Balancing Technology and Human Support for CX Excellence

CX Expert Shep Hyken: Balancing Technology and Human Support for CX Excellence

The world of tech and the world of humans have always been interconnected in an effort to achieve CX excellence. What we see today is the confluence of two superpowers that have positively impacted many sectors, most notably the field of customer service or customer experience (CX). While humans can make decisions by factoring in numerous tangible and intangible aspects of any business, technology primarily relies on data and a set of pre-thought and pre-approved conditions that help humans execute those decisions effectively. When it comes to CX, the end goal is to make customers happy and content. By merging our current technological prowess with the brilliance of the human mind, goals of any complexity and CX excellence can be achieved seamlessly.

How Do You Define a ‘Positive Customer Experience’?

Although customer experience can be assessed through various metrics, it remains a subjective parameter for judging whether a company truly satisfies its customers. Several factors come into play: Is the company providing customer service for a product or service? Is the client a direct consumer or another business reliant on a specific service or product? Other considerations include market conditions, budget allocation for after-sales services and customization requests, and more. Before discussing the importance and the delicate balance between human support and technology, let’s first explore what prompts someone to exclaim, ‘The customer experience was delightful!’

Customer experience is targeted at customers. And let’s not forget customers are ultimately humans who want to be heard, understood, acknowledged, and validated. When customers feel heard, their concerns are addressed, and their experiences smooth, they become happy. Positive CX leads to satisfied customers who are more likely to stay loyal and recommend the brand to others. It positively impacts revenue and reputation. Conversely, when customers encounter roadblocks, unaddressed issues, or poor service, they become frustrated. Negative CX results in lost customers, decreased revenue, and damage to the brand’s reputation.

Consider this scenario:

Scenario: Assisting an elderly customer with online banking

Context: An elderly lady, Mrs. Smith, finds herself in a predicament. She needs to make urgent payments through online banking, but navigating the bank’s website feels like cracking a difficult puzzle. Frustration mounts as she clicks on buttons, only to end up in confusing loops.

The Critical Moment: Mrs. Smith logs in to the bank’s website, her heart racing. Bills are due, and she can’t afford delays. The interface overwhelms her: tabs, dropdowns, and security prompts. Panic sets in.

The Support Office Steps in: Mrs. Smith dials the bank’s support hotline. A friendly voice answers: “Hello, XYZ Bank Customer Support. How can I assist you today?” She explains her predicament—the urgency, the confusion, and the fear of messing up.

Empathy and Guidance: The support officer, Jennifer, listens patiently. She empathizes with Mrs. Smith’s situation. “Mrs. Smith,” Jennifer says, “I’m here to help. Let’s take this step by step.” Jennifer guides her through the website: “Click on ‘Payments and Transfers.’ Now, select ‘Bill Payments.’ Enter the payee details. Confirm the amount. And finally, click ‘Submit.’”

Success and Gratitude: Mrs. Smith follows Jennifer’s instructions. The payment goes smoothly. Mrs. Smith is relieved and grateful. “Thank you,” she says. “You’ve made this so easy.” Jennifer smiles. “It’s my pleasure, Mrs. Smith. We’re here for you.”

The Ripple Effect: Mrs. Smith’s loyalty deepens. She shares her positive experiences with friends and family. XYZ Bank gains not just a transaction but a loyal advocate.

In this scenario, XYZ Bank’s support office transformed a potentially frustrating experience into a delightful one. By paying heed to Mrs. Smith’s plight, they didn’t just process a payment—they gained a lifelong customer. This is a classic example of a positive customer experience. 

How to Ensure a Positive Customer Experience

their discussion sincerely underlined the critical role of technology in supporting live human beings who assist customers. They emphasized that an infrastructure that leverages human decision-making skills, emotional intelligence (EQ), and flawless technology-based task execution can ensure a robust and positive customer experience in the long run.

