Are You Putting Too Much Trust in Machines to Serve Your Customers?

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provide better customer service

Most small businesses these days are using technology to run better businesses — and to provide better customer service. But are you relying too much on technology for customer service solutions? When companies lose sight of the human factor in customer service, they risk losing the very customers they’re trying to serve, warns a new survey by Accenture.

The Accenture Strategy report, Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement, says more than half (52 percent) of U.S. consumers have changed providers in the past year as a result of poor customer service.

Frequently, the lack of a human touch is at the root of this dissatisfaction. An overwhelming 83 percent of consumers prefer dealing with humans rather than with digital channels for their customer service problems, while 77 percent prefer getting advice from people instead of from digital channels. The human touch is so important that almost half  (45 percent) of consumers say they’re willing to pay more to ensure a better level of service.

Consumers Expect Convenient Customer Service

What else bothers consumers about customer service these days? About three-fourths (73 percent) expect customer service to be easier and more convenient, and 61 percent want it to be faster.

Many businesses, however, have over-invested in online technology and under-invested in the human element of customer service. As a result, they’re making it too hard for customers to get help with problems, and risk losing their most profitable customers: multichannel customers who want both digital and traditional customer service options.

The good news: 80 percent of consumers who have switched providers based on poor customer service say the company could have done something to retain them; among those, 83 percent say if the company had provided better live/in-person customer service, it would have affected their decisions to switch providers.



Ways To Provide Better Customer Service

What can you do to provide better customer service and retain your customers? Accenture offers this advice to companies seeking to solve the “digital disconnect:”

  • Put the human element back into your customer service. Think of technology as a tool to achieve a satisfying customer experience, not as an end in itself. Invest in the human side of customer service — hiring good customer service representatives, training them well and providing the tools they need to deliver that human touch.
  • Provide multichannel customer service options. Whether customers prefer to interact with your customer service reps by phone, by email or by chat, it should be easy for them to switch back and forth between these different options. Make sure you’re gathering the right information for each customer interaction, and use cloud storage for customer data so all your customer service reps can easily access up-to-date information about customer interactions.
  • Uncover your biggest problems. Regularly review your customer service results and meet with your customer service representatives to find out what issues are causing the biggest problems across all of your customer service channels. Accenture calls these “toxic customer experiences,” and warns that they can directly affect your profitability. Take steps to resolve these problems immediately.

Automation Photo via Shutterstock
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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Google+ and visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

5 Reactions
  1. I would add that you need to empower your humans to own and solve problems. One of my pet peeves is when a customer service rep is obviously following a script/process and isn’t thinking or putting themselves in my shoes. I might as well be dealing with a robot. People are good at thinking, intuition, empathy, etc. so let them use those to solve problems.

  2. I think that machines are not the answer to better customer service. People want to talk with real human beings. They want to be understood and their problems solved.

    • Deborah Francisco

      I agree. Machines cannot provide customer service the way a human being can. You can’t program a machine to do everything!

  3. Providing multichannel support is the hardest for a small business who doesn’t really have the money to hire multiple people. Usually, we end up hiring one person to manage different platforms.

  4. Machines will never be the solution to the problem. It is always better to hire and train people.

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