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Building Human Relationships In An Automated Customer Service World

Automated operators and sophisticated websites can increase efficiency and reduce costs, but what they cannot do is replace the friendly greeting by a real person
Customers want and expect quality service, whether it is searching for an answer online or speaking to a live person via telephone or face-to-face

How do you provide unparalleled, personalized customer service and support in a high-tech, self-service world? This blue ribbon is achievable by fusing the human component of superb customer care with user-friendly, cutting-edge solutions that are available around the clock.

Technology has made it possible for customers to get assistance at their convenience, with no need to be concerned with business hours or time zone differences. Automated operators and sophisticated websites can increase efficiency and reduce costs, but what they cannot do is replace the friendly greeting by a real person — the undivided attention that makes a customer feel valued — and in turn, cannot build a lasting relationship with a customer.

We have to determine what the customer’s needs are and how best to fulfill them with an integration of both human and technological services.

Customer Service And Technical Support

Customers want and expect quality service, whether it is searching for an answer online or speaking to a live person via telephone or face-to-face. Ultimately, customers want their needs met and will gravitate to whatever source can help them avoid this deficiency.

The human interface remains a vital component to climbing to the summit of customer care known as “always”

Customer service and technical support both have characteristics related to Abraham Maslow’s “A Theory of Human Motivation” (1943) in which he proposed his theory of human needs. Maslow’s research concluded that humans — in this case, customers — have basic needs that include “affection, security, and self-esteem.”

Translated into customer service terminology, this represents having a relationship with your customer in which they feel “known” by your company, that you care about their needs as a customer and, as a result, that you care personally.

These basic needs are also termed “deficiency needs” because if they are not met, the person, or customer, will strive to make up the deficiency. In the case of customer care, this means if your company is not meeting needs, the customer will find another company that will.

Attaining Customer Loyalty

Another important study on human motivational factors, conducted by Frederick Herzberg, focused on issues that must be present prior to motivating an individual.

Herzberg’s study, “The Two-Factor Theory” (1959), focused on what causes dissatisfaction among employees — and in return, customers — and what motivates them to remain loyal to a company.

Two of the primary “dissatisfiers” are working conditions and policies from administrative practices. Understanding these two factors as they relate to customers is integral to building customer loyalty company-wide. Working conditions, policies and administrative practices impact the overall environment the customer has to operate within, whether that is technology-based or with a live person.

To motivate loyalty, you must first satisfy their basic needs, then offer other incentives that will transition the client from a satisfied customer to a loyal customer.

In the words of Jeffrey Gitomer, one of the leading experts on sales and customer loyalty, “Great salespeople [human and technology-based resources] are relationship builders who provide value and help their customers win.”

The synthesis of personalised customer care and support with the ever-increasing demand for real-time answers to immediate needs will always be an ongoing process
The benefits of offering multi-layered options can be invaluable by providing insight into the needs of your customer

Creating Customer Trust With ‘Always’

Most successful companies are familiar with the adage, “people do business with those they know, like, and trust.”

Customers cannot develop a relationship with your broadband or automated operator. The human interface remains a vital component to climbing to the summit of customer care known as “always.”

Shep Hyken, a leading expert in customer service, wrote in his blog, How to Create Customer Trust, that “always” is the one word you want your customers to associate with your company. “They are always so nice.” “They always take care of me.” “I can always count on them.” And, when there is a mistake or a problem, “they always fix it.”

Following is a partial list of the steps to reach the summit of “always”:

  • Predictability – Make sure the customer can count on your company to provide a positive experience
  • Consistency – Regardless of whom or what your customer is dealing with – whether they encounter one of your employees or an automated service – ensure the answers are consistent and the service is prompt
  • Eliminate friction – Make the process of contacting your company as painless as possible by creating an environment in which the customer can locate information quickly and obtain accurate, reliable answers to their questions

Achieving these benchmarks will take some trial and error, but it is important to your customer that their issues be resolved quickly and accurately. “Always” is a statement of company culture, expectations, and mission. The impression the customer walks away with after each interaction will directly relate to the importance you place on getting to “always.”

Technology And The Human Touch

Technology is always marching forward at a rapid pace, which directly impacts customers’ needs. The benefits of offering multi-layered options, such as automated telephone menus and web-based self-service, can be invaluable by providing insight into the needs of your customer. This will allow you to tailor your platforms to satisfy those requirements to ensure a positive customer experience.

Companies will need to adjust, tweak, revise and re-evaluate their products as customers’ needs evolve

Meanwhile, the human interaction remains a vital key to a company’s success. Customers want access to information on their schedule, yet it is the person-to-person contact that builds the relationship. It is still the role of the company and its associates to uncover what the customer needs and wants, find the common links to establish rapport and ask questions to discover what their concerns and/or objections are. This is achievable only by personal interaction.

The synthesis of personalized customer care and support with the ever-increasing demand for real-time answers to immediate needs will always be an ongoing process. Companies will need to adjust, tweak, revise and re-evaluate their products as customers’ needs evolve.

Deliver And ‘Ship’ For Customer Loyalty

Continuing down the path of unparalleled customer care to reach the pinnacle of “always” is the embodiment of two concepts: first, deliver what you sell, inclusive of product and service. If you oversell and under-deliver, you will probably lose the customer. Second, you must “ship.” Seth Godin defines “ship” in his book Lynchpin as, “the collision between your work and the outside world”; meaning, get your product and/or service out into the marketplace.

It might appear at first glance that these two concepts are contradictory, but in reality, they complement one another. This methodology will ensure the customer receives the highest level of service available and they will know their needs are understood and are being met. As a result, the customer will reward your company with the coveted trophy of loyalty.

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