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Balancing the Human and Digital Customer Experience

CX strategies designed to maximize customer value have led to significant spending on digital transformation initiatives over the last 20 years. While digitization has revolutionized the way customers interact with businesses, improving ease and reducing operating costs, digital interactions aren’t a panacea for CX challenges.

It’s important to strike the right balance between digital automation and human touch to maximize customer loyalty over time. Medallia’s recent webinar, The Human + Digital CX Blueprint, provides the basis for companies to begin creating truly successful CX blueprints that combine both types of interaction for optimal experience design.

Knowing When Human Interaction is Essential Will Help You Create the Best CX

To determine whether digital or human interaction is the right fit, consider two key factors for your CX blueprint:

  1. Minimize effort for the customer, especially for interactions that happen frequently.
  2. Invest in personalized, human interactions at points where the customer is seeking advice or likely to experience strong emotions.

For example, helping a customer login or check the status of a delivery should probably be digitized. These types of interactions probably happen frequently, so you can improve convenience for customers and reduce effort and cost for both the customers and your company by investing in digital interactions.

Even when the majority of a journey can be digitized, it’s important to look for key moments where the human touch can add superior value.

One example is when a customer is searching for advice or guidance. While some elements of advice can be automated, such as suggested items for a shopping cart or online investment calculators, it’s important to make it easy for a customer who prefers human interaction to make that connection. This is even more critical when the customer has tried to use an automated process, such as a chatbot or online-help search, and failed. In these cases, it should be seamless for them to switch from the digital or AI interaction to a human one.

Your CX blueprint should also include opportunities to create positive emotions by celebrating success or inserting an element of surprise. For example, even when a customer buys a car online, the delivery and hand-off moment is a time to consider the human touch, celebrating the culmination of the customer’s shopping journey and recognizing the significant financial investment they have made.

Think about situations that are likely to stimulate negative customer emotions, too. These usually involve high risk, high effort, or low control from the customer’s point of view. In banking, a common example is when a customer becomes the subject of identity theft, or when they’ve lost their credit or ATM card. In these situations, humans want to talk to humans—to get reassurance and to know that the company they work with will take ownership of the situation and help them find a solution.

Human touch is also key in industries where the core value proposition is linked to service. For example, in the hotel industry, making it easy to reserve a room or check-in online is a plus. But it’s difficult to use digital channels to simulate a warm welcome delivered with a smile.

Omnichannel Strategies Are Required

While there’s little doubt that customer demographics can affect engagement and channel preferences, it’s far too easy to rely on stereotypes. It may be true that older populations tend to consume more healthcare services and lag in digital adoption, but that doesn’t mean that all healthcare consumers want to talk to a human. In a similar vein, not all millennials prefer to interact with chatbots, and the majority of baby boomers now own smartphones.

Building omnichannel interactions so your customers can connect with you the way they prefer builds organizational flexibility to adapt to the changing behaviors of any audience.

When you start to analyze CX feedback and data, begin by thinking about what matters to your business. Then, look at your audience through more than just a demographic lens to understand what matters to them.

For example, most of your customer base may prefer human interactions today. And yet, early adopters could be ready to interact through new, less expensive channels. Rather than dictate the mode of communication by limiting it to one channel (digital or human), test out new options and see if early adopters will innovate with you.

CX is a balancing act in which today’s customer needs have to be met while anticipating tomorrow’s preferences. By offering experiences in multiple channels, you’ll be setting your company up to succeed in the present and evolve for the future.

Surveys Are Not the Only Form of Feedback

For years, Medallia has been able to help companies collect feedback from surveys and online forms. But customers also engage and communicate with you through a variety of other channels that are less structured including social media, online chat, and support calls.

For example, many companies analyze recordings or transcriptions of call center interactions to understand the customer’s experience. This data may reveal that a customer tried to interact online but wound up contacting the company by phone after running into technical issues. You can use Medallia’s text analytics to make sense of these unstructured data sources, surfacing insights to better understand what customers need.

New methods also are emerging to create a more engaging feedback experience. Two-way SMS or messaging apps, for example, don’t look and feel like a survey. These conversational options hold great promise for easier customer interaction and additional insights through voice and text.

Beyond the customer’s direct comments, you can learn from employees who interact with your customers day in and day out. Collecting their insights and ideas can reduce the number of customer feedback requests while accessing invaluable insights about root causes and potential solutions to problems.

Your IT systems also hold a hidden treasure trove of operational and behavioral clues, allowing you to map out interaction patterns for 100% of your customers. Pairing this data with underlying insights from surveys, service interactions, and employee suggestions will help you get to the heart of what’s working, and not working, and move faster toward improvements.

This combination lets you see “what” customers are doing—their behaviors, actions—as well as the “why” behind those choices.


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