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For the past several decades, service organizations and enterprises have looked to software and technology to streamline operations. As a result, many customer touchpoints and interactions have become automated. But think for a minute beyond your company’s customer interactions to the broader digital landscape. The truth is, the average consumer today faces an insane amount of automation, and most of us are fed up.

When you open up your email, how many messages do you have from real human beings? When you browse the internet, how many pop-ups, ads, or distracting messages do you get? When you use Netflix, or Apple iTunes, or Spotify, or any other streaming service, you don’t even have a chance to pick the next show, song, whatever before the software itself is prompting you with a message that reads, “You might also like…” Whatever happened to recommendations from friends and family?

Here’s a final litmus test.

Pull out that little supercomputer (smartphone) from your pocket and take a hard look at it. How many push notifications are you getting? How often does it buzz, vibrate, ring, or notify you that a new email arrived, an app was updated, a text message needs reading, or a game requires your attention to beat one more level!

According to DScout research, we touch our phones more than 2,500 times a day on average. Which means the push notifications and distracting interruptions have been effective, to say the least. But are we, and more importantly our customers, happy about it?

In the following paragraphs we explore some surprising statistics about consumer sentiment surrounding technology to answer this question. In addition, we’ll uncover how field service providers can use this knowledge to improve their interactions with customers.

Customers Prefer Human Interaction When it Comes to Service

According to recent Accenture research, consumers are frustrated with automation, especially when they have service issues that require immediate resolution. In this research, Accenture found that a full 83% of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with human beings instead of digital channels to solve customer services issues.

The evidence is crystal clear, human interaction is your differentiator in a world gone digital. But does that mean technology has no role to play? Not necessarily. The problem for many service providers is the human touch has been lost in the shuffle of our digital interactions with customers. For one reason or another the follow up email, or service confirmation, or phone call, or web portal are all leaving our customers feeling like just another number.

While digital tools offer newfound ways of reaching customers, we must treat each interaction with care and context, if we wish to satisfy customers in this age of digital everything.

Surprise! Millennials Crave Human Interaction Too

If you believed all the headlines and hype about millennials, you’d assume they live life through the lens of their smartphones, do nothing but browse social media sites all day, and are incapable of real-world social interaction.

News flash, Millennials and even Gen Y aren’t that different from the rest of us. In fact, a recent Mattersight survey of over 1,000 millennials uncovered some incredible stats that fly in the face of our assumptions about this group we love to call the “Facebook Generation.”

In this research, a full 85% of Millennials reported being disappointed by a company’s service and support in the last year. In addition, this age group professed they prefer person-to-person interactions over digital options in most situations. While this group is highly digital, they still expect a brand or online organization to respect them as individuals, and treat them like human beings.

So what does that mean for field service? It means the future needs a human face. While chatbots, artificial intelligence, and all that other fancy technology will certainly make an impact, it needs to support human interactions instead of just replace them.

Cashing In On Your Digital Differentiator

The digital and technological train shows no sign of slowing in our industry. According to Gartner’s latest predictions, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse by 2020.

As all of this technology advances, we have a massive opportunity in service to use our human interactions as a digital differentiator.

Will your app simply email a customer when a technician has been dispatched? Or will it offer a face, name, and star rating of the engineer who is on the way to fix that furnace?

It’s in these seemingly small technological choices that savvy service organizations will create greater human value and impact among customers.

Field service is an old business; as ancient as Babylon itself some might even argue. Just because new devices, methods for monitoring equipment, and technology exist doesn’t mean we should use those new tools to cut human interactions out of the equation. Just like software, humans have programming too. And the 500,000 years of mental programming require human interaction to incentivize action, trust, and value. We would be wise to remember this as we scale new technology.

The service providers who are able to put the human touch on new technology will win the hearts and minds of customers tomorrow.

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