Humanization – fueling customer service today and in the future

Michael Ouissi Profile picture for user Michael Ouissi October 25, 2022
Knowing what customers really want and need - the good, the bad, and the ugly - is critically important for service improvement. But businesses need to take it a step further to make it count. Michael Ouissi of IFS makes the case.

Electrical and instrument operator calibrate level transmitter at offshore oil and gas wellhead remote platform, Onsite service worker. © Oil and Gas Photographer - Shutterstock
(© Oil and Gas Photographer - Shutterstock)

Digital technology is the fuel that turbo-charges customer service. It helps organizations to acquire and process the right data; to provide services and products accurately and efficiently; and to generate an unrivalled customer experience. That said, systems and solutions should always be playing a support role here, rather than being at center stage. It is humans that shape and deliver customer service and that will continue to do so into the future.

People are innately social, and, despite the ongoing advance of digitalization, typically still prefer to interact with a person rather than receiving an automated response. A recent survey of 5,601 people in 16 countries by Verizon found that most (62%) would prefer a direct interaction with a human – whether that be voice, real-time chat or in-person – to a fully or partly automated interaction (37%) in order to resolve a customer service issue.

That’s largely because when interacting with businesses, customers want to engage with people who can empathize with them and quickly demonstrate that they understand their preferences and needs. In line with this, a global survey by Genesys, completed in April 2021, found 59% of consumers prefer an empathetic customer service experience when compared to a speedy resolution.

In any complex interaction, the human touch can be crucial in making customers feel that they matter to the organization. It gives them the reassurance that someone is committed to resolving their problem and concentrating fully on achieving the optimal outcome. And even though technology continues to advance all the time, customer-facing organizations must always be aware that people and their expertise remain key to the delivery of high-quality customer service today.

That means that organizations need to focus on humanizing customer services – even if technology has been key in developing them – to deliver a value-based outcome for the customer at that ‘moment of service’.

Tailoring the approach to customer needs

To do this effectively, businesses will need to closely engage with their customers, listen to their feedback and capture the necessary insights to better understand what drives those customers and better know how to deliver more humanized service offerings to them. The key point here, though, is that the service needs to be differentiated, depending on the specific customer being targeted.

Some people like an automated approach to service, of course, and some yearn for purely human interaction.But others favour a combination of the two – sophisticated cognitive computing science with personal service.Getting that feedback and engagement is the holy grail for organizations looking to deliver the right service to the right customer at the right time. But how do organizations best attain it?

What is ultimately crucial is that they are effective in capturing intelligence and knowing which customer is suited to which type of approach. To do that, they first need an appealing way of engaging with their customers while understanding and collecting their ‘voice.’

That is the principle, but the way in which it is executed is critical here. If the business is to attain valuable insight into what its customers want from customer service, it needs to make it easy for the customer to provide that feedback. Most customer surveys fail to engage, but the use of design-driven customer feedback listening tools that are intuitive for users can help capture that customer voice and strengthen engagement at the same time.

Take the example of Travelzoo, a leading online organization for travel and entertainment deals, Since its implementation of IFS Customerville, it has seen a 350% increase in its overall survey response rate from 8% to 35-39%. Its Customerville-powered Voice of the Member program has produced measurable results too since it launched. Dramatically higher response rates and richer feedback have brought call centre representatives closer to the customer – and made them more able to continuously learn and improve.

Why moments of service matter

Encouraging the use of customer feedback listening tools is critically important. Businesses need to know what customers really want and need, but it is not sufficient in itself to ensure the delivery of a great customer experience. The next stage is for the business to ensure they are delivering those critical ‘moments of service’ to help engage customers and prompt feedback. That can be supported by a range of modern engagement methodologies, including the IFS Six Box Model, which supports a value-led engagement process. The model considers customer engagement across business initiatives, the ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be’ landscape; enablers; obstacles; and the business case.

Coupled with this, there are a myriad of use cases that help deliver a more humanized customer service to drive further engagement. In terms of business initiative, this could include using installers as brand ambassadors to open new revenue streams. With regards to the evolving ‘to-be’ customer landscape, it might include everything from providing customer self-service portals and services to improving customer connection response times. Key ‘enablers’ here might include enhanced customer engagement with AI-enabled chat bots, providing innovative remote assistance with augmented reality and supporting customer prioritisation for different tiers.

Getting closer to the customer

Focusing on the ‘moment of service’ is crucial here in building that connection between the organization and its customers. If the business is seamlessly connected to what is making its customers successful through the ‘moment of service’, it is likely to have a close and trust-based relationship with them and be in a better position to attain the feedback it needs. It also makes sure that their offering remains highly relevant to what the customer needs. That leads in turn to a virtuous circle, where every positive interaction builds engagement, increases customer response rates and generates extra business value.

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