Balancing technology and the human touch in customer experience

By Jalaja Ramanunni

In today’s fast-paced world, modern consumers prefer simple and personal experiences that cater to their emotional and practical needs. They expect brands to connect with them on a more human level and create meaningful relationships.

However, as brands have transitioned to the digital realm, some have lost sight of the importance of human connection. In this context, it is essential for brands to strike a balance between technology and human touch to deliver an exceptional customer experience.

Oliver West, customer experience director, CCXP, MRM, stated that since the pandemic, he has seen an even split between businesses that have increased their customer experience (CX) budget and ones that have decreased their CX spend. A lesser spend raises red flags when you consider the fact that consumers are increasingly choosing products and brands – both rationally and emotionally – based on the experience they receive. This interview with West delves into the ways brands can prioritise human connection in their digital journey to foster long-lasting relationships with their customers.

Survey overload

When we asked about the main challenges brands face in creating a satisfactory consumer experience, one of the issues that came up was the shift in how customers perceive brand surveys. One simple survey request might not seem like much, but it might be the tipping point for the consumer. “The increase in digital servicing and the need to deliver through self-serve or low-touch channels by brands during the pandemic brought with it an increase in seeking validation of their efforts through customer surveys and feedback requests. Whilst this is a good thing in practice it inevitably means existing programs see a drop in response because of the sheer volume of repeated questions. It is important that these connections and requests come at the right point in the journey and that you use the right type of mechanic for that step.”

Getting chatbots right

It is critical to understand when and where the chatbot should be involved and when to handoff to a human. Most businesses fail to do so. “They view it as a cost-saving move; it is led with tech- or product-decisions rather than enhancing the CX. Customers feel there are some connections where a human response is not only preferred but actually considered essential versus others where self-serve is preferred. Getting this right is critical,” states West.

Human centricity

Meanwhile, there exists a gap between what consumers want and what brands offer today. The agencies that are at the forefront are ones who genuinely implement human-centric design and not just pitch it to brands. “This is a topic that I’m extremely passionate about and even quite controversial! On one side, you have product teams that lack research and true insight and then build or bloat, products based on internal assumptions or demands. On the other, there’s a mismatch between what marketing promises and the perception of the experience that is actually being delivered. This leads to dissatisfaction through a mismatch of the customers’ expectations. Brands that have a research and insights team (or an agency) that focuses on the qualitative as well as data will win in the product and innovation war,” West says. He adds that marketing efforts and executions should be fueled by not only creativity but also a set of guiding experience principles that are born out of comprehensive research and customer insight.

In today’s competitive business landscape, providing an exceptional CX is crucial for maintaining customer loyalty and driving revenue growth. CX programs must have measurable metrics that demonstrate their contribution to the brand’s bottom line. West says: “CX initiatives must be loosely aligned with a brand’s key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure maximum impact – whether the goal is customer acquisition, retention or lifetime value. All of these have hard metrics behind them and if you can correlate your CX metrics (NPS, CSAT, CES etc.) with the commercial metrics; that’s your route to proving ROI, and therefore success, not just in the eyes of the CX team but also the C-suite.”