We all hear, see and strive for automation in business. Whether a prescheduled email-drip campaign generating top of mind awareness, a programmed e-commerce solution selling and taking payments, or the helpful IVR to direct customers to the right department, currently companies, small and large alike, consciously choose to reduce business costs by reducing human interaction.
Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. People buy from people.
So how does this fact translate into secondary costs associated with automation? While difficult to quantify, the "cost" of automation and its effects on consumer behavior are much easier to notice:
- Reduced tolerance for mistakes
- Reduced patience
- Increased sensitivity when customers speak to customer service
The interesting thing about the third effect is that its outcome rests in our control. Mistakes will happen, fixes take time to implement, but the good news is, we choose and train our staff. Now when customers do call, the stakes become higher.
Remember the last time you called customer service; either something went wrong or you needed clarity or didn’t understand something. You had already invested time and money, and then, things didn’t go as expected. Now you sat waiting on the phone for ten minutes or more to speak to someone. Likely at that moment, when that customer service representative answers the phone, you are not a happy camper. Think about the intensity of the feeling versus the significance of the problem.
Are they really equal? No. Do you have legitimate reason to feel the way you do? Yes. So where’s the gap? The lack of human interaction preceding the above experience. This lack causes an increased sensitivity for the customer.
What to do to affect positive change and customer outcome?
Well if your situation requires pursuing cost savings by reducing human interaction – fine if you understand the cost, then reinvest a portion into damage control through customer service.
Practically this translates into:
- Scripting refined with a good staff
- Training - built, not on apology, but on accountability
- Enabling customers to reach representatives with whom they have built a rapport
Unfortunately large organizations argue for automation because of a perceived problem of not finding enough good people and/or the cost of overhead.
What if this solution could be achieved without a significant cost? What if training could be implemented by any customer agent?