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Sales: The human touch and technology

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There is no substitute for human brain power to solve problems, humanize service levels, or best discern the idiosyncratic needs of a valued customer. And when misused, technology can dissatisfy, irk, and alienate them to the point they vote with their dollars elsewhere. Use technology to drive sales to you, not away from you.

I know. I’ve changed my providers for insurance, my automobile service, a dentist, and multiple retailers who chose to:

  • use technology in ways which directly contributed to cumbersome vs. smooth purchases, 
  • use my ‘data’ to harass me with unnecessary solicitations ill-suited to my profile
  • not keep my profile information current between departments despite my offering it, 
  • slow me down accessing a live person when the need I have is not conforming to their selection options,
  • attempt to make me communicate through a morass of options and after I punched through them the company fails to use any of the data I was forced to enter to get to a live person,
  • personify an familiar personal relationship that did not exist with me,
  • and, most irksome to me, act disrespectful of my basic dignity as a customer-a thinking human being.

All of the above create a lack of confidence in customers, and is insulting. Telling them, “That’s the way our process (read: technology) works.” Is not an empathetic way to express appreciation to a paying customer who seeks assistance with a simple ordinary request-and worse if a complicated situation is costing them more time than is reasonable to correct. An imbalanced integration of technology within your primary operations will drive customers to your competitors.

Technology can gather bajillions of gigabytes of data to identify trends and potential avenues for strategy. It can offer up the customer’s information at the blink of an eye. It helps expedite shipping and returns. But it cannot substitute the human touch of kindness, a sincerely empathetic ear, or exude respect and appreciation like a human person can in times when that is what is expected or desired.

Technology that aids efficiency is often seen as offering the best return on capital expenditures but it is not exclusively true in sales if it is not purposely balanced with good business sense and practice.

When our machines talk to other machines transferring data it’s ok to treat each other like machines. But when technological advances are being evaluated in your organization make sure to set goals for which several departments or leaders are mutually responsible for ensuring successful outcomes across the board. Or the best practices with customers at every level may be detrimentally impacted.

And sales can be hurt.

  • Make sure all departments whose work is impacted by technology have the same technology.
  • Take time to create a complete project plan.
  • Have the plan evaluated by team members from every aspect of direct and indirect customer service avenues.
  • Test the technology techniques you will use with your customers-hand pick the most persnickety customers to help you here.
  • Offer easily identifiable and accessible feedback processes for customers during roll out and after.
  • Regularly get the internal direct and indirect customers to offer you feedback.
  • Regularly review the customer feedback. 
  • Be willing and able to spend funds to correct technologically created errors-or gaffs.
  • Be willing to halt technology that hurts your internal or external customers.

The most successful companies know how to please customers.  These best companies (and they are also often the best companies to work for) often derive their superior sales, service quality, and efficiency from adaptive behaviors resulting from internal open communication which leads to organic growth of best practices. But if the organizational culture works in segmented divisions that don’t have to work together in using technology effectively because they don’t have mutually responsible goals, the investment in technology can become a disservice.

Use technology to help your organization increase sales, service, and efficiency at every step possible. But make sure courteousness, empathy, the ease of locating solution options, and respectful appreciation remain in the customer service formula. Keep your customer in the driver’s seat.


 

Cheryl Kane, MBA, welcomes your communication at (704) 795-5058 or through her web site,  www.cherylkane.net.

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