How far is the message trickling down to every member of staff in all organisations regarding what the company is all about, what its vision is, its customer care policy and even its proposition for the products or services it sells. There is a serious disconnect between management who come up with the company’s mission statement and policies and those who have to live it out and practice it daily. It is a common trend among most corporates to hold an annual strategy retreat for all staff at the end of the year or at the beginning of a new year to chart the path and direction for the year. Sadly, for most organisations, this is the only time that the organisation’s mission statement and customer care policy and other aspects of the business are ever spoken about, let alone the detailed emphasis of the company’s products, its unique selling attributes and the customer needs that the products address. It is no wonder that you do not see most brands reflected through the conduct of their people.
This begs the questions, is there enough internal communication happening in organisations concerning their brands and the customer care factor? Is there enough training happening within organisations to get all the staff to be knowledgeable about their core business, which should really be the selling of their products and services in the best ways possible in order to guarantee profits and ensure the continued survival of the organisations. For most organisations, there is a desperate edge to catch up with the digital era and to embrace all the convenience and benefits that come with it. It is crucial to be part of this movement because it has a serious bearing on where the world is and where it is going in terms of business dealings and transactional processes but it should not be adopted at the detriment of critical components which include product benefits knowledge and customer care, particularly the undying influence of the human touch.
Product knowledge has to do with ensuring that everyone in the organisation fully understands what the company is offering the customers and the need that the product is meeting in the customers’ lives. Customer care may be referred to as the work of looking after the customers and ensuring the fulfilment of their needs through provision of specific goods and services. Customer care acknowledges the customer as the reason for the existence of the business. It puts the customer at the centre of the business and is often the human touch component of the business that leaves the customer feeling like their need has been met. Customer care can be experienced throughout the buying process, all the way to the after sales care.
Customer care through the human touch is still critical in conducting business despite the online platforms for the following reasons;
§ It helps to affirm things that cannot be affirmed via the digital platform for example, the feel of the product which can be experienced by touching it. Products such as motor vehicles are best seen before purchase.
§ It is the most powerful way of demonstrating the product uses and all its benefits. As a customer physically observes how a product should be used, they can slow the salesperson down to better understand the process. They can also stop him mid-way to ask questions. After a full physical demonstration a customer is likely to better understand the manual and to be more convinced to purchase the product. This is particularly crucial for products such as phones, washing machines, hoovers, to mention a few.
§ For big purchases such as properties and furniture, a customer would need to physically inspect the product in order to a be fully convinced of its value before purchasing it.
§ Where a customer feels there is a need to negotiate the price downwards, this is easier done face to face, so the human touch would be important. Online is very fixed in its pricing and predominantly operates on a ‘take it or leave it basis’.
§ Human touch allows for full elaboration of product benefits and full address of a customer’s questions too.
§ It allows for queries handling, in the event that the customer does not derive the promised benefits. For example one customer was not happy with an internet service provider’s services. After paying a premium price for a specified range of internet access, the customer was extremely disappointed after installation to discover, they could only access half the range promised. The service provider had to physically come and resolve the problem and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Without these customer care efforts, the customer was ready to opt out of the contract and consider another service provider. An apology via social media would not have worked.
§ The human touch makes the product buying process interactive and believable. Added incentives to build customer loyalty can be incorporated such as vouchers, money off coupons etc. It eliminates the fear factors of suspicion of poor quality products or authenticity of the organisation. Unlike online companies where there is no human face.
§ The human touch also allows for instant feedback on any aspects of the product or service.
§ The human touch has high emotional appeal; the body language of the sales person can influence the customer’s decision buying process. For example, the warm friendly smile, the willingness and patience to listen and address all areas of a customer’s concerns, can convert a potential customer to an actual buyer.
§ The human touch often results in testimonials, as customers will be eager to report on their success with the product. Inevitably, testimonials convert to repeat purchases and referrals to other potential customers.
§ The human touch is what preserves an organisation in an event where they could easily lose a customer. For example, a colleague of mine in Kenya subscribes to Jumia food delivery services, and their service is not always consistently excellent, they sometimes have serious delays in food deliveries. What has kept her with them however has been the human touch aspect, where they will make an effort to compensate her with free food vouchers and personal apologies to assure her that she matters to them as a customer.
§ The human touch often results in long term relationships with customers when it well managed. One lady based in Carlifornia is loyal to a specific Starbucks in her neighbourhood, because every single morning she gets the warmest greetings from the staff there. As a result she cannot start her day without coffee from Starbucks.
Human touch remains crucial in business dealings and as organisations adopt new platforms of transactional processes, there is a need to keep a meaningful balance on the customer care through human touch particularly with certain products if sales are to be achieved optimally. There are other products which do not require the human touch, those can be fully online, however, at the point of delivery there is minimal human touch as the customer receives the product. This can also determine whether the customer will make a repeat order.