Significant advances in technology over the past few decades have transformed the way companies deal and interact with customers – enabling even more products and services to be tailored to individual needs and specifications, improving efficiency with automated and streamlined processes.

But while this friction-free way of working has proved attractive to bosses and entrepreneurs the world over, putting too much emphasis on efficiency and consistency has its pitfalls.

By focusing too heavily on this side of things, companies risk overlooking the enormous value of the ‘human touch’ – the empathy, creativity and individuality of employers, customers, contractors and shareholders which can never be replicated through a smartphone app or computer program.

Developing a truly emotional bond with a customer – a bond based on human-to-human interaction – is hard to overstate.

Here in our latest Q&A, and just as we release our latest white paper on the subject, we sat down with Ryan Rayner, our Head of Strategy and Growth at Sigma Connected Australia, to cover how we strive to best compliment the latest technology with a human touch to provide our customers with the most exceptional service.

Q. Why is human interaction still important to customers?

Ryan responds:

It’s no secret that customers bond with other humans – not machines.

While digital advancements have drastically improved efficiency, and cannot be overstated in terms of how much of a part they have played in the vastly superior service customers now receive, technology cannot engage with a customer on a human level.

Customer satisfaction comes from connecting with people at an emotional level, by tapping into their motivations and needs. And a robot isn’t going to be able to solve customers’ issues – particularly complex ones – adequately through a code or automated service when they need you the most.

Being able to talk to another human and not an automated programme goes a long way to making a customer feel more engaged with, and trusting of, the organisation.

Companies need real people working for them to act as brand ambassadors and provide customers with a much greater experience by understanding their problems, being able to solve them quickly – and being able to provide real insight and feedback to the organisation to continue improving services going forward.

Q. So, what are the general trends at the moment in human interaction versus digital?

Ryan responds:

The rise in advanced technology has led some companies down the path of ‘quick fixes’ or short- term investments that look purely at the bottom line, without factoring in the other considerations that make customers feel true loyalty with a brand.

Automated computer processes have made drastic leaps over recent years, and have allowed companies to streamline and simplify formerly drawn-out processes, and remove elements of human error that caused anxiety to customers. But saving money on replacing staff with technology is a risky one.

There are many situations where digital input is key, such as data collation to understand customer patterns, and the Covid pandemic forcing more people to work remotely has led to an even greater reliance on technology in the ways companies operate to keep teams connected.

Despite this, the pandemic has had another effect – the need for people to be able to speak to other people and have their concerns dealt with by a real human being. As such we are seeing a resurgence of brands bringing labour and consumer contract centres back to Australia – where they had traditionally been outsourced to the Philippines and India – due to business continuity plans overseas, an unknown charter of what’s going on in the world, agents not being readily available, people not feeling part of the operation so far from home, and issues with technology faults.

Brands are now competing on trust and know that providing an ultimate customer experience – such as allowing customers to speak to someone in their own neighbourhood to provide reassurance, clarity and solutions, rather than an automated digital response – is the value add that will give them the edge over competitors.

Clients are now assigning and understanding their customers segmentation better than ever due to digital means,but being able to apply their human labour force with confidence to where it matters most and where they will get their best return on investment. The trend is moving forward where digital plays more of a part in supporting and complementing human interactions rather than the other way round.

Q. Why is it important for companies to correctly balance digital vs human?

Ryan responds:

Sigma Connected’s core focus is human to human interaction, achieved by hiring the best talent and training them effectively, creating an optimal human workforce to work at optimal cost for the client.

We mix digital technology and this human touch in a complementary way – helping them realise their goals faster and over achieve their customers’ service needs.

It is all well and good having automated technology in place, but unless you have the end-to-end digital means, reinvesting in things such as insights, best practice, analytics, and a voice of the customer back into your training then you will never be able to offer the customer experience the customer craves.

Comparing brands has never been more transparent and the customer is demanding more than ever, which is why investment in a quality, human workforce that is supported by a sophisticated digital system is crucial. Readers can download our white paper on the importance of the human touch here

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Ryan Rayner is Head of Strategy and Growth at Sigma Connected Australia.

If you’re looking for more information, you can email Ryan or connect with him on LinkedIn.