AINews & Analysis

Why Humanizing the Digital Customer Experience is Vital

As brands work through their digital customer experience strategy, they must keep the human component a part of their foundation.

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When it comes to customer experience (CX), digital transformation has a key role to play. In fact, it’s hard to envision any customer-centric development that doesn’t rely on leveraging some sort of emerging digital technology. However, in the rush to implement an optimal digital customer experience, the human aspect of customer interaction cannot be ignored in a brand’s digital transformation journey. That’s because there’s an emotional component to every purchase that a customer creates with almost every product, company and brand. And it is here that the humanizing the digital customer experience becomes critical.

A recent study done by NTT Research on customer experience, substantiates that in the last 12-18 months, digital touchpoints are defining the journey customers have with a brand. However, brands need to carefully balance the automated touchpoints with the human touch by using technology to augment, not just replace, the personal experience in a way that will build relationships and inspire brand loyalty.

Organizations now expect that the majority of CX will be automated in a year’s time, with workloads handled by AI and robotics rising to 51% from 32% over the last 12 months. However, the need for the human touch is of paramount importance, finds the study.

When asked about human-led support, 94% of CX decision-makers agreed that it remains critical– but less than half agreed that they have the technology in place to fully support remote CX employees. Meanwhile, nearly 40% customers stated that their biggest reason for avoiding digital channels is that they would rather speak to a human.

Rob Allman, Vice President, Customer Experience, NTT Limited explains, “We can spot a potentially growing disparity between how businesses assess their own performance and how consumers perceive CX. The fruition of new technology in the CX space is exciting, but the ultimate focus always needs to be on people.”

“Of course, technology such as AI has always augmented human capabilities,” says Allman. “People need to be at the center of any CX strategy, with technology in the service of superior customer and employee experiences that create value.”

Balancing Digital with Human Touch

At a recent technology conference, Steven Van Belleghem, thought leader, author and an expert in customer centricity believes that consumers now live in a world where self-service, automation and robots would dominate the customer relations and the time is fast approaching when the computers will dominate our lives making human interactions rare.

“In such a scenario, however, this will make the human touch all the more important because of its ability to offer significant added value within the impersonal digital landscape.  As a result, enterprises need to focus on human transformation on an equal footing as digital transformation, making the future is both, digital and human,” he says.

Steven elaborates, “The quality of the ‘human touch’ in customer service will fundamentally increase because more data will be available for the front line staff. Human interaction will become tech-augmented in a way that will start to feel normal, and quickly become the expected standard.   is important not only because it will allow individual interactions to be much faster, but it will also help staff personalize these interactions more effectively, as companies are going to have more data at their fingertips for each individual customer than ever before.”

Dr. Bhaskar Ghosh, Accenture’s chief strategy officer, once mentioned at a panel discussion that our lives have already changed in the last one decade, with  technologies such as cloud computing, automation, and AI—and the data they exchange—all enable today’s enterprises to know more about their customers than ever before. “However it is only by humanizing the customer experience in the digital age we can make CX much more personalized and builds a bond of trust,” he notes.

The future is about making digital customer experience more human. In fact, it is the human touch that separates a great customer experience from a poor one. Numerous studies have earlier pointed out that the ability to tie technology and the human touch together will help deliver a better digital CX than either can do alone. For example, a PwC research showed that 59% of global consumers felt companies had lost touch with the human element of customer experience (CX), and 75% of the customers surveyed preferred to interact with a human versus an automated machine; even before the crisis. This clearly states that human touch is the most important element for delivering great CX.

Towards an intelligent and personalized CX 

In another research, over half of the consumers polled (53%) feel frustrated by receiving too many irrelevant ads and emails from companies, they can’t get answers to simple questions (36%) and one-third say that services feel impersonal. Most of these are automated channels with poor digital and low human involvements. However, highly sophisticated customer experiences, created with technologies like intelligent chatbots, AI etc., built on digital perfection and human touch and can separate the leaders from the laggards.

As the NTT Research also shows that the quality of automated CX systems had improved over the course of the pandemic.With forecasts for next year showing high rates of organizations expecting to have implemented voice-activated AI assistants (52%), robotic process automation (48%), web-based AI assistants (45%), and other new technologies, these developments hold a lot of potential for businesses to differentiate themselves by more effectively solving customers’challenges. The challenge lies in the way these technologies are implemented by skilled and knowledgeable personnel so that they fully meet consumer expectations, again bringing in focus the role of a humanized involvement.

So, even though brands will continue to rely on data and automation to significantly improve CX, people need to be at the center of any CX strategy to create superior customer and employee experiences that create value. In other words, successful customer relationship will be the one which excels in both its digital and human aspects and can empower the journey of a customer through adaptive, intelligent, and personalized experiences.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com