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Human Touch Remains an Essential Part of The Customer Experience

Chatbots are great, but they don’t create a good customer experience when your customers need to speak with a call center agent or get answers via live chat.

Even though today’s customers expect omnichannel options for communication with companies and organizations, they also want the human touch options of call centers or live chat.

In fact, customers overwhelmingly value the human touch when they need issues resolved, according to “The State of Customer Service Experience,” a 2023 report from The Northridge Group, a management consulting firm specializing in customer experience solutions.

“Customers want to resolve issues quickly and they view human-assisted channels as the fastest,” says the report. “Survey respondents report that they receive the fastest response as well as the fastest issue resolution from the phone and live agent chat channels.

At the same time, Iive chat is emerging as a “happy medium” between calling an agent and self-service options, says the Northridge report.

“Younger customers were the first to fully embrace this channel, but customers of all ages are catching on to the benefits of chatting with live agents,” according to the report. “It is increasingly viewed as an opportunity to get human assistance and quick issue resolution without waiting in a long phone queue.”

While many customers may get what they need via the quick responses of live chat, many times they prefer the human touch and exchange they receive by calling an agent.

“As digital channels and AI become more prevalent in contact centers, customers are looking for more in their experiences with human agents, something they can’t receive from bots and self-service channels — a sense of humanity, empathy and having their feelings and frustrations validated,” according to contact center and omnichannel expert and software platform provider Upstream Works.

“This becomes especially important during times of crisis. Agents need to be more than the bots customers interact with, and customers want their interactions with organizations to feel as though they matter to their agent and the company as a whole.”

Train agents to convey the human touch

Upstream Works recommends making sure your contact center agents feel valued by your company so they can pass along their good disposition to customers by being friendly and helpful. Hiring “emotionally intelligent” (EQ) employees is also crucial to providing a positive contact center customer experience.

Train agents to practice empathy for the customer’s situation and the time that person may have already invested in your other communication channels while trying to resolve their issues.

Make sure they’re using empathy statements that can calm and reassure an irritated customer to make them feel heard and valued. Such statements may include:

  • I’m sorry you’re having issues with our website. I can show you how to navigate the site.
  • That sounds frustrating. I’m glad you called so we can resolve the issue.
  • I’m sorry you were transferred so many times. But now you’ve got the right person, and I can help you resolve the issue.

Don’t bury your phone support number

Do you bury your brand’s customer support number so that only the most website-savvy customers can find it because you’re seeking more customer engagement with other communication channels? If so, you’re setting your brand up for negative customer experiences.

If customers must search forever on your website for a number to call with a question, they’ll become frustrated, resulting in a poor customer experience, says the Northridge Group report:

“Despite our findings that many customers still prefer to contact companies by phone, many companies are discouraging customers from calling in favor of digital options. Many organizations either do not list their phone numbers on their websites at all or bury them to make them difficult to find. In many cases, the ‘contact us’ button leads to an email or form as opposed to a phone number.”

Many companies offer chat options, which also provide human interaction, to provide quick and accessible answers, often with the benefit of extended availability hours. But not everyone is looking for a late-night online chat to resolve their issues.

“While this trend may lead to short-term cost savings, discouraging customers who want to call from doing so can lead to significant customer frustration,” says the report.

“This, in turn, can result in poor customer experiences and possibly the loss of customers. Customer contact options must be handled strategically and with customer Experience as a key objective.”