Customer Service: High Touch B4 High Tech

The title of this post, Customer Service: High Touch B4 High Tech, might suggest I am resurrecting the old debate about the value of technology. I’m not. I write today to raise the flag on a new trend that maliciously undermines great customer service and the customer experience.

Customer Service: High Touch with High Tech

Business leaders, business owners, and their customer service teams are placing more focus on high tech than on connecting with the customer.

High tech delivers many capabilities to the customer experience — choice of self-service, automated confirmations, shared knowledge bases, inventory checks, timely shipping, and the list goes on and on. Yet a high tech focus alone does not create great customer service — not even online.

  1. E-commerce sites designed without a true customer focus are maddening to use and dissuade customers of all generations from returning.
  2. Websites that hide their contact info and phone number send a negative message to the customer — “don’t bother us”.

In face-to-face customer service (retail, hospitality, etc…), a focus on high tech is even more damaging. I witness front desk agents at hotels standing sideways to the customers because the computers are at a right angle to the desk. Face-to-face customer service means “look at and care for the customer” — not talk over your shoulder.

I see retail sales associates walking around wearing headsets. This may look cool to the young generation yet it sends a negative message to many customers — “I’m busy”. Victoria Secret, Bath & Body Works, Staples, etc… are doing this and it diminishes the customer experience.

Conversely, Macy’s flagship store in NYC has blended technology into the customer experience very well. In the shoe department, the sales associates have hand held devices to check inventory for sizes. What a great use of high tech to facilitate and support the customer experience. They have had self-service price check scanners for quite awhile making shopping easier and more profitable.

Bravo Macy’s. Your high tech supports a faster more informative connection to and for the customer.

What have you experienced as a customer? Great high tech supporting customer service or — businesses focusing on high tech instead of focusing on you? Please share your story in the comments section below.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, former techie turned people-skills guru delivers advice and training workshops to business leaders and their teams that transform customer service and teamwork. See this site for more info and customer reflections.

4 Responses to “Customer Service: High Touch B4 High Tech”

  1. Excellent observation Kate. My sense is that these, and many other, companies are placing a priority on “tasks” ahead of serving the customer. It seems particularly prevalent in retail. You see it every day; associates walking past customers with carts, boxes, papers etc. totally ignoring the customer.
    The headsets are just another thing to distract associates away from the customer.

  2. Shawn Murphy says:

    I’m saying Amen to all your points. It infuriates me (this is no exaggeration) when I can’t easily connect with a customer service rep. I want to see more celebration of CSRs so they can celebrate those whom they serve – the company’s customers.
    And absolutely, technology is merely the tools of the trade and need to support the customer experience, not be the focus of it.

  3. Jennifer Orji says:

    I have had these bad experiences with companies assuming technology replaces customer service. I have bought shoes from Clarks stores for years until they decided their headsets were much cooler than getting me the shoes i wanted. Definetely something businesses should look at as the latest advert of IPAD says technologyisnt everything it must get out of the way and help us communicate

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