Automation Or Personal Connection

In 2019, the value of technology in the customer experience environment is beyond question. For businesses, the average cost of human customer service is significantly higher than intelligent automation. By implementing automated customer service, companies benefit from lower financial costs and also meet the expectations of current and future generation of customers.

As a Gen Z customer, I appreciate that automated customer services are integrated into many aspects of our daily lives from self-checkouts at Coles and Woolworths, self-ordering services at McDonalds and online booking systems at Hoyts or Village cinemas. In the past year, I have only used two ways to buy movie tickets – buying them online with a smartphone or through the self-order machine in front of the cinema. Neither of them requires communication with any staff member. When grocery shopping, I line up at a self-checkout because I prefer the efficiency of technologies. But last Monday when I waited for my coffee, I realised that automated customer service might not be the type of customer service I’m looking for all the time.

I had decided to start my week with a cup of flat white from the cafe right next to our company. The barista greeted me, took my order and asked for my name. While I was standing in the freezing 6-degree morning waiting for my coffee, a customer walked in the cafe. Without stating her coffee preference, she bought her ‘usual order’ because the barista recognised her. She took less than 30 seconds to buy her favourite coffee.

At that moment, I developed a new ambition – to cultivate a loyal relationship, a personal connection with a cafe. Since I don’t have a regular coffee purchase routine, I’ve never had my ‘usual cafe’. I realised the reason my boss, Paul, put ‘finding a fabulous cafe to remember my usual order’ as one of the top things to do after moving to our new office. It’s the moment of recognition when a barista identifies you as their precious loyal customer. Technologies do simplify our purchase experience (e.g. Apple Pay) but we don’t want to lose the personal connection we could develop with the cafe or barista. The warmth and connected customer experience I receive from my $4 coffee purchase might be the highlight of my day or even my week.

Will you buy Monday morning coffee from a 7-Eleven coffee machine, when your local cafe can bring you the right coffee without a coffee order from you?

I will not.

This doesn’t mean that businesses shouldn’t develop digital self-service. I do hate lining up at the cinema for 20 minutes to get my movie ticket or lining up at the check-out counter in Coles because I bought more than 12 items. In fact, the online ordering and self-checkout services exalts the quality and efficiency of our daily lives. Businesses shouldn’t follow the trend of automation without considering their customers. The right automated process for the right task and the right customer would benefit the business, but what if this is not what your target customers are looking for? In that scenario, unique customer service will become the key differentiator for the business. This has also been approved by The Interpreters’ past research outcomes, where constantly, what target consumers are seeking for during purchase are different to what first-time or irregular customers are looking for. Despite the type of research, segmenting respondents into unique groups has always been the starting point to our data analysis process.

So, what type of customer service is your target customer looking for?

By Rain Yang

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