5 Reasons Human Customer Service Still Matters
Customer service is evolving. Companies are beginning to find and favor advanced technologies and automated strategies that allow them to field customer questions and needs more efficiently and without the need for direct human management. For example, more companies are launching interactive knowledge bases that customers can consult to find the answers they need on their own, and breakthroughs like chatbots are offering full, human-like conversations without any human intervention.
But here’s the thing; you still need a human element in your customer service program, and will for the foreseeable future.
Why Human Customer Service Still Matters
So why is human contact so important for customer service?
- The phone element. Cell phones are one of the most abundant pieces of technology in our culture (and in most places throughout the world). Thanks to the advent of smartphone technology, those phones can access the internet, send text messages, transmit video, etc., but the main way we use them is as a tool to connect with other human beings. Despite the fact that we buy products online and do research with apps, when we want to communicate with others, we still rely on those classical forms of communication.
- Customer preferences. There’s a growing number of people who accept automated forms of customer service, especially in younger generations. However, the overall trend still favors traditional human interactions. According to the Global Consumer Pulse Research study from Accenture Strategy, 83 percent of consumers prefer human interaction over digital channels when trying to resolve a customer service issue. Even if an automated customer service channel can provide similar answers, or respond to queries faster, those automated processes can’t fulfill that baseline human desire to simply talk to another human.
- Online accessibility. Most forms of customer service automation rely on some kind of internet access. For example, you might need to download an app or access a website to view knowledge base content, or you might need to check your email to see if the ticketing system gave you an answer to your question. This is highly convenient and hypothetically accessible everywhere, but it still isn’t going to serve the entirety of your customer base. What happens if your web servers crash? What happens if internet access is compromised? And what about the people within your target demographics who don’t have a reliable way to access the internet? Human-based customer service is a way to hedge your bets and potentially remedy the problem.
- The comprehensiveness of guides. Customer service knowledge bases often attempt to comprehensively cover every problem a customer could face, presenting a detailed article on the nature of the problem with potential solutions. These are often searchable, which makes them more convenient, and in many cases present ample information for customers’ needs. However, no matter how much research you do, how many articles you write, or how available you make your knowledge base, it’s impossible to be comprehensive. Human agents, on the other hand, even if they don’t have an immediate answer, should be able to provide comfort and assistance to customers.
- Standing out. It’s estimated that 29 percent of customer service positions could be automated with chatbots and other technology, saving businesses $23 billion. That’s an attractive offer, and one that many businesses are going to relentlessly chase. Over the course of the next several years, the majority of businesses will attempt to adopt a customer service platform that’s as automated as possible. This presents an interesting opportunity for businesses that still provide human-intensive customer service. They’re going to represent a minority of companies, and for customers who prefer human interaction, they’ll have a striking competitive edge. It may be worth prioritizing your human staff for that reason alone.
Finding the Balance
This doesn’t mean that your customer service strategy shouldn’t involve any technology, or that you have to spend more on hiring human customer service reps if you want to survive. Instead, these points only suggest that human beings should continue operating alongside whatever technologies you incorporate into your customer service strategy. Success in this field is all about finding a balance between the two.
Larry Alton is a freelance writer, whose work regularly appears in Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Inc. and Adweek.