Before the world was saturated with new technology, before AI and smartphones and the internet, before e-commerce was possible; we had good, old-fashioned customer service. Shop owners and employees knew you by name. They’d bend over backwards to make you happy, and make every effort to ensure a good experience.
Today, many seem to think that this good, old-fashioned customer service is dead. Its killer: technology. With every new gadget, software and digitalised service, human customer service agents are further dispossessed of duties. But this isn’t what customers want. In fact, 62% of customers prefer simple, flexible service options over flashy new technology.
Tech is important for successful customer service experiences today. But it’s not — and shouldn’t be — the star of your service. Old-fashioned customer service isn’t going out of style, so how can you balance traditional expectations with modern customer care?
In the bygone days before technology revolutionised our shopping habits, customer service was face to face. It was human, and it was personal. Shop owners would look you in the eye and call you by name. They’d ask about your day, enquire of your family members, and recommend a new product they think would appeal to your tastes. More importantly, they’d put you first. They’d actively listen, and do everything they could to make you happy and satisfied.
A lot has changed since then. In those days, there was less customer convenience. You’d have to be in store to receive service. You’d have been limited to the few shops and amenities in your local area. You would have had to make an obvious effort to come into a business and spend your money or ask for help. So naturally, that effort had to be eagerly reciprocated.
Good old-fashioned customer service meant putting the customer first, solving problems and personalising every experience. The heart of good old-fashioned customer service is a real human connection – and the trust, respect and loyalty that comes with it.
Nowadays, we as customers have a world of choice at our fingertips. Technology has revolutionised the way we shop, and given us multiple avenues for finding and buying from a business.
The internet meant that businesses became more accessible, and convenience became the must-have. Now customers could access your products and service at any time, from anywhere. And with more customers to serve, the ability to give that good, old-fashioned customer service took a hit.
Call centres grew in popularity, as did email, social media and online chat. Now, AI and chatbots are on the rise — ready to meet the demands of a worldwide customer base. These technological advancements have led customers to expect instant support and real-time gratification.
So, customer service speed became a priority. As technology spread into more and more support processes, personalised human connections — the values held by good old-fashioned customer service — fell into second place.
The problem is, as we continue to advance into a retail world saturated with technology, it’s easy to lose sight of the customer completely. Business are pleased to offer cool new tech in their service; it helps them appear competitive. Unfortunately, that tech is being made the star of the service show.
Customers are becoming less and less likely to have their problem handled by a human. Digital efficiency and speed are being prioritised ahead of quality customer care. Building lasting, personal relationships with customers is replaced by cold bots sorting customers through the cogs of a digitised service machine.
Emails are distant messages tossed into the void. Every interaction is happening through a screen, or down the phone. And now, voice assistants and chatbots are stealing the show, meeting customers in place of human team members. Yet only 15% of consumers believe companies should invest in these technologies. This is because we miss the good ol’ days with good old-fashioned customer service.
The lack of old-fashioned customer care is most commonly felt when things go wrong. Our tech simply doesn’t know what to do. It can’t be empathetic, or flexible, and so it can’t solve the problem effectively. Over-reliance on these technologies in place of a human team simply abolishes the good old-fashioned customer service that customers pine for.
But customer service technology itself is not to blame for the loss of good old-fashioned customer service. In fact, technology like live chat software, social media and even chatbots can be used to provide the level of service that we’re missing. If, and only if, we blend it with friendly human agents.
Technology has helped us expand into worldwide business, yet retain the real-time nature of good old-fashioned support. But tech alone won’t wow your customers. With digitised customer service processes so ubiquitous, it’s time to take tech off its pedestal and let your human agents have the spotlight. Indeed, 58% of consumers said that businesses should provide ‘better training & performance incentives for customer-facing staff’.
Technology has come a long way, and it’s exciting, but it’s still built as a tool. And that’s how it should be used. It can bridge the gap of distance, language barriers, and time, to enable human support members to provide the quick, quality care that customers crave. In other words, while tech is an enabler of great customer service, it’s the human touch that takes an experience from efficient to outstanding.
So, avoid shunning technology, or forgetting the values of good, old-fashioned customer service. Instead, blend your technology use with a well-trained human team. Emphasis needs to be placed firmly on the abilities and skills of a human support team, and tech should, in turn, be used to support them. Only through doing so can you provide good, old-fashioned customer service with modern-day convenience.