Let’s look at the COVID scenario. Do we want to speak to someone or do we just want to be able to manage our stuff digitally? Let’s imagine a lockdown scenario where we didn’t have phones or other means of communication or we just had bots to help us buy stuff. Do you think we would have been comfortable? Fortunately or unfortunately, for human beings, the necessity to communicate especially in the times when they are confused or in a panic or fear struck scenario is very high.
Technology may ease the processes which are there, and COVID did usher a wave of digital transformation in most organizations with an unprecedented urgency. Digital servicing was good, grievance ratios dropped – yes, customers adapted to technology in a way they could solve their problems and their issues. But, in terms of advice, in terms of looking for what’s good for them, in terms of reassurance when things go wrong, in terms of claims settlement – our basic instinct of looking for somebody to communicate with – will that disappear?
Because when things go wrong we don’t cry into our smartphones, rather call up a friend or a relative whom we can confide in. As long as our desire to call up a friend is there, the human touch can never be lost irrespective of lockdowns or social distancing. So in this over-enthusiasm that technology will overtake everything, the human touch should not be lost. Technology is an enablement that should be used very well and it along with human touch will be the future and shall remain so.
This is also the lesson we learned from the pre-COVID era – Digital reinforces, not replaces, human-to-human interactions. And I believe this will continue to hold true, now more than ever in the post COVID era since we will all be dealing with customers craving for some care and compassion as they try to navigate the new and distant ways of making a purchase. A research I came across conducted before the COVID crisis reported that 75 percent of the customers surveyed preferred to interact with a human versus an automated machine.
The same study suggested that 74% felt more loyal to a business that provided them both, the opportunity to speak to a human along with digital customer service channels. So if you merely have implemented technology to grab market share, improve your top line, or just to make your brand look jazzier, you will eventually overshadow the primary role of your business – offering your customers value for their time and money albeit in a compassionate manner. Even more so in the time of a crisis, where panic-struck people want to be understood and convinced and hence are extremely sensitive to tone and motive.
Technology should not create walls between the relationships you intend to share with your customers. All relationships have an emotional component of mutual trust and respect, built over time, fostered by experiences that have traversed along several online and physical touchpoints – grounded in expectations, and confirmed through repeated interactions. The moment they feel you are trying to make use of the crisis to sell your own motive, rather than helping them solve their worries they lose the trust factor in your product.
So, you need to ingrain in your culture, your workforce, your offerings, and your way of doing business – processes that exhibit emotional intelligence and communicate with care, honesty, and empathy helping you to establish trust with your customer. Every time you try to implement something new, ask yourself – “how will this help me to solve my customer’s worry in a meaningful, human, and relevant way?”
The care and consideration that you are extending to your customers during the crisis will translate into brand loyalty in the post-crisis days. Build technologies that enable you to strengthen this connection, while not losing out on the true essence of your business by weaving in as much human touch as possible. This way you will earn customers’ trust and win brand loyalty both for today and in the times to come.
About the author
Tapan Singhel is the MD & CEO of Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company. He has over two and a half decades of rich experience in the insurance industry. He has been with Bajaj Allianz since its inception in 2001 and was an integral part of the team starting up the insurance business in the retail market. He has been involved in various international projects like setting up of retail business for Allianz in China and Bancassurance development in the Asia-Pacific region. Based out of the company’s headquarters in Pune, he leads the company’s overall growth strategy.