High-touch and high-tech. Customers are coming to expect these two service qualities more and more in their consumer experiences, and that trend is not going to go away. On the contrary, retailers and service providers who excel in providing both highly-personalized and high-tech experiences to their customers will stand out, winning customer loyalty and getting an edge on their competition.
Although some people see the dreaded Self-Checkout Lane as the harbinger of an ever more alienated and isolated society, where people shy away from interaction with strangers -- even the cashier in the checkout lane -- having a self-checkout lane is unlikely to make a lasting impression on a new customer. Offering exceptional service using clean, modern, efficient technology will.
In the past, some industries were better at providing one or the other of these qualities -- for instance, the club environment has always been renowned for providing excellent high-touch service. The Apple Store has been a pioneer in integrating high-tech buying options. But it doesn't have to be one or the other. And in the days to come, retailers in all sectors of the economy will need to learn to embrace both high-tech and high-touch service.
So what can you do to bring high-tech and high-touch into perfect harmony?
1. Realize that high-tech can enhance and encourage high-touch.
In the past, the staff at your favorite club or restaurant might remember you from visit to visit without the use of technology, partly because people tended to stay in the same job for years at a time. Today, the job market is rather more fluid, and while there are people who do stay in their jobs for the long-term, staff members, especially in the lower pay-grades, will likely come and go. A high-tech CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system will help your staff keep tabs on your customers' past purchases, preferences, likes and dislikes, so that they can provide more personalized attention and service even when you experience employee turnover.
2. High-tech POS solutions free your employees to provide better service.
Two annoying things can happen when low-tech POS systems hamper your employees' ability to serve your customers. Either the employee gets chained to a stationary POS terminal, where they are inaccessible to customers who might need help or advice elsewhere in the store, or the employee leaves the stationary POS terminal to help some customers and leaves those ready to purchase waiting at an empty checkout -- annoyed, impatient, and possibly rethinking their purchase. Unleashing the sales process by implementing a mobile POS allows your employees to be available to the customers who need help, when they need it, where they need it -- whether it's help finding the perfect golf club or making their purchase.
3. A good mobile POS system takes customer service up a notch.
A clean, efficient and powerful POS solution also allows your employees to instantly find substitutes for products, to put in orders for out-of-stock items from the store floor, and set up home-delivery options when needed. In the restaurant environment, a mobile POS can give the wait staff access to all of the menu's particularities (which dishes have soy or gluten, for instance), provides them information on similar dishes or beverages to recommend, and allows them to process payments for diners at the table, so the diners' credit cards never leave their sight.
4. High-tech is impressive, but so is high-touch.
We're a high-tech society. We goggle at shiny gadgets, and ooh and ahh over lightning-fast computer processes, and few things impress us as much as shiny, super-fast gadgets that can make our lives easier. But I also know, speaking personally, that one of those things that impresses me just as much as a shiny new efficient gadget is when a waiter remembers something I requested months ago, or when my bank teller greets me by name when I walk in the door. And if your company can give me both the shiny gadget and the greeted-by-name, personalized attention, I'm sold. You've got a loyal customer.
So as 2014 gets underway and you start looking for ways to improve your business for better customer satisfaction, take a good long look at the technology you have. How can you use technology to revamp your customer service? How can technology itself be a way of providing more personal attention to your customers? Now is the time to look for a business system that will not only make your customer happier, but will also make all aspects of your business better, faster, more secure and more profitable. So when you look for a technology solution, make sure you make your own life easier too -- look for something that can do everything in one powerful and efficient package, instead of having to cobble together different systems that never do exactly what you need.
To wax a bit philosophical in closing -- we're social creatures. And if we've gone a bit astray lately with increasing isolation and non-interactive social experiences, the easiest way to correct the course is to bring a little...humanity...back to daily life. We all want to feel like we're unique, special, and important people -- individuals who are worth something to the people around us. Remembering each other is one of the ways we show people we care about them. There is nothing wrong with using the amazing, cutting-edge technology we now have to make sure our customers feel like they are important to us. Because face it -- they are important. Each and every one of them. So let's start treating them like they are.