CX expert Dan Gingiss discusses the challenges of customer interactions, technology limitations, and the possible future of the metaverse.
“One of the things that we haven’t quite been able to teach technology is empathy. The tech that we use to engage customers has to go hand in hand with human interaction when required. Many customers today prefer self-service; they want to be able to use the technology and solve problems themselves. But when they need human intervention, we need to be there,” said CX expert Dan Gingiss and the author of The Experience Maker.
Currently reading 100 Years of Solitude in preparation for a keynote presentation in Columbia, Gingiss talks about the importance of ROI, the metaverse, technology without human intervention, and the importance of direct customer interactions.
Excerpts from the interview
With more focus on ROI, is brand building taking a back seat to marketing goals?
Brand building and marketing should go hand in hand, but ROI should be measured. Many marketers have become lazy, particularly in social media. There has been a thought that we cannot measure ROI. I disagree. Like any other marketing channel, we should be able to measure it. It’s the same with customer experience (CX). It‘s one thing to say CX is important, and it is another to connect it back to the bottom line to show executives what it does to the actual business.
Can technology help empathy-driven CX delivered at scale?
One of the things that we haven’t quite been able to teach technology is empathy. The tech that we use to engage customers has to go hand in hand with human interaction when required. Many customers today prefer self-service; they want to be able to use the technology and solve problems themselves. But when they need human intervention, we need to be there.
It is hard to expect a computer to show empathy. We can expect AI to be personalised and use data to create a personalised experience. Still, real empathy goes beyond some scripted language that says, “I’m really sorry you have a problem.”
I’m interested to see where Emotion AI goes. The thing about AI and ML is that it continues to get smarter. The more we teach it, the more it learns. But some aspects are distinctly human, and empathy is probably one of those. Tapping into emotions and responding to them is something AI can do. Things like analysing certain words that suggest anger or frustration and being able to react accordingly can also be taught.
There is a potentially scary component to it, but it depends on how easy we make it for the customers. If we use tech to create easy, convenient experiences, we will all win, and the ROI will be there. If, however, the tech slows down the customer, frustrates them, or prevents them from getting the issue resolved, then customers will seek other companies to do business with. No matter what technology, there has to be an out.
For instance, I had a situation with a bank recently. I was short-changed at an ATM. I knew what had happened. The machine thought it gave me 20 dollar bills, but it gave me 10 dollar bills. Now, how do you explain that to a computer? That’s challenging. It’s not a situation that happens every day. Chances are the technology hasn’t been taught about that scenario, so human intervention is needed.
What are your thoughts on the metaverse?
I’m not a buyer of the metaverse yet. Fifteen years ago in Tokyo, I experienced an AR app for the first time. I was walking down a shopping district with the app, and coupons popped up from each of the stores on the screen. It was so cool, and I thought it would be the future. Instead, it only became a curiosity that one witnesses sometimes. The biggest issue with the metaverse is that we need to get everyone to participate in it. Otherwise, it doesn’t serve its purpose. Are we headed there? Maybe. But not in five or ten years. There is a place for it for a certain population, the early adopters, who will help steer the business and marketing strategies going forward.
As with most new social experiments, one thing to keep in mind is that they are usually great until marketers come in. Then the space gets filled with ads and pop-ups and things customers don’t want to be bothered with. This is going to be another challenge. However, the metaverse will be marketing-supported like everything is. How do you build it to maintain its essence versus becoming another platform where brands yell at us? Once spammers invade the channel, it will become less interesting to be a part of it. It remains to see how brands take up space in the metaverse.
What are the common CX challenges that brands face today?
The biggest challenge is not knowing your customers. We all believe that we know them as we try to put ourselves in their shoes and anticipate and suspect what they might be thinking.
Introducing the human element makes the most sense. Surveys serve a purpose and give information. But we get so many surveys in our emails and text, and customers get immune to them and don’t wish to spend the time.
Surveys and focus groups are terrific, but telephone and direct conversations can provide amazing feedback. You just have to be brave enough to ask for it and be willing to accept constructive criticism. Way too often, in business meetings, we make assumptions about what our customers are feeling. If we directly talk to our customers, we will learn a lot more and be able to serve them better.