In a World of Automation is the Human Touch Lost?

Every year, customers around the world submit an astonishing 265 billion support tickets and calls, amounting to an average cost of $1.3 trillion in customer service expenses. To avoid these staggering costs, many organizations are now utilizing advanced technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, and chatbots as a solution to effectively reduce these numbers. In recent years, Consumers demand for heightened  levels of customer service has caused a massive push for companies to ensure easy and effective CX solutions. As a result, automation has become an integral part of many industries. ChatGPT has emerged as a significant automation factor in CX, as it can help businesses to efficiently manage customer interactions, reduce response times, and enhance overall customer satisfaction. The question remains, are customers happy with advanced levels of automation?

While customers desire efficient service, they also have a strong desire for the personal connection that comes with the human touch.

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Despite the increasing integration of artificial intelligence into customer interactions, the importance of speaking to a human representative is still apparent, especially when it comes to complex purchasing decisions. According to Google, 61% of mobile phone users contact businesses by phone for more information when they are in the purchasing stage of the buying cycle. This is particularly applicable to high-value purchases where consumers tend to conduct preliminary research online but still prefer to engage with a human representative for additional guidance.

PwC's "Experience Is Everything" report revealed that a significant majority of global consumers, 75%, and Americans, 82%, expressed a desire for more human interactions from brands. Additionally, 64% of those surveyed believed that companies have become disconnected from the human element of the customer experience. Despite advancements in technology and increased automation, a majority of American consumers still prioritize human interaction. While apps, websites, and chatbots are used frequently, the preference for a live representative increases when issues arise. This preference highlights the value placed on personalized communication and problem-solving.

Improving your customer experience with a personal touch can have a significant impact on your business. It not only retains customers, but also drives increased sales and long-term loyalty. According to Inc Magazine,  customers are more likely to make additional purchases when they have access to an agent who is motivated and equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools to resolve their issues. A staggering 51% seek out product recommendations during their service inquiries. Further, 86% of customers are willing to pay a premium for a product or service from a company that offers an exceptional customer experience.

Assist customers in easily and quickly connecting with a human representative.

Over 50% of consumers experience frustration when attempting to connect with a service agent due to complicated automated systems. This doesn't mean give up on your automated system just yet. Salesforce reports 69% of consumers prefer to use chatbots for small matters because they provide instant responses. Automation can actually help you address numerous customer service concerns, such as product returns, account alterations, and digital manuals or guides. However, it is crucial to offer prompt access to a human representative to prevent potential customer frustration and ensure satisfaction. In a recent survey by Business Insider, only 23% of consumers said they would trust a chatbot to settle disputes, over half were comfortable using it to ask about a product, but only about a third would trust it to pay a bill. 


What does this data tell us? While using chatbots and untrained staff might seem scalable, it can quickly erode customer loyalty. When using chat bots and automated systems, make sure your audience isn't forced into a binary solution path in which they are provided only a narrow set of answers to select from as the bot asks them questions. Customers understand that chat bots are now the norm, but they also expect them to be advanced enough to interpret written text. In addition, 98 percent of customers expect that when they type "representative," "customer service," or "live person" into the chat, they will immediately be directed to a live agent. 

How you can "humanize" the customer experience. 

1) Your customer service team is crucial to the customer experience: The success of a company lies in the hands of its consumers, but the experience they have is greatly impacted by the customer service agents they interact with. In fact, 71% of consumers believe that the agent plays a significant role in their experience. However, it seems that only 44% feel that agents truly understand their needs. Ensuring that agents are equipped to meet the expectations of customers is crucial for the success of any business. It's important to invest in in-depth training sessions to ensure agents are up-to-date with product information and company policies, as well as have the skills to communicate effectively and handle difficult situations with empathy and professionalism. 
2) Delight your customers: The power of delighting customers has quickly become a major asset for companies trying to get an edge over competitors. We worked with renowned CX author John Goodman, the Vice Chairman of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting (CCMC) on a first-of-its-kind scientific, large-scale study on Customer Delight. The study examines the experiences which result in Customer delight and what the impact of creating customer delight is on lifetime customer value, willingness to pay more and word of mouth marketing. The results...
  • People (genuinely engaged in servicing customers) are the strongest source of delight – stronger than money -- cheap delighters are as effective as costly ones.
  • Honesty and transparency are powerful delighters even when conveying bad news.
  • Digital delight is as prevalent as telephone or in-person and live video chat is emerging strongly.
  • Cross-selling more products to high-end customers often creates delight (as well as more revenue).
  • Affluent customers will pay hundreds of dollars more for the same product to companies that delight.

