Putting the Human Back into the Equation

Mass marketing - email blasts personalized with the prospect’s name, interactive voice response systems, chatbots, digital payments, artificial intelligence, Big Data – all are important weapons in the marketer’s arsenal to enable massive customer outreach at a reasonable cost. While price and quality are key factors, these approaches all lack human interaction and don’t make it easy to create and maintain a solid customer experience. The driving factor in both purchases and brand loyalty is often the fact that a prospect enjoys a positive experience with a person. As reported by a recent PWC survey, 60% of the people surveyed said they would stop doing business with a company due to unfriendly service, and 46% would not do business if the employees lacked knowledge.

This is borne out by online peer reviews, where the angriest and the most condescending reviews concern the vendor’s failure to treat the customer as an equal. Bad customer service, lack of follow-up, clunky handoffs, unfulfilled promises…. all these can work against even the most brilliant product to tarnish your brand’s image and your company’s reputation.

In a world of mass marketing, where artificial intelligence and machine learning are used to try to tease out trends and drive product decisions, it’s not easy to inject the human element. Yet it’s vitally important, and a little extra effort can pay off in increased conversion rates, stickier customer relationships and enhanced brand loyalty. Start by focusing on the top 2-3 areas where human interaction will really pay off, and explore ways to add human interaction where it makes sense.

An obvious area is in customer support. If you rely on an interactive voice response system to do initial support call screening, or routinely send users with support questions to an FAQ section of the website, it may be worthwhile doing an audit or conducting mock support calls to ascertain how easy or difficult it really is for your customers to get the information they need. How hard is it to speak with a human? And when the customer finally gets through, does your support team really understand the questions? Are they giving good advice, and in a welcoming manner? How do your customers feel about your support?

Even e-commerce applications, which are expected to be fully automated, can present opportunities for human interaction. Your e-commerce application should be able to identify a customer who is having trouble making a decision, based on any of a number of factors. If it can then alert a rep to get in touch with the customer, it not only helps in the decision-making and sales process, it shows a level of attention and care that will stay with the customer.

About the Author

Tanya Candia is the author of several engineering and marketing books, including the five-book series “Starting Your Startup” published by IEEE. She has held senior executive positions in technology companies, and works with organizations around to world to develop and implement winning strategies.

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