Monday 26 June, 2017

Midday on a Thursday, and I’ve just received the fourth call today from my broadband provider offering me a ‘fantastic discount’ on my TV package. I repress the urge to shout down the phone. Instead, I simply hang up and reject the other thee calls which swiftly followed.

Nothing unusual in this persistent sales approach you might think. However, it got me thinking about the role of personal interactions in creating brand loyalty.

Yes, I’d appreciate money off my current package, but did I appreciate the constant harassment by a contact centre worker with a clear commission incentive, and little consideration for my convenience? No need to answer that one.

A clear customer service fail! Not only has my incumbent provider failed to persuade me of the merits of its ‘fantastic discount’, it has driven me into the arms of the competition.

In an age when all the best companies talk about the need to be customer-centric, this particular service provider has ignored received wisdom on delivering a superlative customer experience.

I have no doubt that the solution developed was devised with the customer in mind. In that sense, they ticked the customer-centric box of developing a package to meet customer needs. However, the communication and the method of delivery was utterly lacking. As a digital business, they appear to have forgotten the importance of personal communication within the overall customer experience mix.

As we steer relentlessly into an automated future, are service providers forgetting one of the most important touch points of building brand loyalty – the impression created by a service provider through its personal interactions with a customer?

I fear this malaise is not restricted to one particular industry or sector. Take financial services for example. For at least 10 years now, there has been a growing sense of disgruntlement, particularly among the 50+ demographic, about the demise of the traditional bank manager. The depersonalisation and digitalisation of banking, for many, has led to a deterioration in customer service.

However, this has always missed the point. Digital banking continues to be a great enabler. But it must be backed up by a commitment to proving a personalised ‘human’ service when required – whether that’s contact with branch staff or calls with contact centres.

In the elite world of private banking, we are already seeing the emergence of newer, smaller independent private banks who are once again trading on the importance of personal service, backed up by strong digital offerings. Due to the very nature of private banking which requires a more personalised approach, banks have found it difficult to scale up without losing the core of their personal service. This in turn has left many clients disillusioned with service and searching for alternatives.

Enter a new breed of traditional private banks, aiming to lure business away from the more established players by offering a personalised service, no longer matched by their existing provider. Those banks who are able to clearly communicate a commitment to personal service while meeting the digital needs of their increasingly agile target market, are emerging as the winners.

None of this should come as a surprise. If we accept that purchase decisions are more influenced by emotion than logic, nothing is quite as emotional as the human interaction between a customer and a brand, whether it’s a bank, an airline, an energy supplier or indeed a broadband provider.

As our personal interactions with service providers become less frequent, making sure that those interactions count has never been more important to winning hearts and minds.