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Rethinking the relationship between digital and personal

Jon Oxtoby

Jon Oxtoby

01 Mar 2021

Many people argue that digital tools and services are inferior to the service that a genuine human being can offer. But the relationship between digital and personal services is more complicated than that.

Who here has a relative who despises technology? We’ve all got at least one (and if you don’t, then it might be you!) Often – but not always – an older relative, they’ll be suspicious of technology and tell anyone who will listen that technology is ruining various aspects of our society.

Most people aren’t quite that anti-technology in their daily lives. But it’s fair to say that many people out there are still a little wary of it – especially in areas where it’s replacing a human being. Take the automated checkout at the supermarket, for instance – a deeply polarising issue with just about every age group. From difficulties when using them, to concerns about their impact on jobs at supermarkets, the appeal of the self checkout is tempered by a number of concerns that put many users, from many different walks of life, off using them.

Digital = inferior?

The main reason people are so wary of digital services in place of human services is that they worry the quality of service will decline. To return to the self-checkout example, detractors will mention the challenges of ‘unexpected items in the bagging area’ and trying to use your own bags in the checkout. Neither, it must be said, are happy experiences for shoppers. Another example is chatbots on websites – often they misunderstand what you want, or can’t give you accurate information. Human beings, the argument goes, can give better help - and more personal help faster.

These sorts of issues are especially important in industries where the quality of service is paramount – such as in luxury car dealerships. And it’s probably part of the reason why in our 2020 research, 82% of service advisors said that the phone was their primary method of communication – despite 87% of customers wanting to communicate online with the dealership.

Is this still true?

The fear that digital services are impersonal and lower-quality than human services may have been justified ten or even five years ago. But in 2021, a few things have changed that should make dealerships sit up and pay attention to the potential of digital service tools.

"Increasingly, it is understood that digital services have a role to play alongside human services..."

Firstly, the quality of digital tools is increasing rapidly. The level of intelligence behind tools like chatbots and voice recognition software is growing all the time. These applications are better able to understand consumers and provide them with accurate and appropriate information, improving the customer experience.

At the same time, the role of digital in the customer service journey is being better understood every day. Companies in the past were definitely guilty of over-digitising some services – to their detriment. But increasingly, it is understood that digital services have a role to play alongside human services; a blend that gives business the time- and cost-saving benefits of digital tools while preserving the quality of human-based services where it adds the most value.


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A question of AND, not OR

Many businesses, car dealerships among them, have been reluctant to use digital tools because they recognise that the personal touch is what makes them stand out to their customers. 88% of dealers in our survey agreed that customers value their personal approach, and 86% of service advisors agree that customer satisfaction increases significantly when customers receive tailored services.

The challenge for dealers now is that as customer volumes grow – and as customers get more demanding – providing that personal touch, every time a customer interacts with you, is becoming more difficult. It takes time to speak to everyone – and that’s putting more pressure on service advisors. Pressure leads to mistakes, which of course lead to dissatisfied customers.

The solution is to look at the different customer touchpoints and consider whether any of those can be replaced with a digital service instead of a human interaction. If you’re worried that customers will be put off by this, consider your last online purchase. Did it bother you that the shop didn’t call you up to let you know when your product would be arriving? Chances are, it didn’t. You got an email, or a text, with the details and that was fine. In fact, it was more convenient than a phone call, as you read the text in about 30 seconds – at a time to suit you – and got the information you needed, instead of spending 5 minutes on the phone.

There are multiple touchpoints for car dealerships that could be digitised in a similar way. The process of booking the car in for a service is the most obvious – let the customer choose a time and date from an online calendar, submit their details, and press a button. The customer is unlikely to be disappointed that they didn’t get to speak to anyone – if anything, they will be happier that they could get the whole thing done on their own and without having to wait on hold to talk to an advisor. And in the meantime, your advisors can spend that time helping customers who have more complex enquiries, further protecting your brand.

 


Related reading:
The challenges of using social media to talk to customers 

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The future your customers want

Will you get complaints if you start replacing some human interactions with digital ones? Of course you will. There will always be those resistant to change. But those complaints might not be as representative of your customer base as you first think.

Our survey revealed that customers are very ready to embrace digital services from car dealerships. We’ve already said that 72% of dealership customers are interested in using digital tools to communicate with the dealership. We also found that, when asked about using a tool like CustomerLounge, 64% of customers were willing to try it – and 1 in 3 were very willing to give it a go.

On the whole, our research showed that customers are valuing speediness and quality of communications when they interact with the dealership – and they see digital tools as the way to achieve those things. With that in mind, digital communications – the very thing that was once synonymous with poor service – are likely to be the key to meeting customer needs and growing your business.

Download our research paper, 2021 Dealership Customer Engagement Report.

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Learn how CustomerLounge can help you blend digital and human service to give your customers a winning experience.

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Topics: customer experience, technology, dealerships, customer satisfaction, communication, Customerlounge, automotive, personalisation, customer relationships, dealer, digitisation


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