Create Authentic Concern by Balancing Tech with Human Touch
Last month, I wrote an article talking about how excellence in customer experience requires authentic concern. The positive responses that I received from that article encouraged me to “keep going.”
Consequently, I’ve been thinking deeply about authentic concern over the past several weeks, scouring the Internet for research and/or corroborating evidence to my instinct that in many industries, including the parking industry, there is a growing gap between companies saying they “want” to deliver great customer service and those that do it.
The technology/human balance is out of kilter – there’s too much technology and not enough human.
My research led me to reread a blog post by John Van Horn about how parking is changing due to a huge influx of capital and technology. In that post, John asserts that all the new technology is actually making parking customers’ experiences worse, not better, and I think I know why.
Way back in 1982, John Naisbitt wrote “High Tech High Touch: Technology and Our Search for Meaning,” a book about the coming wave of technology and the need to balance the human touch with the amount of technology deployed. His theory asserted that in a world of technology, people long for personal, human contact.
I rolled that idea around in my mind for a couple of days while attempting to square that with the world in which I live now. Surely, we can’t rely on a book written 37 years ago to be our guiding light on the deployment of technology and its impact on customer service. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Here’s how.
When automated machines were deployed some 15 years ago in parking facilities, they removed cashiers in lanes. What they put in their places was a help button that everyone thought would only get pushed when something was wrong with the machine. And since that button was “rarely” going to be pushed, the operators and owners, generally, did not feel the need to invest in customer service infrastructure to catch the calls from a customer that truly needed help.
We now know, after many years of experience, that fully 85 percent of the estimated 85 million calls for help in parking facilities last year are due to human failure, not mechanical failure. Here’s where that lack of customer service infrastructure really begins to breakdown.
The person put in charge of answering the help call is very busy doing many other things. Answering a call for help from a paying customer is very likely near the bottom of their list of tasks to be done – it’s a distraction or an interruption. Because this help call is not a priority to the recipient, the technology/human balance is out of kilter – there’s too much technology and not enough human. How do we restore this balance? It’s all about authentic concern.
To restore the balance between automation and the human touch, investments in customer service infrastructure must be made so that the ambassador answering the intercom help call can show up authentically when technology fails. They must be prepared to receive the call and be equipped with tools to answer all the customers’ questions. And they must be trained to deliver an even-tempered, reliable and accurate response when faced with an irate or irritated customer.
In short, they must have everything they need to deliver authentic concern to restore balance and bridge the “human-less gap” created by the technology.
Without that, the customer experience is worse for it and the company that falls short on the human side of the equation will suffer because expectations for customer service are ramping up, not waning, and competition for parking is growing. Gone are the days when parking operators could simply flip the open sign and get out of the way as cars rushed in to fill their garages.
Customers have choices at their fingertips, and opinions about where to park are easily accessible across many social media channels, like Facebook and Google. To rise to the occasion and “win” the customer experience game, it will take more effort than is being made today.
Next month, we’ll continue our journey of discovery about how to create a better customer experience. For now, examine the balance of technology and human touch as the first step to enlightenment.
Brian Wolff is President & CEO of Parker Technology. He can be reached at email@example.com or visit www.helpmeparker.com.