Striking the balance – digital versus human

By Graham Ede, Yonder Digital Group... Enterprise technology, in particular that which underpins multi-channel commerce and digital communications, has transformed business efficiency and capabilities over the last decade. As a consequence, senior management often views technology as the silver bullet to an organisation’s success and seeks to push the boundaries towards ‘full automation’ – which in reality does not fit every business process.

This is especially evident in customer management. Back in 2011, Gartner told us that 85% of the customer relationship would be managed without human input by 2020 . This prediction has certainly been given credence by recent innovations, such as artificial intelligence, that are rapidly furthering the prominence of digital within the customer journey. Yet there is cause to question whether companies are properly analysing the suitability of such technologies and measuring their impact on customer experience. Forrester Research recently voiced this concern regarding early deployments of Chatbots .

Successful customer management requires a far more nuanced balance between technology and humans. The risks of over-reliance on digital channels was the topic of our recent research that canvassed the opinions of 1,000 UK consumers across a range of age groups. 87% of respondents said they stay loyal – and are more likely to increase their business – with a company that offers a real person to speak to when they need it. What’s more, 69% warned that they actively take their business elsewhere if their query is not dealt with by a live agent. Clearly companies that underestimate the value of human interaction run the risk of not only failing to engage with customers, but potentially causing them to defect to competitors.

  • I tend to stay more loyal and increase my business with companies who offer a real person to talk to when I need it – 87%
  • I tend to stay more loyal and increase my business with companies who offer a choice of ways of getting in touch with them – 84%
  • I tend to stay more loyal and increase my business with companies who resolve my queries and enquiries quickly and effectively, however I get in touch with them – 92%
  • If I can’t get through to a real person when I have a query with a company, I tend to take my business elsewhere – 69%
  • If my queries aren’t answered quickly and effectively by a company, I tend to take my business elsewhere – 81%

We also quizzed our respondents about the perceived importance of having a choice of channels by which to contact a company. 84% stated that this component leads them to increase their loyalty and even increase their spending. So alongside the role of contact centres, the multi-channel model appears also to deliver significant, tangible commercial payback.

Despite the overwhelming message the research sends to ‘digital only’ proponents, it does not diminish the value delivered by technology and, specifically, automated customer management tools. Indeed investment in the right systems, in the right places, is fundamental to managing the customer experience, for instance by underpinning multi-channel capabilities and by enabling the customer profiling and data insight that powers personalised communications.

It is perfectly valid and desirable to apply automated technologies to standard customer queries, as long as the organisation has identified the points at which the contact centre should take over. It is generally these points that are the most critical – when people skills are required such as reactive decision-making, negotiation and diplomacy. But even here, technology has a vital role to play in facilitating the transition between digital platforms and the contact centre. Agents should have a feed of the caller’s recent digital interactions (such as website activity) in front of them, so they are able to provide a well-informed and efficient response.

In summary, the way that companies handle customer experience dictates not just how successful they are in keeping their customers happy, but in keeping their customers full stop. In today’s increasingly digital world, the human touch is prized by consumers and companies that fail to recognise this will pay the commercial penalties.

About Yonder Digital Group

Yonder Digital Group is an established UK outsourced customer management provider since 2000. With 1000+ seat technology enabled omnichannel contact centres-of-excellence across 3 sites, Yonder provides customer experience services all year round. For more information, please visit