Does Technology Deliver Stronger Customer Relationships?

Post by
Scott Francis

A recently published report on a survey by IDG (sponsored by a BPM software firm), on the subject of whether technology delivers stronger customer relationships.? Full disclosure: my personal opinion on this topic is solidly in the "it depends" bucket. There are classic examples where technology has hurt customer relationships - think voice automated response technologies.? But there are examples where it has helped - think video conference calls when you can't travel.

A famous quote from The Princess Bride seems to apply: "I don't think that word means what you think it means"


The title of the article: "Survey: Two-Thirds of Respondents Say Technology is Not Delivering Stronger Customer Relationships"? - but I'll note that there is no question in the survey that was reported with that result.

The subhead: "65% of respondents say automation technologies only 'somewhat effective' in providing all the data and context employees need"

There's no other number cited that is close to 2/3 that could explain the title... But if 2/3 find technologies "somewhat effective" that sounds like a good thing - the opposite of "not delivering".? I might like it to be more effective, but they didn't tell me how many of the remaining 33% thought it was "highly effective", nor how many thought it was "somewhat ineffective" nor how many thought it was "not effective at all"...

The whole article and info graphic are rife with misrepresenting the data or using different yardsticks that make it impossible to compare the data. It's unfortunate because I'm sure the raw data is interesting without the misguided attempt to summarize it in order to make predetermined points.? For example, when looking at IVR and Chatbots, the headline is "Chatbots and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) get poor grades." But then the two things reported are:

  • Percentage of organizations who report a higher customer satisfaction "to a great extent" vs.
  • Percentage of respondents who have had a negative personal experience with IVR


To be clear, if we want to compare these two or say how similar they are, then we should either report both vis-a-vis negative personal experience, or both vis-a-vis reporting higher customer satisfaction to a "great extent".

Also, focusing specifically on chatbots, the answer was 42% report higher customer satisfaction "to a great extent".? That is positioned as bad... is it? what is the percentage that additionally report higher customer satisfaction "to some extent"? Is it likely that that percentage combined would be well over 50% ?? I think so.? That sounds like chatbots are much more effective than IVR, but it is impossible to do a legitimate comparison because they didn't provide comparable data.

In another part of the article it is reported "However, only four in ten respondents (41%) view the way their organization is using automation as helpful 'to a great extent' in forming stronger customer relationships" - the use of the word "only" makes it sound bad.? Is it bad?? If I wrote that sentence differently:? "In fact, more than 4 in ten respondents (41%) view the way their organization is using automation as helpful 'to a great extent' in forming stronger customer relationships" - that sounds really positive.? All I did was change a few words...

"In fact, more than 4 in ten respondents (41%) view the way their organization is using automation as helpful 'to a great extent' in forming stronger customer relationships"


I think the conclusion in the infographic is better than the article: "82%? of survey respondents agree that organizations need to focus on increasing the humanity of customer interactions and adding greater 'personal touch'" - the rest of the reported stats are a bit of a mess of interpretation and slant in the words surrounding the results.

If you read my co-founder Lance's book on Employee Experience (Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys) - you know that we care deeply about leveraging technology to automate the mundane and the work that makes us humans feel like robots.? We want our clients to focus on the human elements, both of the employee experience as well as the customer experience and relationships.? Technology can help - or hurt - and it is up to us to use it the right way.

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