I recently wrote an article in Forbes about how three out of four customers are more loyal to your employee than your business.
This research came from OnePoll on behalf of DaySmart Software. They surveyed 2,000 Americans and found that in many businesses, customers are more loyal to the employee—so much so that almost half (48%) will follow their favorite employee if they leave to work at a competing business.
What does that mean for you? Dr. Bobby Low, co-founder of alignXM, a company that that helps its clients understand the human experiences that impact their long-term success, commented on the article and wrote, “All the more reason to make sure you can keep the talented employees you have. If they leave and take 3 out of 4 customers with them, that could be painful to a company. Are we seeing this shift more and more back to relationship-based business? I have consulted hundreds of tech companies and I can’t even tell you how many of them say, ‘we are trying to automate the relationship with our customer.’ That makes me want to fall over.”
I don’t know if I’ll fall over, but my response was short and to the point: You can’t automate a relationship. You can only automate a process.
Many companies are automating their processes, which can make it easy for the customer. Consider how easy it is to order from Amazon, Walmart, Target or other online retailers that have a streamlined process. But it goes beyond just ordering merchandise. Some companies are automating their customer service process, which includes self-service channels.
Let me be clear on this “automation-mania,” as I like to call it. If it’s good for the customer, then it’s worth considering. Just be careful you don’t lose the personality of your company. This is where it gets tricky. The best companies have figured out the balance between a digital or automated experience and an in-person experience. Many customers want and need to have an interaction with employees. To automate the relationship with your customer puts you at risk of commoditizing your business.
Any company has the capability to create an easy automated process. In some cases, it may even be a beneficial thing to do. Just be careful about losing the connection you have with your customers. I’ve said this before, and it bears repeating: The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship-building tool between a customer and a business—the human touch.
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright © MMXX, Shep Hyken)