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Don’t Forget the Human Touch! Digitization’s Value Doesn’t Extend to Customer Experience


Don't Forget the Human Touch! Digitization's Value Doesn't Extend to Customer Experience

The focus of organizations of all sizes and across industries on “Digitization” has attracted considerable attention given the impressive impact it’s had on productivity, cost reduction, efficiency, speed … many elements that combined create a lean and agile business infrastructure.

However, the customer cannot be digitized.

Customers want highly personalized experiences, often across channels and devices.

Digitization clearly plays a role. Customers often expect immediate access to information specific to their interests. However, per Accenture Strategy’s Global Consumer Pulse Research (1), 73% of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with a human being vs. a digital channel to solve customer service issues.

Benefits of Digital Innovation

Digital innovation has helped numerous companies expand their reach. Customers who value the price advantage, convenience and access available via digital channels are also happy. Per Accenture (1), 88% of customers use digital channels at some point in their shopping process. In fact, 41% want more digital interactions.

Where Digital Has Gone Too Far

Accenture’s research (1) found digital has not enhanced customer loyalty. Lack of loyalty is prominent in retail, banking and internet service providers – early digital adopters. In these sectors, 65% of customers moved all or part of their business in 2014. Reason for switching?

Poor customer service.

It’s difficult to discern the line between just right and too much. Companies reach customers with frequent digital messages and promotions. Customers, however, become irritated when they consider contacts too frequent – preventing sales.

While digital is definitely a desirable component for many consumers, those who engage with companies/brands across multiple channels are more profitable customers (3).

Digital’s Strongest Benefits?

Digitization is absolutely a huge innovation spreading throughout the business world to achieve objectives such as efficiency, cost reduction, increased speed and predictive analytics. It’s also the driver of greatly enhanced connectivity, not only computers, but across many types of machines.

Perhaps digitization’s most important role is within manufacturing, and other businesses where the benefits described above (and others) are substantial drivers of a company’s ability to be competitive and positioned for future success.

From a customer perspective, maybe the best utilization of digitization is in the background, enabling people – directly helping customers – to have the information they need at their fingertips to provide customers with the hyper-personalization in products and services they desire. This includes customers who expect omni-channel shopping experiences, as they switch back and forth between digital and in-person elements.

Over-reliance on digital interactions also limits the ability to upsell and cross-sell, both of which are far more successful in purchases with human interactions. As well, digital efficiencies created cost savings. When those were passed on to consumers it created a consumer mindset to expect ongoing discounts and promotions – hurting gross margins.



NIKEiD (1): An online shoemaking service that enables customers to create a one-of-a-kind pair of shoes. Customers control all aspects from design to performance features. For them, it’s as if they are collaborating with their own personal shoemaker, who’s “committed to bringing their unique vision to life.”

Facebook (2): Algorithms rule at Facebook! Algorithms review approximately 100,000 signals to create a “relevancy score” for each post from a user. However, it is people who make judgments about what to show Facebook’s 1.6 billion users and how.

Looking Forward

Connected is a key term today. Connectivity enhancements within business operations result in major benefits. Connected in the personal sense enables optimal human interactions that both address customers’ high expectations and increase company revenues and profits. Employees’ ability to upsell, cross-sell and employ other customized insight is made possible by superior deployment of customer data like predictive analytics and similar capabilities.

Recalibrating Actions:

  1. Evaluate all customer touchpoints. Do all of them incorporate human interaction? If not, how can they be revised to use the company’s technology as support for direct human interaction with customers?
  2. Survey employees with direct customer contact. Is there anything they perceive as lacking to meet – or exceed customers’ needs/requests?
  3. Ask these same employees whether there are potential opportunities to provide additional products and/or services to these customers? Help them think more broadly based on potential products/services currently under consideration and added-value products and/or services provided by consumer companies they know.
  4. Do employees believe they have everything they need to upsell and/or cross-sell? Are sales increasing in situations of upselling/cross-selling? Ensure employees understand the value to the company and appropriate incentives are in place.
  5. Do these same employees feel empowered to do whatever is necessary to “make it right” for their customers? To what extent are they empowered?


1. Jacobson, Tom, Salvador, Tiago, and Gilbert, Tiffany, The High Price of Obsession: Has Digital Reached Its Tipping Point?, Accenture Strategy, March 24, 2016
2. Seetharaman, Deepa, Facebook Feeds Rely on Data, Human Touch, The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2016
3. Honts, Rob, Klimek, Dave and Meyer, Shawn, Why Do You Think Your Digital Customers Are the Most Profitable?, Accenture Strategy, March 24, 2016

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