Are we too digitally dependent?

Businesses who still think that brand and customer loyalty are what will keep them ahead of the competition, are in for a nasty surprise. In today’s age of digital transformation and accelerated technological change, customers are looking for exceptional experiences, and are shifting their loyalties to the brands that offer them.  

In this way, the experience a business offers has become its brand differentiator, and because customers are increasingly making online purchases via their tablets, phones and laptops, savvy businesses are focusing on improving their online experience and digital channels.  

Digital transformation allows companies to better engage with their digital audience and deliver the seamless experiences they demand. This transformation integrates digital technology into all business areas, bringing about dramatic changes in the way a business operates and delivers value to customers. 

According to Nadia Coetzer, Head of Support at PaySpace, leaders in payroll and HR software, the COVID-19 pandemic proved that businesses need to be more digitally available, as companies had to move to work from home environments practically overnight. 

“Digital technologies have given customers more autonomy over the way they manage their own businesses, as well as more channels to interact and engage with other businesses. Look at a call centre, for example, they have chatbots, telephone, email and social media as ways of communication.”

However, this digital-led world begs the question as to whether we are too digitally dependent. For Coetzer, the answer is “not yet”. “In the South African market, we are not there yet. Although the pandemic proved that we need to be more digitally available, it is still our preference as to whether we want to be digitally dependent or not.”

She also stresses that the human touch remains critical to customer experience (CX). “Human nature has proven that we rely on empathy. It is so important, because people want to feel valued and understood. All studies reveal that empathy in communication and active listening increase customer satisfaction all round.”

From a service level, Coetzer says that while online services are convenient, helpfulhuman customer service still stands out. “The human touch still trumps everything.”

Customers use digital and social channels to research and review products, make online purchases, and engage with peers on forums. However, when customers are looking for problem-solving assistance with an issue they are experiencing, they will contact a business via telephone and look to speak directly with a person. Customers prioritise human interaction when they most want to feel understood and heard by a business.

To make customer service exceptional, she says businesses need to create memorable experiences to “wow” their customers, and a personal touch is more memorable and shareable than any other method or channel. “Meeting customer expectations is a must. However, going above and beyond to exceed their expectations, is what creates these “wow” moments, and sets you apart from the competition.”

Coetzer says, creating meaningful connections and relationships with customers is key to customer satisfaction. “Communication is also key. Keep language simple, and don’t overcomplicate things by using complex language, as this can confuse and isolate customers. In addition, by listening to customers’ needs and telling them how you will meet their expectations, you will help them and maintain the important human touch.”

At the end of the day, she says staying ’humanly’ connected with people, and adding a human touch, is vital to nurturing and sustaining long-lasting relationships with customers. “In a digital age, they want the best CX, but this means a real experience they can remember. They need to feel important, and that they’ve made a good choice in choosing your company.” 

CX is the number one priority, and you cannot have this without a human touch, adds Coetzer. “Even in a digital age, human touch is more important than ever before. Technology enables businesses to reach out from everywhere, and allows them to lower costs, and increase efficiencies. However, human touch is what provides a world-class experience.”

What is key is finding the balance between people and digital, connecting with customers and offering them something more. “This is what turns a business transaction into a long term relationship,” she ends.

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