Even in the digital world, the human remains the differentiating factor

Mon 23 Feb 2015

“Digital” has become a powerful lever for differentiating and industrializing customer service. Yet it remains clear that customer enchantment requires a savvy mix of automated and human interactions.

Digital: a paradoxical godsend

In today’s ATAWADAC world – Any Time, Any Where, Any Device, Any Content – businesses face a kind of paradox: there is a multitude of inexpensive digital ways of interacting with consumers, yet as their digital abilities grow their brand loyalty declines.

A digital relationship, but a human experience

Digital services are definitely “must have”, yet what keeps subscribers loyal is still human contact. Recent studies confirm that a large majority of consumers see humans as the key factor in a satisfactory brand relationship (although the contact may be via digital channels). The systematic provision of gateways to real-life advisors reassures consumers, which in turn drives sales. This is illustrated by the e-commerce sites which have doubled their turnover by introducing human channels: clickto- call improves site performance (average basket value) by as much as 20 to 30%, and click-to-chat substantially increases the conversion rate.

Smartphones driving “phygital”

In bricks-and-mortar stores where 50 to 75% of purchase decisions are still taken, human and digital interactions are different: here digital means are employed to complement human assistance. 

A smartphone can engender a “phygital” (physical-digital) experience by providing the link between the physical space and the virtual space. iBeacon indoor positioning technology is a popular choice: the American retailers Eagle and Macy’s use it to provide a personalized customer welcome and improve service through recommendations, specific geolocated offers, recording of loyalty points, easy information searching, and more.

Mobile apps and Big Data for a tailor-made service

Although often criticized, the telephone is still the most-used communication means, in particular to resolve problems. To optimize it Movistar employs personalizing synergies: its Mi Movistar app enables people to call customer service, but first it informs the teleadvisor of their recent activity, which obviously helps to provide an adapted response. 

In French stores, the geolocated application Critizr encourages a horizontal conception of the customer relationship enabling consumers to report their problems and remarks in real time directly to the right person. This person can then reply and even take corrective action directly. 

Finally, predictive analysis opens the way to co-creation of an impeccable customer experience. France’s national railroad operator SNCF provides a good example with its free Tranquilien “onboard comfort assistant” app which is able to show which trains have the most seats available and in which carriages on a given route. The information is updated in real time using the SNCF’s open data (among others) in addition to feeds from rail passengers who provide good quality real-time data free of charge. The SNCF can then analyze passengers behaviors and help them improve their experience.

Video chat, or “someone by my side”

The use of video in guidance services helps increase confidence and proximity. This is the promise of Mayday, Amazon’s 24/7 video chat tech support service available with the company’s Kindle Fire HDX mini-tablet and Fire smartphone. In a click a user can connect to an expert able to take remote control and help resolve his problems. Boasting an average connection delay of less than 10 seconds, Mayday now handles 75% of customer questions. However, this system also illustrates the limitations of a purely digital relationship: how does a user get help when the video is not working? 

In the end, digital will be seen as a plus if it simplifies direct contact with an enterprise, but not if it appears as a hindrance spoiling the user’s experience. Much of the time human assistance is necessary to guide, facilitate and pacify.