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VIPdesk's and CCMC’s research has found that inexpensive emotional connection and proactive customer education can deliver 20-32% higher loyalty while reducing costs by preventing problems from ever occurring.

Key Takeaway: People (genuinely engaged in servicing customers) are the strongest source of delight – stronger than money -- cheap delighters are as effective as costly ones. Do the math - if a delighter raises top-box loyalty an average of 10%, is the expenditure to deliver a one minute personal delight worth increasing the lifetime value of the customer by 10%, e.g., by tens or hundreds of dollars. It’s a no-brainer! Encourage honesty and transparency, even if it makes sales nervous. Honesty and transparency are powerful delighters even when conveying bad news.

Read our full delight study: 10 Ways to Delight Your Customers Today!

Read how VIPdesk delighted customers at a leading US beauty brand. 

3) Personalize the customer experience: According to recent studies, 54% of consumers now expect personalized experiences when interacting with businesses. And, if you can offer that personalization, over 90% of customers are likely to boost their spending with your company. Don't miss out on this opportunity to increase customer loyalty and revenue. Start personalizing your interactions today.

4) Be empathetic: Listen actively to customers and show empathy towards their concerns. Empathy can help you connect with customers on a personal level and build trust.

According to Mary McDuffie, CEO of Navy Federal Credit Union, delivering an exceptional experience involves showing empathy towards the customer:

  • Aim for simplicity – Make an effort to achieve radical simplicity in both your processes and products, as simplicity equates to ease.

  • Demonstrate your understanding of me – Recruit staff who comprehend your target audience and their objectives.

  • Take care of it for me – This is no longer the era of self-service. Customers expect businesses to predict their needs and take action.

  • Humans over technology – An interaction with a person will always leave a stronger impression than one with technology. While technology should be used to enhance customer experiences, it should not completely replace human interaction.

5) Offer human support: Provide customers with the option to speak to a human support representative if they need additional assistance. Automated systems can be frustrating and time-consuming, so offering a human touch can go a long way in building customer loyalty.

Offering human support during a customer's experience is crucial for building trust, ensuring customer satisfaction, and fostering long-term loyalty. While technology can enhance the customer experience, nothing beats the personal touch of a human interaction to address complex issues, provide empathy, and create a positive emotional connection between the customer and the brand.

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In a world where automated customer service has become the norm, VIPdesk stands out by bringing a human touch to customer interactions. By using US-based agents who are specifically recruited and diligently trained to understand the brands they passionately represent, VIPdesk ensures that customers receive personalized attention that goes beyond the standard scripted responses. This human approach allows for deeper connections to be made between brands and customers, ultimately leading to elevated experiences, delighted customers and increased overall customer satisfaction.

At VIPdesk, we have invested in the research and development of effective customer support strategies, conducted studies to understand customer needs and preferences, and have tailored our training programs to equip our agents with the skills and knowledge needed to exceed customer expectations.

This dedication to delivering exceptional customer service has helped VIPdesk to delight customers and build long-lasting relationships, while still maintaining the human connection that sets them apart from automated solutions.

I firmly believe that while automation and technology have certainly transformed the landscape of customer service, they cannot replace the unique value of the human touch! No matter how sophisticated the AI or chatbot, there will still be situations where only human empathy and understanding can truly resolve a customer's concern. The more consumers are interacting with automated help channels, the more refreshing and "human" it will feel to interact with a live Brand Ambassador. Companies that recognize this fact and prioritize hiring and training quality customer service representatives will undoubtedly see the benefits in terms of improved customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, business success. So, don't let technology be a crutch but rather a tool that complements the human factor in exceptional customer service.