The two reached this conclusion by brainstorming on market trends & demands, human limitations, and tech goof-ups. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Catering Personalization Requests Through AI: Increased demand for personalization and contextualization is creating an environment of anxiety and excessive competition for all the brands out there. Brands are willing to go the extra mile to cater to these demands and leveraging AI is one way to achieve so.
  • Perfecting Omnichannel Communication: The discussion shed light on the fact that customers are quick to change their channel of communication, suiting their convenience. Therefore, it is very important to streamline omnichannel communication by deploying chatbots wherever necessary.
  • Instilling Need-Specific Support Systems: Despite the benefits of technology, its inappropriate use and the lack of logical precision have often led to unsuccessful CX goals. This is where the human element comes into play. It’s essential to identify and highlight areas that aren’t benefiting enough from just technological support. Humans can discern the missed spots and fill them with human support. IVA systems serve as a prime example of flawed technological support, indicating the necessity for a balanced integration of human intervention alongside technological solutions to ensure a seamless customer experience.
  • Using Tech to Empower Support Agents: Venk also weighed that technology shouldn’t solely focus on direct customer assistance. It can also play a vital role in aiding contact center agents in their efforts to assist customers effectively. CRM tools, for instance, provide agents with contextual data and relevant customer information. This not only saves agents time but also contributes to creating a less frustrating experience for customers on the receiving end of the interaction.
  • Using Tech to Monitor and Assess Agent Performance: Humans have a unique ability to communicate with empathy and politeness, which are vital when interacting with customers. While most agents strive to provide excellent service, there may be instances where the quality falls short. In large contact centers with over 500 staff, analyzing calls for quality and compliance issues can be challenging for managers and supervisors. In such situations, AI can play a crucial role in identifying and addressing quality and compliance-related mistakes. With pre-fed guidelines and standards, AI algorithms can accurately pinpoint problematic areas that require attention and correction. This ensures thorough and efficient monitoring, minimizing errors and thereby, enhancing overall customer satisfaction.
  • Using Tech to Identify the Customer’s True Bone of Contention: While brands are already leveraging tools and AI to help customers with their needs, by analyzing agent-customer interactions, companies can recognize areas or aspects of their business that are not serving customers as they wished it would. This proactive approach enables brands to promptly identify and rectify any shortcomings, leading to improved customer satisfaction and increased retention rates.
  • Allowing Agents to Take the Forefront in Judging Customer Competence: Often, customers turn out to be more skilled and knowledgeable than support agents expect them to be. When a customer is already well aware of a problem and has taken initial steps towards finding a solution, it can be frustrating for them to repeat the process from scratch. In such instances, it falls upon the support agent to accurately assess the customer’s capabilities and provide assistance accordingly.
  • Creating an Environment Where Customers Can Help Themselves: Venk emphasized the importance of fostering an environment where customers can help themselves, citing the Ikea effect as a powerful method for enhancing customer satisfaction. Companies can achieve this by offering comprehensive FAQs, detailed manual guides (especially for product-based purchases), and emphasizing critical clauses in service offer documents. Additionally, implementing a system capable of directly answering customer queries eliminates the need for them to contact support agents, streamlining the self-help process further.
  • Using AI to Generate Educative Content on the Product/Service the brand is Selling: Often, brands overlook the fact that they have not provided any source of information to help their consumers understand their product or service. While the customer service team is in place and nicely equipped to serve customers, companies fail to realize that often, people are willing to solve a problem on their own and won’t resort to calling the helpline number until it is inevitable. The brand must educate its target and existing audience about its product/service through video tutorials, and AI can help create these tutorials in a short period.
  • Enhancing Employee Experience Will Improve Customer Experience: When organizations prioritize employee well-being, it significantly enhances customer satisfaction. Employees who are mentally and physically healthy can cultivate positive and productive interactions, resulting in satisfying customer experiences. Companies dedicated to maintaining employee happiness and success benefit from unparalleled loyalty and commitment from their staff. Enhancing employee experience involves providing access to the latest tools and systems for successful task completion, offering training and upskilling opportunities, organizing non-work engagement activities to reduce stress, promoting work-life balance, and more.

In addition to the previously mentioned points, they also advocated for the mindful implementation of automation and utilizing AI for sentiment analysis. These are two effective and straightforward methods to create impactful and positive customer experiences. Both factors highlight the harmonious collaboration of human intelligence with technological prowess to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Read the HGS CX Buyer’s Insight Report mentioned in the video for insights on effective CX-dependent decision-making.

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