I’ve been to a couple of events and listened to a number of presentations recently from IT and business service providers talking about digital strategies – and how they can help their clients engage better with “digital customers”.
Part of this strategy has included building greater empathy and emotion with customers – superficially this sounds fantastic, but when I think of digital, it’s not about being nice or building an emotional attachment to customers – it’s about speed, efficacy, and awareness – these things trump everything else.
Understanding customer needs and behavior is important – as it helps to build an efficient and speedy process, but they don’t need to like you they just need to believe that they will get the goods or service when they are told and it is what they asked/paid for. If you think about successful retail organizations Tesco, Amazon, Walmart – I’m not sure too many people like them, they like the convenience of them (Fanboys – I am generalizing so please don’t troll me, of course, some people love them.) People will buy from you and like you if you are cheap, if you deliver when you say you do and will stop when you mess up (for a bit.)
Digital businesses historically had awful customer service and many still do. Amazon in the U.K. when it first started was terrible at dealing with problems – in 2003 when I ordered a book (remember when they just did books/CDs) which didn’t turn up and they basically said that it was the couriers fault and after trying for a while I just gave up – they more or less told me to sod off. Incidentally, by 2010 they had gone the other way – if you said it didn’t turn up they’d send 3 replacements (I exaggerate). I suspect the balance has now been struck.
However, customer service is still bad with many digital firms – or digital services to consumers. Particularly when the app business is an intermediary an affiliate based – I have had checkered service from JustEat, Deliveroo, Hungryhouse and Burger King food delivery – don’t judge me I am a hungry early adopter and have a teenage daughter with friends… Usually, something missing from the order and I haven’t had refunds – but I tend to return because the convenience (and my laziness) never goes away. Even poor service won’t kill a digital company if the core proposition is sound and the number of exceptions is low.
Bottom Line – Sell speed and efficiency – people don’t need to feel special and cared for unless you mess up.
So when I hear a service provider try to portray digital experience in terms of empathy or emotion I lose interest. Speed, efficiency, and real-time information make a service digital – this doesn’t need to deliver an emotional response, – the core proposition needs to be good and it needs to work most of the time.