So what would you rather do – wait for a person to serve you or expedite the process at a self-service computer kiosk? If you are a business owner looking for an easy technology solution to speed up your service delivery, you might want to pay attention to this complicated finding from a study conducted for Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research.
At the heart of the dilemma that prompted this research is a desire by business leaders to maximize technology – speeding-up service, delivering cost efficient service solutions, and even opening-up their business to new tech-savvy customer segments. At the same time these leaders don’t want to automate service to the point that it becomes impersonal and essentially decreases the emotional connections between the consumer and their brand. That outcome would fundamentally lead to commoditization and that defeats all benefits of the technology in the first place.
So what can leaders look to when they weigh the pro’s and con’s of technologically driven service? For example, should they leave all customers in-line waiting for personal care or bring in the computer kiosks to shorten the length of the cue? The Cornell study entitled “Integrating Self-Service Kiosks in a Customer Service System,” offers great insight on the tricky balance leaders must strike. According to that hospitality study, if self-service kiosks function correctly, guest satisfaction increases and the hotel’s financial results also improve! So that solves it right?
Not so fast, conversely if problems occur with the self-service computer system, guests are far less willing to return let alone pay for any premium services at the hotel! Essentially, the mixed finding indicates that if you attempt to make the experience easier and it really turns out to be easier – satisfaction increases and you make more money. If you attempt to make it easier and it turns out to more complicated, you lose customer loyalty and decrease the depth of your existing customers’ spend.
Increasingly business leaders are looking for ways to give customers the choice between more “high touch” and more “convenient” options and they are offering those choices across preferred customer channels. Diane Clarkson and her team at Forrester recently released the results of their US Retail Executive Online Survey which posed questions to 291 online retail professionals. In the executive summary of their findings, Diane notes:
…email is the most commonly offered online customer service channel on retail Web sites, followed by order tracking and frequently asked questions (FAQs). In the next 12 months, retail eBusiness professionals are planning to expand their online customer service touchpoints, with significant increases in live help, social, and mobile customer service. However, there is a disconnection between customer service and brand efforts: ….professionals widely say that customer service is an essential part of their brand, but their actions belie their words. While 85% agree that customer service is a key element to their brand and 82% believe customer service is integral to their company culture, brand reinforcement and support do not drive customer service strategy for the majority of…..professionals. Customer service market intelligence, if collected, is frequently not disseminated or acted upon.
Whether it is the computer kiosk in a hotel lobby or a likely increase in live online help solutions, business leaders need “to act upon” the details that truly make the customer experience easier. Failure to execute on an “easy” strategy can make business very “difficult.”