Dean Inge once said: “There are two kinds of fools: one who says this is old and therefore good, and the other who says this is new and therefore better.”
In an age where, particularly for customer management, the talk is all about digital transformation and humans versus machines, these words highlight a valid point: that maybe we shouldn’t be trying to figure out which is better, the new or old way of doing things, but rather look at how humans and machines can integrate and support one another for greater operational efficiency and to deliver a better customer experience.
Digital Tech Is Not the Magic Potion
Poor customer service delivery cannot magically be transformed by the introduction of digital technology. The fundamentals of a good customer experience are still the same, and these need to be entrenched first as a foundation on which to build an even better experience. The role of frontline staff and the mechanism of service delivery might change, and this is where businesses can explore new technology and innovation.
By the same token, to blindly forge ahead and implement digital transformation without having a clear strategy of what you want to achieve is a sure way to reduce your return on investment. It’s not just about figuring out what to implement where, but also how and why the technology would be beneficial. It’s crucial to evaluate the value and importance that different tasks hold for both the business and the customer, because this will help identify opportunities for change. Ask the questions: What can humans do better? What can machines do more efficiently? You’ll quickly discover there’s a place for both to jointly improve customer management.
As smart as machines are, they are not able to manage the human capability of creativity, compassion or conscience. While systems may be able to process vast batches of data, the parameters still need to be designed by humans. Humans are still more effective at negotiation and paying attention to nuances in a conversation. They can pick up on emotional cues and formulate a solution that is unique for a specific customer. Tech, on the other hand, is really good at crunching numbers, providing detailed analytics and tracking progress.
So as we continue to be bombarded with news regarding technology, ever mindful of all the fake news and myths that go along with it, what should business managers be taking into consideration when looking ahead at the next five years in customer management?
Be open to hearing about all new types of technology, including views, news and opinions from various industry leaders. The more input you gain from others, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions regarding what technology may suit your purposes. At the same time, analyse your own organisation and understand where opportunities or failures lie, because ultimately any technology you consider must be in the context of your own organisational needs and operating cost model.
With all the opinions and hype out there, it is sometimes difficult to sort fact from fiction. There are many forecasters who talk in absolutes, making their predictions sound like truths. Take into consideration the source: why might they be saying that? Who stands to benefit? Is it a subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) attempt at a sales pitch? Remember that while many may claim to the contrary, automation in customer management is not new; it’s been in place for decades. It’s only the type of automation that’s changing, so be cautious about what you listen to and accept as fact.
One of the challenges with digital transformation is the speed at which technology is changing. This means that what is suitable for your business today may not be the best option for adapting to future challenges or opportunities. Knowing your own business and objectives is key because that then gives you the anchor point from which to implement changes that will allow you to remain agile in the future economy while keeping within your planned business strategy. Being able to identify opportunities and quickly mobilise to take advantage of them is what will set companies apart from their competitors. This will only be possible if a business positions itself to be agile.
Both humans and machines have a lot to offer the customer management industry, and there are some exciting technology developments afoot. In many industry sectors, the response from customers in terms of chatbots and mobile apps is positive, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the right fit for your business. At the heart of it, it’s about finding what will deliver the right level of customer value that aligns with your brand and cost operating model, and the right combination of human and machine to achieve that.
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