Is There An App For That?

Customer Experience and Apps

While you might suspect this would be about our customer experience app, mobile survey tools or our CX SDK for understanding in-app experience (yes, we have those), this is really about the disconnect between our digital world and the customer experience. 

Last week I wrote about how technology can both enhance and hinder the customer experience.  In preparing for our roundtable discussion this week,  I started thinking about all the ways we let technology interfere with our relationship with customers.  

These apps can be helpful.  Now when I want customization on my food order, I prefer to use the app.  Need to make a reservation, there is an app for that – along with a confirmation as there is nothing worse than showing up for a reservation only to find out someone wrote down the details incorrectly.  Need to hail a ride, no more standing in the rain trying to hail a taxi cab.  There are so many examples of where these apps make it easier for customers to work with a business and for businesses to handle customers.  

This has been even more true during the pandemic.  Using delivery apps has allowed individuals to maintain their physical distance and help customers queue up for service without standing in a line.  However, this shift cannot be permanent.  

CX and Technology (Redux)

Even before the pandemic, I could relate to the very positive and negative elements of using an app to manage the customer experience.  I was one of the road warriors and despite flying in and out of larger airports, I got to know some of the names and faces at the airline.  When you checked in at the airport, when you had a question at the gate or had to make a last minute flight change one would have to speak to someone – either on the phone or at the airport.  

I embrace the technology that allows me to do that on my own, it does enhance my experience in many ways – to take “control” in an experience where most feel that they have no control.  Change to the exit row, check for an upgrade, get that last seat on the earlier flight to get home just a couple hours sooner.  All that through an app, but no interaction with people.  

On the plane, where I was lesser known, I am now more “well known”.  Why?  Because the flight crew has an app that identifies me as a frequent flyer.  I’ve seen it highlighting seats with Gold or higher status.  It prompts them to offer that free drink as one of my benefits.  Yet, that experience can be inconsistent or, at times, non-existent.

Digital CX and Empathy

Where can it go wrong?  So many places, and the bridge between the human side and technology is most often where the customer experience breaks down.  It can happen at any CX touchpoint.  What if I am unable to use the app?  In the example of switching flights last minute, if the flight is already boarding, I need to to speak with a representative.  Often, their first response without looking up is to point you to the app.  A few times I’ve heard “we’re already boarding, there’s nothing I can do”, which as often as I fly I know not to be true.  Rather than being empathetic, they default to the technology – not knowing anything about me as a customer or me as a person.  On the plane, if the flight crew app is not connecting while we are in the air, I notice a different level of service.  Acknowledging frequent flyers is limited, and it is a reminder that it is just an operational process rather than an empathetic one. 

When looking at the customer experience strategy, it has to go beyond measuring NPS and implementing an automated closed-loop feedback system.  Improving operational efficiency should be a benefit of any CX program, but it should not be the goal.  For over two decades, I’ve watched as companies tried to respond to customer feedback by asking “can we automate the response?”.  I’ve spoken many times about a car rental company that would issue me a $25 coupon every time I gave negative feedback, so I just kept doing it.  Not to take advantage of their system, rather, I wanted to see how long it would take to recognize that a customer that rents weekly has been providing negative feedback.  Hint: it didn’t happen until I stopped renting from that company.  

What is missing in all the Digital driven services and Operationally focused CX programs?  It is the human element called empathy.  It can still be observed in some brands, and can show up in other brands when you have committed and caring employees, but your CX program only increases that divide unless you are looking at how you build in empathy.  Join us on May 27th, we will be hosting Jonathan Hawkins in a discussion about CX and Digital Empathy.  Be certain to sign up here.