B2B: Balancing the Human Factor with Technology
By Laura Patterson - President and co-founder of VisionEdge Marketing, Inc.
Tuesday, 9th April 2024

AI, AI, AI, are your email boxes overflowing with information extolling the benefits of, and promoting, AI tools? Mine sure is! But this post is about a bigger category – technology.

From chatbots to self-service platforms, technology is reshaping customer interactions, enhancing efficiency, improving EBITA, and steering decisions with data. Gartner’s survey reveals a whopping 75% of B2B buyers prefer self-service, versus interacting with sales representatives, during the initial stages of the buying process.

Undeniably, technology’s influence on customer connections is skyrocketing. Yet, as businesses dive into these advancements, the challenge arises: striking the perfect balance between automation and the human touch to sustain unbeatable customer experiences.

Ready to navigate this dynamic landscape and redefine your customer engagement? Here’s how to avoid the dark side of AI and maximize the bright side to strike the right balance.

In this post we’ll cover:

How Technology is Impacting the Customer Experience

  • Chatbots and Automated Tools
  • Data Insights and Analytics

The Dark Side: The Pitfalls of Overreliance on Technology

  • Reduced Human Touch
  • Lack of Emotional Intelligence

The Bright Side: 5 Ways to Strike the Right Balance Between Human Interaction and Technology Invest in Training

  • Be upfront with Customers
  • Insert Regular Feedback Loops
  • Create Scalable Human Support
  • Humanize Automated Interactions

How Technology is Impacting the Customer Experience

Perhaps you are among one of the many businesses increasingly turning to innovative solutions such as chatbots and automated tools to streamline your operations and elevate customer interactions. Let’s briefly examine two key facets of technology that are significantly impacting customer experience: the dynamic responsiveness of chatbots and the invaluable insights derived from data analytics.

1/ Chatbots and Automated Tools: In the realm of B2B interactions, chatbots and automated tools are revolutionizing customer support. Take, for instance, a manufacturing company implementing chatbots in its customer service channels. These automated assistants provide instant responses to common queries, significantly reducing response times and customer effort. An IBM study found that chatbots can help businesses reduce their customer service costs by as much as 30%.

Reducing costs is only one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is customer satisfaction. According to Tidio, 69% of consumers were satisfied with their last interaction with a chatbot. By efficiently handling routine inquiries, chatbots free up human agents to focus on more complex issues, optimizing overall customer service effectiveness.

2/ Data Insights and Analytics: The power of technology extends beyond instant interactions to the realm of data insights and analytics. Various studies, including the oft-cited McKinsey study, purport that companies embracing data-driven insights are multiple times more likely to acquire customers than data-driven insights laggards. Consider a B2B e-commerce platform leveraging advanced analytics tools. By harnessing the capabilities of technology, we can collect and analyze vast amounts of customer data.

Platforms like the one in this example illustrate how organizations can gain additional insights into customer preferences and behaviors. Armed with this knowledge, the e-commerce platform can tailor its offerings, anticipate customer needs, and create personalized experiences. This ultimately enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty in the highly competitive B2B landscape.

The Dark Side: 2 Pitfalls of Over Reliance on Technology

If you are among those businesses that are implementing technology, you know it’s not all seamless integration and efficiency. The increasing reliance on technology in B2B customer experience comes with its own set of challenges. There are potential pitfalls when technology overshadows the human touch. Two of note are reducing human connection and the limitations in emotional intelligence.

1/ Reduced Human Touch: Business is conducted by people. In the B2B environment, relationships play a key role. According to a Salesforce report, 89% of buyers are more likely to buy from people who understand their mission and goals. In the race towards technological advancement, there’s a risk of sacrificing the essential human touch in relationships. Imagine a financial services firm heavily automating its client interactions.

While this enhances operational efficiency, Userlike found that at least 60% of their survey respondents prefer to wait in a queue if it meant they could speak with a human agent. This preference underscores the significance of preserving the human connection, especially in sectors where trust and understanding play pivotal roles.

2/ Lack of Emotional Intelligence: While technology excels in data processing, it often falls short of grasping the nuances of human emotions. Research has found a relationship between emotional intelligence and loyalty. Ibex reported that 86% of customers claim that a positive emotional connection with a contact center agent would make them likely to do business with you again, and 95% of purchasing decisions are made subconsciously (emotionally).

Take for example a consulting firm, where understanding client needs and building trust is paramount for loyalty and referrals. In this instance, automated tools may struggle to navigate emotionally charged situations. Balancing technological efficiency with emotional intelligence becomes imperative to avoid jeopardizing the customer experience in emotionally nuanced relationships.

The Bright Side: 5 Ways to Strike the Right Balance Between Human Interaction and Technology

Customer experience needs to be human-centric. Rather than replacing human interaction, technology should augment it. Implementing a hybrid approach, where automated tools handle routine tasks while human agents focus on complex, emotionally charged, or relationship-building interactions, ensures that customers receive the best of both worlds. For example, to maintain a positive customer experience, businesses can leverage technology to enhance personalization. Tailoring interactions based on customer data and preferences can create a more engaging and relevant experience. Implementing AI-driven algorithms that analyze customer behavior ensures that businesses stay attuned to their clients’ evolving needs.

Here are 5 ways to ensure you retain a human-centric B2B customer experience.

  1. Invest in Training: Equip human agents with the skills necessary to collaborate seamlessly with technology. Focus your hiring practices and training programs on enhancing emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and relationship-building.
  2. Be upfront with Customers: Clearly communicate with customers when they are interacting with automated tools. To help avoid breakpoints in the customer experience, we recommend offering guidance on when and how to escalate issues to human agents.
  3. Insert Regular Feedback Loops: Establish feedback mechanisms to continuously improve automated tools. Regularly solicit input from customers to identify pain points and areas where the human touch is preferred or necessary.
  4. Create Scalable Human Support: Design systems that allow human agents to intervene when needed. Implementing scalable support structures ensures that human expertise is readily available, especially in high-stakes or emotionally charged situations.
  5. Humanize Automated Interactions: Infuse automated interactions with a touch of humanity. For example, use conversational design principles to create chatbots that feel personable and relatable, enhancing the overall customer experience.

The Bottom Line on Balancing the Human Factor with Technology for the Best Customer Experience

The integration of technology into the customer experience is inevitable. Even so, tread carefully. Creating a positive customer experience remains table stakes for any organization operating in a competitive environment. It’s important to recognize the delicate balance between automation and the human touch in such a way as to harness the power of technology while preserving invaluable human connections.

You have questions? We have answers.

CXOs and BODs turn to us to help them achieve their growth goals by tapping into our expertise and skills to ensure a positive customer experience across the buying journey and address business challenges with future-forward strategies. Ask for Laura. She has received the CX Hall of Fame Award and the Northwestern|Kellogg AI Applications for Growth certificate. Together, at VisionEdge Marketing, we deliver results proven over 25 years and affordable and flexible pricing, from one inquiry to multiple inquiries over a few months.

Laura Patterson is president and co-founder of VisionEdge Marketing, Inc., a recognized leader in enabling organizations to leverage data and analytics to facilitate marketing accountability.

Laura’s newest book, Marketing Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization (Racom: www.racombooks.com ), is a useful primer for improving marketing measurement and performance. Visit: www.visionedgemarketing.com

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