Almost a quarter century ago Bruce Springsteen sang these words, “I just want someone to talk to … and a little of that human touch.” The song, Human Touch was a big hit. More importantly, the concept is still relevant today in business, despite the rise of digital technology.
Rachel Lane, Verint Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:VRNTC), Director of Customer Analytics EMEA, spoke with WooTrader about a new study from Verint titled The Digital Tipping Point. The study, carried out by Opinium Research with insights and commentary from IDC, gauged the customer service preferences of more than 24,000 consumers in 12 countries.
WooTrader: What were the important takeaways from this study?
Rachel Lane: I would break it down into two things – themes that remain constant from one year to the next and then for things that are different from the survey we ran last year.
One constant is that customers want direct person to person contact to remain part of customer service. A full 65% of respondents said they believe they receive better service when speaking to a person. This is true even though many organizations are investing heavily in digital at the moment.
With regard to human touch the Tipping Point survey attempts to answer, “What is the tipping point for your organization?” In other words, at what point does customer service have to shift to human contact?
On the contrasting side, this year we saw a big change related to transparency. More than 89% of customers want to know how secure their information is and 86% want to know if data will be passed out to third parties. That’s on the back of the fact we’ve seen more data breaches as the years go by.
Is there a disconnect between customers – who seem to want a human touch - and businesses investing in technology?
I’m not 100% sure there is a disconnect. Ultimately this research is telling us every business has its own tipping point. That’s the key here. Organizations need to learn what their tipping point is and by that I mean they need to learn more about their customers.
They need to look at it from their customers’ perspective to have that outside-in approach. Within the research we looked at what channel customers prefer in order to do different things.
If you’re a telco, for example, you might have a wide range of customers across multiple generations but still you have to be sure your solutions appeal to millennials and Generation X’s.
However, if you’re an organization supplying services to an older generation, that’s a different tipping point and you might have a wider disconnect than you expected.
How does the “nature of the need” or type of interaction affect what consumers want?
This is the first year we’ve had this type of data available and we’ve got some fascinating findings.
It’s likely no surprise that baby boomers and the so-called silent generation prefer to have human interaction. Millennials and Generation X’s are driving the use of digital. But when we go a level deeper to look at their preferred channel according to what they want to achieve that’s where we start to see some real interesting disparities.
For product research, digital is still the preferred channel. Also the same for things like changing account details.
However, as soon as anything gets urgent or becomes highly important to the customer, human engagement is by far the method of choice.
How do companies ensure human touch is effective?
One of the things this research does tell us is that as digital becomes more important, the calls that come into the human contact center become more complex. The challenge here is for organizations to make sure human agents are highly trained and have the tools they need to help them solve problems.
Another important part of this is human empowerment. We’re seeing some really great stories about organizations that are empowering their front line agents.
Is it possible to add a human touch factor to customer service and still keep costs down? How?
One of the key statistics we have up front, for example, is that 74% of customers don’t like dealing with companies that don’t provide a phone number on their website.
So if an organization delivers a digital experience to a customer they better make sure that customer has an alternative route. There should always be the option of a human wrapper around digital.
What role does a company like Verint play in helping companies understand and best utilize customer engagement tools?
We start with what the research has shown us. Customers want human touch to continue to be part of customer service. Organizations need to listen to their customers. They need to analyze customer engagement. Customers who get more human contact display more positive behavior about the brand and the organization and are less liable to churn.
Verint is a technology provider but equally we do have consulting organizations as well. We have programs that surround our products and services. When one of our solutions goes to a customer we understand what their strategy is. We understand who their customers are and we will make recommendations based on that.
We have a “customers for life” program and it is geared toward making our customers successful. That’s the key to why this research is important.