I must get at least four or five emails every day offering me help becoming digital by default.
Every single one gets deleted. Not because I don’t need help , but because they talk of cost savings and efficiency rather than beautifully intuitive service design or of creating a rewarding customer experience.
Don’t believe me? This is how the agenda to get more customers using online services is described (“Channel Shift” – ugh!) on a prominent consulting website:
Achieving channel shift is what the council website is all about – about moving customer contacts and transactions from more expensive options (people) to less expensive options (the web) and moving from services which require staff to be involved to those which do not.
I’ve not provided a link to spare blushes but you can google it if you think I just made that up.
I agree that those ‘more expensive options’ (formerly known as people) do cost quite a bit. But they can be pretty wonderful at connecting with fellow humans, personalising service and , you know , just being nice to chat to once in a while.
If you listen to people who want to remove the humanity from organisations it will almost certainly lead to the death of your business.
Many who glorify channel shift and tech have forgotten that most of us are in the business of providing human centered services. And our digital presence should embrace this , not seek to repel it. The reason that social networks are so popular – with their gossip , selfies and memes – is they celebrate our humanity and the power of our connections.
The businesses that are truly successful in changing the way customers contact them have done it by prioritising a better customer experience overall – not through just moving people to a cheaper channel as though they were an inconvenience.
I recently attended a talk by O2. In the past two years they have seen over 2 million fewer phone calls as people increasingly choose to use their web and social offerings.
I’m a long term customer of O2 and have seen their progression to digital up close. Dealing with them via social media or Live Chat is mostly a joy. After using their digital services you simply wouldn’t think to phone them.
Here’s some things I took away:
Design your organisation for mobile customers
As mobile becomes the default way the internet is accessed so the culture must be designed around serving people on the go. Designed around people who are time poor and impatient. If you haven’t tested how your customer service works from a smartphone , accessed whilst sitting on a bus – you simply haven’t tested it properly.
Invest in the right team and the right skills
Just because you have a team that has delivered an outstanding call centre does not mean they are equipped to serve the connected customer. It requires new skills , thinking and a culture of digital leadership.
To drive change people will need to be retrained. To drive transformational change you will need new people.
In a social business people are recruited to speak like real people and not to broadcast. Leaders implicitly understand social. What companies like O2 are achieving is the exact opposite of the prevalent public sector culture of “I don’t understand digital – I”ll get some 22 year old to do it for me”.
Be relevant in time
Response times matter – particularly in social where service expectations work in minutes rather than hours. O2 were generous enough to name the leaders in this field as the airline KLM – if you haven’t seen their wonderful Twitter feed that estimates the time it will take to give you a response – it’s worth a look.
If you’re going to do social – be social
O2 have a lively, social and fun brand. They are known for the humour and unique tone of voice in their social response. But the message is clear – don’t try and be cheeky and fun if you’re not. It’s embarrassing. Establish your brand values and stick to them. By the way – they didn’t let me down when I name checked them on Twitter during the conference.
What can we learn? The digital agenda risks getting derailed by the rush to technology as the solution for everything. It’s inherently flawed. As Tony Smith has said – only 25% of great customer experience is about technology, 75% is made up of people and deployment.
Really we shouldn’t be talking about channel shift and digital by default at at all. We should be talking about digital by design.
I will never phone O2 again because they have designed a Live Chat and social experience that is rewarding to me as a customer.
I went back to my organisation with the aim to make our digital experience so enjoyable that people choose not to phone us anymore. It’s an important shift of emphasis.
Let’s stop talk of “less expensive options”. Let’s use the power of digital connectivity to make our organisations more human , not less.