The disconnection dilemma: Poor tech choices harm customers and brands

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Companies are leaning into technology to make things smoother and better for customers. But it's not always working out as planned. Tech gone wrong isn’t just an annoyance to customers, it's also putting a dent in what brands stand for.

Where are the missteps? How can companies undergoing digital transformation smooth out their tech strategies to improve the customer experience and their brand image? Let’s dive in.

The bridge that’s becoming the barrier

Customers often act as the glue holding all the different parts of a business together — bouncing between various channels, sometimes even playing middleman with the company's own staff. But when a company doesn't get its tech right, what's supposed to be a bridge starts feeling more like a barrier.

It’s a common scenario: customers are trying to get from point A to point B, but the tech is all over the place. It's like the systems in the back office and what the customer sees and uses just don't talk to each other. This kind of tech mess doesn't just make us want to pull our hair out; it goes against everything a brand promises about being smooth and efficient.

The cost of bad tech: a customer’s perspective

According to a report by PwC, 73% of U.S. consumers consider customer experience a critical factor in their purchasing decisions. The implications of this are profound. Even loyal customers, who love a company or its products, are willing to abandon ship after several bad experiences – 59% after multiple issues and 17% after just one. This statistic is a stark reminder of the high price of bad tech – a cost that goes beyond financial losses to include diminished customer loyalty and brand reputation. 

Striking the right balance of technology and humanity

The challenge for companies lies in balancing the use of technology with maintaining their core identity and commitment to customers. As highlighted in the Harvard Business Review's "The Year In Tech 2024," while digital transformation unlocks productivity and value, it should not erode the personal touch that defines a business. Companies need to be cautious not to let technology disrupt their essence, risking a distorted perception among customers and employees.

"Every digital transformation has two sides. On the one hand, advances in digital technologies promise exciting opportunities to dramatically reinvent your business, unlocking opportunities for increasing productivity, optimizing process, and creating value. On the other, certain aspects of your business should hold steady - your core identity, your commitment to customers, your attentiveness to employee well-being, and more - so that you do not lose the essence of what makes your business unique. The rapid advancements in technology must not undermine the personal touch and purpose of your company. If you uncritically allow technology to disrupt your company's core identity, you run the risk of coming out on the other side of your digital transformation journey completely distorted in the eyes of your employees, customers and other stakeholders."

The Year in Tech 2024, Harvard Business Review 

When automation becomes alienation

Automation in customer service is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, when it's done right, automation can really streamline things, making life easier for everyone. But there's a catch – the issue pops up when companies lean too heavily on self-service tech, forgetting that not every customer is on board with or even able to navigate these automated systems. Ever found yourself stuck in a loop with an automated phone system, desperately trying to reach a real person? It's pretty frustrating.

And there's another angle to consider. Some companies provide both automated and human customer service options. There’s a potential conflict here – the balance can tip too far towards automation. The real goal should be to fine-tune these technologies so they work alongside human interaction, not try to replace it entirely. It's all about finding that sweet spot where tech meets human touch.

Read: 4 reasons people still want human interaction in the age of AI

The road ahead: integration and optimization

For companies to truly honor their brand promise and cater to customer needs, a harmonious integration of technology and human touch is essential. This means:

  • Evaluating tech through a customer lens: Before implementing any technological solution, consider its impact on the customer experience. Is it simplifying processes or adding more layers of complexity?
  • Optimizing self-service technologies: Invest in making automated systems more intuitive and user-friendly. Optimization should aim at enhancing customer experience, not just cutting costs.
  • Maintaining human touch: Ensure that customers always have the option to interact with a human representative. Balance automation with empathy and personalization.
  • Continuous feedback and improvement: Regularly gather feedback from customers and employees about the effectiveness of tech implementations and make adjustments accordingly.

The digital transformation journey of a company should not be at the cost of customer satisfaction or brand identity. By mindfully integrating technology that aligns with their core values and customer expectations, companies can avoid the pitfalls of bad tech. In an age where customer experience is a major differentiator, it’s not just about the technology you adopt but how you use it to genuinely enhance the customer journey. Remember, at the heart of every digital advancement should be a commitment to preserving the human element that customers value and trust.

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