From the likes of Google Assistant booking hair appointments for customers, to cashier-less grocery stores in the form of Amazon Go, tech is evolving and mimicking human traits more than ever.
Basic chatbots have recently advanced to become fully-fledged assistants providing consumers with the speed, accuracy and consistency they now expect from customer experience. It’s about identifying what humans find most useful, which is why many businesses are increasingly using AI across all support channels.
But what does the gradual disappearance of human customer service representatives mean for the future of customer experience? Below we explore how humans and tech can work together to create a seamless experience for consumers, rather than either one being more powerful.
The importance of conversations around human vs tech
These conversations are extremely important to customer experience and are a vital consideration at Ethology, which is where we craft and deliver insight-led and intuitive experiences. Engaging audiences, maximising conversions and ultimately driving brand growth for businesses is always at its core.
When bringing conversations to the fore in customer experience, it’s crucial to understand the relationship between the evolving role of tech and humans. Yes, technology is a great enabler, but it shouldn’t be solely relied on. It isn’t about replacing humans with tech, it’s about how the two can combine effortlessly to deliver a seamless customer experience. Understanding the needs of the customer is the priority.
Often businesses automatically slip into ‘digital first’, forgetting that customer experience should be customer-led. Digital should only be used to heighten the consumer experience. Agencies and brands can often use tech for the sake of it, in attempts to keep up with the times, rather than being strategic in utilising it to its highest potential and with the customer in mind.
The changing roles of physical and digital
In an ever-evolving digital world, brands are keen to keep up with the times and implement the latest tech into their customer experience strategies.
The physical environment gives a hands-on experience, allowing consumers to engage with brands in different ways. Take Nike, both their Oxford street and their Brand Lab store in Shoreditch are physical shops, but don’t offer the usual retail experience, or even the same experience as one another. The concept of the immersion stores, a ‘playground’ if you will, provide a reflection of the brand. Offering experiences, such as designing your own trainers or joining their running club, attracts people into stores.
The role of digital has been established as an easy and quick fix. But while purchasing online may seem like the stress-free option, people still hunt for that hands-on involvement. Consumers crave the relationships built through face to face contact. A human assistant fosters greater trust, as they’re not interacting with the unknown behind a screen.
Can there be a seamless blend between the online and physical?
Roles change over time. Physical stores are having more of an online presence, for example offering click and collect in stores. Brands like Jack Wills, famous for their loyal customer base, offer those who order online an instore voucher when they pick up their order.
Similarly, ecommerce giant Amazon, has begun blurring the lines between instore and online. Having recently opened a cashier-less physical concept store, the brand uses facial recognition for purchases. However, this has raised doubts especially around the ominous implications for retail staffing. The digital part of retail may remove the purchase issues to create a more consumable process, but it should be about using blended retail and understanding how channels integrate. This differs from brand to brand and within different sectors. Brands need to find the right balance that elevates and reflects their messaging.
Giving consumers choice in their customer experiences
The ‘expectation economy’ drives consumers’ demand to always want more. If a consumer has previously had a positive customer experience with a brand, they want and expect a mirrored experience from other brands. But these experiences take skills, time and effort.
Successful brands are setting an expectation, forcing others to step up. There’s a race to deliver the best customer experience that meets the needs and expectations of the consumer. Brands need to offer a useful and relevant service, taking away the burden of choice, whilst remaining entertaining to keep consumers engaged. Through removing the menial, brands can make their offerings meaningful.
Putting it to practice
Focussing on getting the balance right between physical and online offerings is important to us as an agency and developing customer experience strategies that can be transferred over numerous sectors is another added bonus. For example, we have used our methods across finance, automotive and quick serve restaurants, to name just a few.
Helping clients through the whole journey is key, as providing new apps, programmes and tools creates a first-hand way to support consultants in the customer experience they provide. Questioning how much should be moved online helps establish the importance of empowering humans to do better. For example, a loyalty algorithm based on the behaviour and types of products consumers are buying is where tech can assist humans. However, suggesting leadership programmes supports and extends the face-to-face relationship of customer experience. It’s no mean feat replicating brand warmth in an app and businesses need to work hard to recreate this in their digital offerings.
What does the future look like?
The future is ambiguous, the roles of human and tech will continue to evolve. Eventually tech assistants will feel more natural, becoming an integrated part of our world and providing a seamless experience of robots and automation. But as tech competes to do our jobs and the role of humans change, what do we fill this new-found time with? Experiences. Experiences will become efficient, productive, immersive and enjoyable as tech and humans fully blend.
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