Is Your Customer Service Human Enough?

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Everything can be automated: Consumers can buy almost anything without leaving their homes or talking to real people. But just because technology simplifies and speeds up processes doesn’t mean that the human aspect behind it has become any less important. In fact, in a digital world, the companies that stand out will be those that keep humanity at the forefront of their businesses, no matter how great their technologies are.

Here are three industries currently lacking, but in desperate need of, humanity in their customer experience:

1. Insurance

Insurance isn’t exactly a hard sell — laws require us to have it. But many carriers today are missing out on opportunities to win business from competitors and build stronger, longer-lasting relationships with their customers. Too often, insurance reps try to beat the competition by focusing on how much money a customer can save rather than by finding the best policy fit. This leaves customers with policies that don’t meet their needs, and those initially low premiums often creep higher after the purchase.

The insurance industry is also guilty of overusing jargon: The average consumer doesn’t know, nor should he have to know, what every industry term means. He buys a car and hears he needs “full coverage” to be legal on the road, so he calls an agent and asks for that. In reality, he may want the minimum coverage his state legally requires, which is much less expensive. He’s not sure what he’s really asking for, and many agents don’t bother to explain the difference.

2. Banking

A recently published study from Misys and Efma found that 75 percent of respondents believe banks have not worked to improve their customer service in recent years and instead stay focused on simply making sales.

Money is a sensitive topic. Most of us work incredibly hard to earn what we have, and we want to keep it safe and watch it grow. And unless you work in finance yourself, banking and investing can be very intimidating.

Similarly, investing often appears reserved for the very wealthy, though those starting out on their financial journeys — such as the huge Millennial generation — stand to benefit as well. Financial firms could gain lifelong customers with growing incomes if they focus on making their industry more approachable to a wider, and younger, set of investors.

3. Lending

Owing money to a lender already makes a borrower feel more like a number than a person. And instead of trying to help customers understand how to better plan their payoffs, many lenders make it clear that to them the customer is just an interest rate and a due date. Yet when a customer is stressed out about his finances, he needs a friend more than he needs a debt collector.

Because Americans face more than $1 trillion in total student loan debt, humanizing the lending industry has never been more important. Many of those with student loans are Millennials, who seek out companies that go beyond just service offerings to add human value to customers’ lives.

One loan company successfully creating a more human experience is Earnest. Earnest looks at customers as whole individuals in order to determine the best rates and to save them money. The lender strips out the fluff and unnecessary costs, ensuring that its customers’ needs are valued above anything else.

Today’s consumers are increasingly skeptical of corporate America. When it comes to industries such as lending, insurance, and banking, in which the expertise is held by a select few, the most successful companies will be those that humanize the experience for the average person.

How to Go Human

So how do you melt the metal in a robotic industry to reveal the humanity inside? These tips will help you become more transparent, more trustworthy, and ultimately more successful in your customer relationships.

• Cut the fat. It’s no longer possible for companies to hide behind gimmicks; today’s consumer is too savvy to be distracted by fluff. Each company has a value proposition, but the key is living up to it. In a digital world, word of mouth spreads faster than ever. Consumers well beyond your immediate network will quickly hear about it if you’re not meeting your promises.

• Be clear with information. Consumers can find out almost anything with a quick Google search, which puts your position as an expert at risk. Add value to your company by presenting that information in a better, clearer, and more human way. Think of your team as industry interpreters. Make sure customers can learn more in one 10-minute conversation with your experts than in an hour of online research.

• Truly excel at customer service. Many of us cringe at the thought of calling an 800 number, knowing that we might age a decade on hold or go hoarse repeating “agent, agent, agent” as we attempt to circumnavigate an automated bot. Think of how pleasantly surprised your customers will be when instead of hearing a recording, they are greeted by a live voice. And not just any voice — a voice attached to a real human being who is engaged, interested, and excited to help.

Technology is improving our businesses and our lives. But that doesn’t mean it ever will, or ever should, replace our employees with robots. In a highly digital world, a human touch is more important than ever for strong customer relationships and thriving businesses.

About the Author: Zach Robbins is the co-founder of Leadnomics, a Philadelphia-based digital marketing company that believes in the power of technology to transform lives and communities. Zach also recently founded Margo, an inventive insurance agency that promises to revolutionize the way people shop for insurance. Zach is an expert in performance marketing, website optimization, lead generation, and marketing technology.