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Customer appeal: Embrace human touch, not just AI

Consumers in Australia are making a clear demand for a more human-centred approach in their interactions with organizations, as revealed in the recently launched report titled “The Customer Experience Edge: Australia.” 

The report, conducted by Qualtrics and SAP’s Centre for Experience Management, highlights that despite the increasing adoption of digital, self-serve, and AI-powered technologies, consumers prioritize the availability of human-like experiences, especially when engaging with real individuals.

The report emphasizes that enabling easy access to human interactions would have the most significant impact on improving the overall customer experience, as stated by 44 per cent of respondents. Furthermore, the findings indicate that 45 per cent of Australians prefer service interactions with real people, while 34 per cent consider their preference based on the nature of the interaction, and 21 per cent lean towards digital platforms. 

In addition to human touch, consumers also desire improved mobile app functionality for service transactions (29 per cent) and a seamless experience across all digital touchpoints (26 per cent). To enhance the customer experience, organizations need to focus on improving the helpfulness of their customer service representatives, a critical factor that surpasses considerations such as mobile app usability, digital payment options, and delivery speed.

Key areas for enhancing customer experience

Improving customer experience requires organisations to focus on three key areas, as highlighted in “The Customer Experience Edge: Australia” report. Firstly, empathising with customers at the frontline is crucial.

This involves selecting, onboarding, and training frontline team members to provide exceptional service. Identifying and addressing moments that require empathy during the design of customer experiences is also essential. Frontline employees must be equipped to understand customer expectations and empowered to resolve issues effectively.

The second area of focus is providing agency to frontline employees. Customers rely on these employees to assist them and achieve their desired outcomes. Enabling employees to offer accurate advice, solve problems, and anticipate customer needs is imperative. This requires ensuring that frontline employees possess the knowledge and skills to handle common service tasks and provide effective service recovery.

Lastly, organisations should prioritise digital self-serve options. Customers in the digital era expect convenience and the ability to interact through their preferred channels within their digital ecosystems. By offering self-service options for common service tasks and ensuring customers can engage in their desired manner, organisations can cater to these expectations.

The analysis of qualitative feedback also emphasised the significant impact of human interactions on customer experience. Positive interactions with frontline customer service representatives, characterised by helpfulness, courtesy, and knowledge, drive customer recommendations.

Conversely, negative interactions, such as encounters with staff lacking knowledge or displaying rudeness, lead to customer complaints. The ability to understand and promptly address customer feedback is vital for successful customer experience programs. Satisfied customers are more likely to respond to surveys or provide feedback through websites and apps when recommending a company. On the other hand, dissatisfied customers prefer channels such as website submissions, phone calls, or emails to voice their complaints.

Will Santry, Vice President and Head of Customer Experience at SAP ANZ, emphasises the importance of creating personalized experiences that anticipate customer needs, foster loyalty, and deepen customer understanding.

Achieving this requires organizations to leverage intelligent solutions that humanize every customer touchpoint and embody empathy. By focusing on these key areas, organizations can enhance their customer experience and forge stronger connections with their customers.

“With many organisations rethinking and redesigning their customer experience programs, these findings are a critical reminder to not forget the importance of bringing human-like experiences to these touchpoints. Delivering programs, products, and services with a customer-first mindset is more important than ever, and a key part of this is ensuring customers receive the experiences they desire while frontline employees are enabled with the tools and systems to quickly and easily understand and take action on what matters most to customers,” said Lara Truelove, author of The Customer Experience Edge: Australia and Program Leader for the Centre for Experience Management. 

Download the full report here.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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