Analogue customer requirements in a digital world

The far-reaching digitalization of our life which has since been reduced to time dedicated to our career versus leisure time, is the revolutionary yet at the same time dogmatic myth of our times. In the name of computerization that has gradually evolved into an ideology, we are not only faced with predictions, but also promises or even threats of a rapidly growing transformation. Nothing will remain the same, and is artificial intelligence eventually going to take over? But couldn’t it also turn out quite differently?

In today’s digital era during which the smartphone has become the extended arm of the customer and the remote control of the digital world, is there still a desire for analogue, human and personal service? Of course, even more so than ever before!

Just because customers – thanks to the internet – have evolved into better informed, unpredictable, disloyal and increasingly impatient „smart shoppers“, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are unemotional beings. Quite the contrary! Customers are and will always be and remain humans, with very analogue wishes, even in a continuously growing digital world. It is all about the “personal touch” in the little things that count, interactions and gestures that express genuine effort and interest on the part of the business. A more deep-seated reason for such analogue wishes is the desire for significance which is growing in an increasingly digital world. Once everything is infinitely available and ready to copy, the unique, the specific, the tangible and the personal become a renewed luxury.

The current study „Experience is everything” from PwC shows, how important personal contact – face to face – even in an era of digital channels and artificial intelligence – is and remains to be. 75% of all people interviewed worldwide and 84% in Germany alone agreed to the statement that despite all the improved technology they prefer and want to interact with a human being. Is this a counter-trend to the technical, digital world? And how do businesses deal with it?

New technologies have resulted in significant customer relationship changes and in consequence fundamentally influenced existing business models. We are quick to talk of a inevitable digital offensive – even in one’s own company, but we actually mean rationalisation or rather refer to automating existing processes through digitalising, in order to cut down on staff. Yet at the same time it becomes apparent that complex thinking, as well as the ability to enter genuine relationships , assess situations and forge lasting long-term relations cannot simply be replaced by automation. When it comes to dealing with customers, it is mandatory to factor the human element into the equation.

Walmart has begun quite early with automating their processes, many of their cash tills were converted to „Self-Checkout points” and – at least part of their released staff were retrained to “community managers”. These observe customers, ask if any help may be needed, direct customers to goods and products they are looking for, provide information about products or help packing and loading the purchased goods. In return, machines are taking on the monotonous and ungrateful task at the tills. This way one would like to meet the customers analogue expectations, yet still remain profitable.

The future lies in a perfect alliance between a relevant digital world and human staff who are passionate about all that they do in line with their job.

This can only be achieved by enterprises with sustainably motivated and empathic employees. Because empathy in connection with genuinely honest courtesy has a surprising ‚knock-out‘ effect. Empathy creates “magic moments”, trust and a profitable brand loyalty as well as loyalty to the business behind it.

With courtesy we signal openness, attention, care, commitment and goodwill. We reach customers on a personal level and open up the opportunity to have a positive influence, even in tricky and difficult situations. With empathy and patience we are in a position to truly understand the customer, give advice and offer the right products or services. For maximum quality of the client encounter at that very moment and also as a vital factor for a sustainable and positive customer experience. All this has a lot to do with trust, confidence and meeting at eye-level, it certainly doesn’t sound like a simple undertaking.

But there is a lot more in it for businesses! This takes us to the topic of innovation – something that usually goes hand in hand with the term digitalisation. New business models need to be developed – but how, and what do our customers want in the first place? It is important to understand how much relevant knowledge there is in the heads of individual employees who are in daily contact with customers. They see and hear what could be improved from the customer’s point of view and they also reflect on it. You have to empower your employees, give them a voice, show interest in them and make them a part of co-creative developing processes. Because customer-oriented innovation means to ask oneself, if there is something that could be improved, even though there may not be a “big problem” yet.

An honest effort towards an outstanding personal service has therefore become the most crucial tool for setting a business apart in a global and increasingly faster changing, digital world. Analogue service, from person to person, creates the link among a business, its products, services and its customers – and therefore constitutes the genuine and often decisive difference in our digital world.

Posted by Mario Sepp, MBA

Mario Sepp
If you think of people and their needs first and only thereafter of technology, if you say good-bye to the fixed idea that the entire world can be dissolved into noughts and ones, only then can digital transformation work and become a meaningful reality. Thinks Mario!

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