The world is more connected than it was five years ago -- and exponentially so compared to the five years before that. But as we adopt auto-reply systems, customer service bots and even let our phones screen our calls, it seems this hyper-connected world has resulted in less human-to-human interaction.
Because of this, brands run the risk of losing that personal touch -- and ultimately their opportunity to differentiate on service. Of course, it's table stakes that the core product needs to be competitive, but how can brands set themselves apart when there may be little or no direct interaction with their customers?
1. THE DIGITAL EXPERIENCE MAY BE YOUR ONLY DIRECT CONNECTION TO YOUR CUSTOMER.
So, take the time to get it right. A frustrating digital experience results in an unhappy customer who can easily find your competition from the same browser window or app store. According to Formstack, 57% of internet users say that they won't recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website.
2. BE TRANSPARENT, AND PUT USEFUL INFORMATION IN THE HANDS OF YOUR CUSTOMERS.
Let your customers know that there are real people behind your product; this transparency lets people appreciate the amount of work that went into making the experience. The Domino’s Pizza Tracker is a great example, but this concept can be applied across virtually any industry. Fulfillment centers could show the origin and history of their product, as well as the process of boxes being packed and loaded for shipment. Wouldn’t it be amazing if your doctor’s office actually let you know when they are running late and why?
3. TAKE CARE OF YOUR PRODUCT EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.
If a customer purchases a sweater in a store, the salesperson wraps it in tissue, folds it nicely and puts it in a branded shopping bag. If a customer orders that same sweater online, it arrives in a plastic bag inside a box. This experience may make customers feel less cared for, at least compared to an in-store purchase. Experience matters, even if you aren't personally interacting with your customer. Look out for small ways you can optimize your experience both in-person and online.
4. GO ABOVE AND BEYOND.
Rideshare drivers who deliver you quietly and safely to your destination get solid reviews, while those who stand out often offer passengers water or engage them in avid conversation. If a customer orders food to be delivered from your restaurant, why not include a little something extra that might incentivize them to order from your restaurant again next time? Even a magnet, a cookie or a handwritten note might be the personal touch that makes a lasting memory. According to Accenture, companies that excel in customer experience enjoy a 3% to 7% revenue lift, which can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
5. EVERY PERSONAL INTERACTION MEANS WAY MORE THAN IT EVER HAS IN THE PAST.
In a hotel, you might opt for a digital key and quite literally not interact with any hotel staff during your stay. But what if the concierge greeted you by name, or what if the bartender knew that you like two olives in your martini? According to a PwC study (reported on by Multichannel), 74% of respondents said "they wanted more human interaction, not less. And 64% of respondents said they felt companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience." Companies can do this by collecting and aggregating data from all customer touch points into a customer data platform and using technologies such as AI and machine learning to gather insights so that they can truly know and personalize service for each customer.
Brands need to be intentional about how they are interacting with customers in order to make the most of each and every interaction and differentiate themselves against the competition. Where will you start?