Don’t call us — we’ll call you

Advances in technology continue to amaze and will for the immediate and medium term continue to be the main forces of change. Great, but please not at the expense of the customer and especially when, with a little more thought, technology could really enhance the customer experience. It will be even more beneficial if our technology expertise become more driven by consumer needs or encourages ongoing respectful dialogue with service providers-.

In Europe major energy and telecom providers have engineered impressive technical platforms that profess to improve the customer experience — especially in dealing with site visits and controlling access to the customer. The contact, however, is very much one-way. This means if there are issues in contacting customers, messages are left indicating when further contact may be made by the supplier. It often is days and days with further delay. There is no electronic or telephonic option for the consumer to follow up. Similarly, restaurant platforms that confirm bookings electronically or via telephone cannot often be responded to by the customer directly. This is also a loss of marketing opportunity, as the number cannot be saved. We are aware that some technology will not permit this, but in that case the technology is not sufficiently customer-friendly, and solutions must be found.

If we are in some circumstances going to attempt to provide a service without easy human contact then that provision has to be infallible. One good example of getting this correct using technology exclusively is the Channel Tunnel operation between the U.K. and France. Whilst it is a robotic experience, it works — especially with an upgraded ticket. It still, however, does not remove the desire to have human contact during the process.

We remain convinced technology can provide a great customer experience, but never let us lose sight of the fact that the final product must always reflect what the customer needs. Let us ensure that the hospitality industry, in this respect, takes no lessons from the financial sector. If you have any doubts, try speaking to a helpful human employed by your bank or life-insurance provider.