A few weeks ago I needed to call my bank with a question about my account. It was something I had tried to rectify online, but wasn’t able to, likely due to security reasons. It was an experience I was prepared to dread. Deep breath, dial the number. I know how this goes: the phone will ring, and there will be a set of prompts. Yes, I speak English, yes, I have my account number. I will punch in all my necessary information, all the while waiting for the opportunity to clearly (and as much as I can, calmly) annunciate “SPEAK TO A REPRESENTATIVE” and hope that if I say it enough, I will eventually be connected to a person. The representative I do connect with will seem disinterested, hard to understand, and guess what? Needs to ask me to repeat all the information I just entered into the prompts. The frustration settles in…
But this time was different. To my shock and excitement, after just a few rings, a voice picked up the phone, and it didn’t sound like a cold, mechanical recording. It sounded like a human. I was actually so surprised that it took me a second to respond. The friendly voice greeted me kindly and asked how they could help. I described my issue, the person rectified it, and BAM, my call was over. It was the easiest three minutes of my life. As a twenty-something, though it may be surprising, my frustration with a shortage of human customer service is not unique. According Mattersight Corporation’s recent survey of over 1,000 millennials, many of us actually prefer person-to-person interactions over digital options in most situations. And, 85% have been disappointed by a company’s service in the past year.
However, we live in a time when the internet rules. Have a question about what something means? Need to research a company? Want to eat something? Buy something? Meet your future spouse? Do it online! And increasingly―do it from your phone, from anywhere, at any time. Nowadays, businesses without an online and a mobile presence are basically sentenced to fail. “If you don’t have a website, your business will become increasingly invisible, until it vanishes altogether,” says Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media. However, websites and mobile apps cannot replace the customer service needs of our culture. I too often find myself on a website that doesn’t even have a contact phone number or email address. As stated in Entrepreneur, “Ecommerce has certainly been a great democratizing force in that it is cheaper than ever to go about starting a business, but it can also feel impersonal.”
How frustrated have you felt when all you wanted to do was talk to someone about your problem, but the only option you have is to see if someone else has asked the same question in a forum or FAQ? I can count on one hand the amount of times that “someone else” asked the same question I did, and thank goodness now the website provides the answers to all those lucky souls who were dying to know the same thing. According to AdWeek, 81% of shoppers research online before buying. In other words, we are spending a lot of time learning about a company or product without any human interaction. A recent study from Gartner states that we only spend 32% of our buyer journey includes interacting with the actual vendor itself. However, that human element cannot and should not be undervalued. We are resourceful and tech-reliant beings. But that does not mean that we put any less weight in dialing a number and hearing a voice. In sending an email and getting a real response. In having an easy path to a human, instead of driving us down more digital wormholes and forms.
“Technology allows us to automate things; It allows us to communicate with people across the world that we may never actually meet. These notions seem at odds with the idea of providing a personal, down-the block experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way.” – Lane Gerson/Ariel Nelson, Founders of Jack Erwin (Source: Entrepreneur)
Why are these personal interactions so important? To many, they seal the deal! Here I am, the consumer. I’ve done my research, my due diligence. I’ve compared this product or service to competitors, checked pricing, asked my superior about taking this direction, and I’m finally ready to have a conversation. I want to ask about something I read on the website that I don’t understand. I want to inquire about custom options. I want to know how this solution can solve my very unique and very important problem. I’m at my most impressionable state―no longer a skeptic, but a near-believer, waiting with open-arms for someone to convince me to take the leap. The ability to deliver on that conversation can be a true turning point. If I talk to someone friendly and intelligent who can answer my questions or at least get back to me quickly, I’m sold. It really is that simple. If your website was accurate, I haven’t been misled, and the customer service is competent, I’m in! To be honest, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for. But for some reason it’s hard to find.
Since the unforgettable call to my bank, I’ve shared that story with at least five to six other people to express how pleased I was. It has really stuck with me, and I think that says a lot. You read everywhere that brands who “surprise and delight” customers are the ones who win. I think it’s time for all brands to take a page out of the bank’s book and reinstate a human-first approach. We are flooded with digital information all day long. We no longer rely on human interaction to get work done. So when it happens, and it is done right, the impression it leaves can be extraordinarily powerful.
One of the things that brought me to Boundless in the first place was the fact that they “get it.” The company was born in an industry that tends to have an “old school” reputation. But building a cutting-edge technology was only part of the road to success. Because no matter how much time you can save by logging into your account and avoiding those extra phone calls, the human interaction is what makes our customers stay with us. Our sales reps and our technology are both fantastic, but they could not be mutually exclusive and still be as successful. This is what makes Boundless great. Ok, shameless plug officially over.
Want to learn about the Boundless human element? We are just a phone call away. Try us at 512.472.9200.