Whether you’re a mom n’ pop small business or a Fortune 100, the way you treat customers says a lot about the type of business you aspire to be. In the never-ending pursuit of productivity, we’ve invented phone trees and contact form fields and generic support@email methods for customers to get in contact with us, but are we really being accessible to our customers? With these impersonal forms of automation who are we really helping, the customer or the bottom line?
Valuing customers means being available anytime, anywhere. The sincerest form of respect you can show customers is instant access to your people. Being accessible isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s downright expensive. That is why automated phone systems and generic “contact us” form fields were invented: to reduce the front-line costs of real customer interactions. Over the last two decades the imperative has become cost efficiency through labor reduction (at all costs). And the scary part is, too many companies, if given the option, would choose to never provide real human support.
Are chat bots and “search our knowledge base” legitimate substitutes to providing someone real for customers to talk to? Sure, there may be perceived short-term cost savings. Build the artificial intelligence once for $200,000 and fire four people. But what are the long-term costs to the business when the customer is obfuscated by non-human service mechanisms that fail to provide what the customer really wanted: a real person to talk to?
Humans, and more specifically front-line people who work with customers, are an amazing piece of technology. Sure, a front-line human is organic technology that may cost $35-150k per year, but look at what you’re getting for that investment: unparalleled customer empathy, tacit and explicit experiential knowledge, proactive collaboration, and passion. Inorganic technology like chatbots have no motivation for actually delighting a customer.
And consider trust. People still buy from people they know, like and trust. To get a customer to buy, and then remain a customer, they need to trust not just your organization, but the authentic representation of your organization. While trust can be developed based a customer’s experience with your brand, product or service, trust is maintained over the customer lifetime by authentic (human) interactions with your organization. Front-line people are the most amazing brand ambassadors. Investing in smiles, knowledgeable personnel, and getting your people in front of the customer can provide tangible ROI, even when the customer’s expectations in order to become and remain a customer are sometimes difficult to quantify.
The Benefits of Being Authentically Accessible:
Signals transparency to the customer (not hiding behind phone trees and form fields)
Indicates brand authenticity; we’re a real Company made up of real people
Expresses empathy; shows you understand the fact that customers, first and foremost, want to be acknowledged
Respects their time; customers hate waiting and human intervention can reduce friction towards accomplishing their objective (being educated, purchasing, receiving support)
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU SAID TO YOURSELF,
"I JUST WANT SOMEONE TO HELP ME!"?