Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared on Shep Hyken’s blog and is adapted here with permission.
A recent article on RetailWire posed a question about which of two customer loyalty strategies delivered greater ROI: Is it a customer service experience, or is it technology that integrates ease, simplicity and speed into the product?
My answer is simple: Both!
Technology is amazing. Customer service is amazing. When you marry the two, you can have a winning combination. A great technological system can’t replace good, old-fashioned customer service; and, in most industries, using technology to enhance the customer’s experience shouldn’t be overlooked.
Not an Either/Or Situation
I think Amazon, for example, is a great technology company. Even if you never interact with an employee while using its platform, you feel as if you receive great service — until the technology fails. Even when it does fail, though, you just need to pick up the phone and speak with one of Amazon’s helpful customer service representatives. The company recognizes that even with an amazing system, it needs the backup of human support.
I recently traveled to Singapore and stayed at a hotel that was as technologically advanced as any hotel I’d ever stayed at. There was an option for self-service check-in to avoid lines. The keys to the room didn’t need to be inserted into the door handle. Instead, I just held the key near the door handle to unlock the door. The hotel had high-speed elevators, clocks that wirelessly connected to guests’ smartphones, and much more. But all of that technology aimed at enhancing my experience would have meant nothing if the hotel employees weren’t friendly and engaging. (They were.)
Don’t Make Customers Choose
A long time ago, I attended a sales presentation in which the sales rep told his customer about the benefits available. The rep said the company offered great customer service, speed and price. Then, he added, the customer could choose two of those three options.
That approach might have been acceptable 20 years ago, but it won’t fly today. The customer expects — demands — all three. Great customer service is a non-negotiable. Speed has become a standard expectation. Price is the variable, and while customers don’t always require the lowest price, they should feel as if the price equals the value of services rendered.
The most competitive companies in any industry focus on the human factor of customer service. That involves engagement that’s friendly, customer-focused and that’s likely enhanced by technology.
The bottom line: Don’t offer customers a choice between technology that offers “ease, simplicity or speed,” or a better customer service experience. You must offer it all.
A version of this article first appeared on Shep Hyken’s Customer Service Blog and was written by Shep Hyken. You can read the full version here.