Businesses keep pondering the potential consequences of automation, while customers just want someone (or something) to help them.
What truly makes for a good experience? Speed. Convenience. Consistency.
And human touch — in other words, creating real connections by making technology feel more human while arming employees with what they need to enjoy better customer experiences.
Companies tout the latest technology or snappy design to supplement their support and service initiatives but haven’t focused on how those implementations will influence the overall experience.
Your customers rarely view service or support as a repetitive task. They want more humanity and less automation, especially when something goes wrong.
The researchers at PwC call this the ”experience disconnect” … and it’s a common problem for small business owners online.
On one hand, owners know that customers crave efficient transactions and responsive service, but achieving that requires a 24/7 commitment and added human expenses to staff it. Conversely, if they consider using artificial intelligence as a service and investing in support automation, then they might lose their authentic edge — the ability to forge emotional and intentional relationships online.
Data says companies that want to remain competitive need to have both: experience and efficiency. But skew too far one way or another, people will notice and experience will waver. If businesses can find a way to integrate automation authentically — that is, finding the sweet spot where automation and emotion work together — then customers will be less likely to care about how you run your business as long as it’s running right.
To overcome the experience disconnect and achieve this happy medium, we must first consider what customers really want through the eyes of the end user. Let’s explore this more below.
It’s hard to discern whether online customers prefer one over the other. We’d argue that customers want all three … a company that’s perfected the balance between digital efficiency and human connection.
A recent Forrester report suggests that, when it comes to online businesses, customers want quick, efficient transactions over all else, not conversations. But marketing expert Mark Shaefer insists that adding emotion — that increasingly hard to come by “human connection” — can help companies fight the onslaught of subpar online experiences.
The PwC report says warns that 64% of US customers feel brands are so shortsighted about automation and trendy design, they’ve “lost touch” with the human element of creating a great customer experience.
Succumbing fully to the “on-demand” culture plaguing so many businesses offers more convenience, but it also sacrifices connection and, most importantly, loyalty. It’s not enough to introduce automation and forget about the human element of business.
Luckily, there’s a way for businesses to enjoy all the benefits that come along with purposeful UX design and well-defined experiences. Authentic automation is your opportunity to upgrade your performance in these areas for free and with little effort up front.
The internet is ripe with warnings of all the ways customer service automation can go wrong. They caution marketers to think twice about the consequences of over-automation, citing customer cravings for more personalized experiences with a brand — not cookie cutter experiences — as reasons against the trend. But they fail to consider one thing: it’s the year 2020.
Nowadays, most customers know or even expect certain faucets of online businesses to be automated in some form. Businesses everywhere are applying customer service automation to common processes such as:
Still, there are those who fear that customers will feel slighted or “dupped” once they discover their engagements with the business is even partially automated, or feel that their experiences were disingenuous because they weren’t talking to a “real” person.
This thought has merit, but let’s consider the alternative:
What if your customer spent time engaging with your business only to leave dissatisfied or confused because your response times or support processes weren’t running at full speed?
In this scenario, your customer is likely to remember — and punish — your business for its incompetence or antiquated technology over all else.
So, while some worry about the consequences to automation, ask yourself this: Will customers really care if you send the same email to 999 other leads? Do customers really care exactly who replies to their inquiry online? We’d argue no. The customer’s primary concern is whether they can get the right answers they need in a timely manner … not how those answers are presented.
Remember, personalized messaging, targeted content, and clear answers and solutions go a long way with customers. Customers reward effort more often than not. Because even the most automation-fearing customer hates waiting for someone to help them with an online purchase, process a return, or view pricing for a particular service offering.
Pro tip: Automation done right helps support positive customer relationships and loyalty through convenience, emotion, and competence.
Authentic automation requires thoughtful implementation to ensure you are only automating processes that don’t require a human touch. When implementing automation support into your workflow, strive to help your visitors:
Even if customers suspect something like email communications to be automated, they never want to feel like an afterthought. Marketers can differentiate themselves from other senders by personalizing their campaigns with simple elements that spark emotion in readers, such as first name qualifiers and “thank you” language.
Customers appreciate transparency. There’s no shortage of people burned by dishonest brands or less than ethical business processes, so owners have a real chance to cement feelings of goodwill with their visitors by being explicit in all their endeavors, including automation.
Authenticating an automated email campaign or social media auto-reply can be as simple as confirming that their “request” was submitted and that it will be reviewed by human eyes shortly. Transparency breeds trust. Highlighting elements of support automation proactively can be beneficial for promoting loyalty, communication, and the chance to solicit feedback from customers.
If the concept of authentic automation has you feeling overwhelmed, know that many of your competitors are still on auto-pilot exchanging experience for efficiency. As more and more companies get comfortable with automation, customers will appreciate those who implement it thoughtfully. It won’t be long before customers will stop worrying about who is communicating with them and start worrying about who is communicating most effectively.
This means that there is an opportunity (read: obligation) for you to differentiate yourself through authentic automation and reap the benefits of a perfectly crafted experience that prioritizes convenience, connection, and loyalty.
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Lauren Hamer is a Digital Content Writer and Copy Editor who helps top companies and small start-ups to define their brand through quality, conversational content.