber's Bull**** Jobs: A Theory, the nature of modern employment can be blamed. Many workers feel disempowered and ill-equipped to help customer despite the best intentions, also reflected by a recent Gallup survey revealing only eight per cent of UK workers are engaged in their jobs.
Yet, those companies that crack the culture conundrum of employee engagement do see a correlation in terms of revenues (see Temkin Group's Employee Engagement Benchmark Study, 2017). The two-thirds (69 per cent) of managers in our survey who agreed their company delivers "a superior employee experience", could be channelling the following insight from Daisley:
"Customer success depends on every stakeholder. By that, I mean employees who feel engaged, responsible and are growing their careers in an environment that allows them to do their best work – this applies to all employees, from interns to the CEO."
Customer experience needs to be driven at board level
"When I see companies with separate MDs for digital, consumer and telephone I put my head in my hands," says Palmer. "[For these organisations] A lack of singular ownership for customers is an issue."
Indeed, the lack of a senior executive who is accountable for customer experience was a concern for many of the respondents to our survey. More than four-fifths agreed that customer experience should be driven at board level (and one-fifth of businesses admitted they don’t adequately drive customer experience at this level). As Palmer says, "Those companies that put the human being first in their transformation work will continue to do a cracking job."
Leave behind the acronyms and jargon
"The use of acronyms and buzz words is causing problems in many organisations," says Palmer. "The excessive use of acronyms can be problematic. Sometimes they carry multiple meanings, which causes confusion or even worse; erodes trust from customers, clients and staff alike." Indeed, research conducted by insurance firm Aviva in 2017 found that two in five (41%) people ignore information they receive from financial providers because they do not understand the language used.
A good example of this in practice exists in some of our work with government agencies working in in the healthcare sector. According to Palmer, “When people are met by a healthcare professional in an empathetic way, all the jargon is debunked and everything is delivered in plain English, the patients stress levels reduce. It also results in shorter consultations; which are much more effective for the business too."
By placing people at the centre of decision making, tools and technologies are focused towards delivering greater outcomes; whether it’s customers, internal colleagues and partners, resulting in stronger business performance.